The Next Collectible
2013 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet
By Dan Scanlan
The iconic Porsche rear-engine sports car born off the first VW Bug and its Porsche 356 kin hits 50 this year. And to celebrate, I got a beautiful 2013 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet with – wait for it – a remote key fob shaped like it, and done in the same aqua blue metallic paint.
The sixth-generation 911 shares DNA with the first one, code-named 901 until Peugeot had a hissy-fit. The flat six engine is in back, the gas cap is in front, the ignition is on the left of the steering wheel for those traditional 24 Hours of Le Mans starts, and it has that sleek nose/humpback shape that still says “911.”
Like most new generation models, it’s longer and wider (175.6 Gen 5 vs. 178.6 inch Gen 6 length/92.5 vs. 96.5 inch wheelbase), and has more power and more tech including electric steering. It’s also lighter.
So the question – is the newest 911 a worthy heir, or does it miss by a hair?
- Porsche picture – The Porsche 911 may be the only 50-year-old at the party that still looks like the same brash teenager who crashed the gate in 1964, albeit one with a comprehensive facelift and lots of time in the gym. The overall shape is the same, the black cloth convertible top designed to closely mimic the coupe’s hardtop. With that top, the car looks very low and Speedster-ish. Our 911 Carrera 4S has a lower, wider look. The nose says 911 –headlights on the leading edge of curved front fenders that seem to stand a bit higher and frame a lower hood. Larger LED running light/turn signals top more organic and functional lower side inlets. The center inlet-shaped black panel gets a radar lens for a new Adaptive Cruise Control over a slim black air dam. The longer wheelbase moves the front wheels forward about an inch, meaning a slightly tighter nose with larger marker lights on more prominent front fender flares. They encircled 10–spoke gloss-black alloy wheels showing huge cross-drilled disc brakes with red-painted Porsche calipers, P245/35ZR20-inch Pirelli P-Zeros up front and wider P305/30ZR20’s in back that neatly fill the wheel wells. They are on 5-mm spacers to further widen the stance. Our 911 Carrera 4S gets a 1.7-inch wider rear section with halfway-to-Turbo-sized wheel arches and a new taillight panel under the tail spoiler. It connects inset dagger-shaped LED taillights with a bright thin red stripe. Another Carrera 4S styling cue – a black sill accent. The black cloth top, with solid panels and magnesium bows, opens or closes in 13 seconds while driving up to about 30-mph. Top up, it looked almost chopped hot rod in its sleekness. Down, it folds flat, its leading edge becoming the semi-hard tonneau. The new power (vs. last-gen manual) mesh wind-blocker rises up behind the front head restraints, drawing a cover over the tiny rear seats – its clean and quick. A small tail spoiler deploys at 75 mph and drops at 50. But don’t try to open the engine cover. The 911 cabrio offers only a U-shaped collar that rises up and back to uncover cooling fans and two vital fluid caps – that’s it. All in all, this is a very muscular and slightly more menacing look, especially on wide black wheels. It stopped traffic as eyes followed it downtown and at a car cruise-in, while school kids yelled “Cool car man!” as I drove by.
- Carrera S comfort – Inside, someone took a page out of Porsche’s Panamera design book, and that is good.There’s keyless entry, then you step over an alloy sill plate, the word “Carrera 4” illuminated in white. You settle into a form-fitting high-back black leather bucket seat with 14-way power adjustments, power height-adjustable lumbar and heating and cooling. They were very supportive and comfortable, facing a three-spoke steering wheel with a fat stitched leather-clad rim and three alloy spokes with long, usable paddle shifters behind. No controls accent the power tilt/telescoping wheel. But indicators light up in the upper spokes when you activate Sport, Sport Plus and Launch Control. Under the nicely finished insulated top is a black leather-clad interior with real aluminum accents. Under the stitched leather cowl is a big central 9,000-rpm tach with inset digital speedometer. To the left, a 200-mph speedometer on our 8,400-mile-old car, plus an oil temp and pressure gauge. To the right is a multi-function screen that can display all-wheel drive status, vehicle status, audio, telephone, navigation, map, trip computer and tire pressure. Our Sport Chrono option gave us a G-force. The dash center is a 7-inch touch screen that shows navigation, traffic and weather, compass, fuel range, recorded lap times and a superb 445-watt BOSE AM-FM-CD-XM Satellite 12-speaker sound system with a 100-watt subwoofer. The screen displays Park Assistant, which beeps and shows where you are close to bumping something. Below that, stereo volume and tune knobs as well as buttons to access car and weather/traffic information. The dual-zone climate control with seat heat and cooling switches is below that. A wide console has buttons for rear spoiler, exhaust sound, power top/air deflector and Sport, Sport Plus, Sport suspension, traction/stability control and two acoustic options. A Sound Symposer activates an acoustic channel that directs engine intake sound into the cabin when you tap Sport or Sport Plus. The snarl comes alive inside, as much fun as the stereo. The Sport exhaust gives the boxer engine a deeper, more intense sound and reduces backpressure for better performance. It merges the two exhaust lines for a less restrictive path out the Carrera 4S’s dual twin tailpipes, with a great pop and crackle when you back off the gas. It was especially cool with the top down in a tunnel or walled highway. And top down, wind buffeting was livable on the highway with wind blocker up. Sport Chrono adds a chronometer on the dashtop, an elegant digital and analog clock with an orange second hand that starts running every time you unlock the car to tally total trip time. Power folding side mirrors tuck in when you park and lock. There are three memory presets for the driver’s seat; twin pockets in each door; a deep glove box with 12-volt outlet and MP3/USB audio inputs, a shallow center armrest storage compartment; and twin cup holders that deploy from the alloy strip in front of the passenger. The back seats are tiny, usable for storage but not children. The small trunk is boxy and deep, good for soft luggage.Porsche’s Adaptive Cruise kept distance and speed from cars ahead and used the front radar to avoid collisions. It primes the brake system if a collision is imminent and alerts the driver with sound, light and a brake pedal jolt. It will also brake if you don’t. The cruise control brings the 911 to a full stop if the car ahead does, then you resume with a tap of the cruise control stalk or gas pedal. That said, ACC stopped working a few times. More safety – cornering lights that swivel in turns.
- Porsche power – Base 911 Carrera 4’s get a 3.4-liter boxer engine with 350 hp and a 7-speed manual gearbox. Our Carrera 4S had a 3.8-liter engine with 400 hp and 7-speed Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) gearbox with all-wheel drive. Porsche says 60 mph comes in 4.9 seconds with the base 911. Our Carrera 4S had launch control in Sport Plus – hold the brake, pedal to the metal and when the screen flashes “launch,” release the brake. Our 911 leaped ahead, all four wheels grabbing as we pulled .7 Gs and hit 60-mph in a shattering 3.9 seconds and 100-mph in 10 with decisive shifts. The paddle shifters were big and easy to find when needed. The PDK is a dual-clutch, one always ready for quick gear changes with a throttle blip on downshifts when Sport or Sport Plus is on. Traction management alters power between front and rear wheels when needed. Usually rear-wheel-drive, we saw more front wheel engagement on a rainy day and in some twisty bits, visible on a bar graph on the configurable display. For fuel efficiency, the engine shuts down at stop signs, firing up with a snarl as brake pedal pressure is eased. To save more, the clutch decouples when slowing down so there is no parasitic drag. Driven calmly, we averaged 21-mpg on premium on mostly highway driving. Push hard and it was closer to an indicated 12-mpg. The Carrera 4S felt compact, alive and very pointable on any road. Its independent McPherson front/McPherson rear wishbone suspension gave it a firm yet comfortable ride on any road. Add the wider rear track, all-wheel-drive and longer wheelbase and it never got flustered in traffic or on a sweeping bend. Our 4S also had Active Suspension Management, dynamic engine mounts, Dynamic Chassis Control and Torque Vectoring, plus a 20 mm lower ride height. The result – a 1.05G skidpad number on the display, the 911 showing barely any body roll and no understeer as we powered around. Point and steer into a turn, put some power in on exit, and the tail stayed planted, displaying mostly rear-wheel-drive. Even in the wet, when the rear tires could play a bit, the car never felt nervous or ready to oversteer. Tap on Sport suspension and it firms up the road feel, bumps becoming noticeable, but rebound never beat you up. It just quickly handled it. The Sport button tightens up accelerator pedal response as well as shifts, along with stiffening the shocks and tightening chassis control. It also activates the Sound Symposer and sport exhaust and deactivates auto stop and coasting. Sport Plus made for even more aggressive throttle response and different shift mapping. Dynamic engine mounts lock the drivetrain in place during hard cornering to stop it from shifting and upsetting steering and cornering. The magnetic fluid mounts soften up in regular driving so there’s no vibration from the drivetrain. Finally, Sport Plus activates Dynamic Chassis Control to almost eliminate body roll. The electro-mechanical steering had a very direct and precise feel and great feedback on curves, and I didn’t mourn the loss of the last-gen’s traditional hydraulic power steering. The brakes never faded despite heavy use, decisively stopping the 911 with almost no nose dive time and time again without drama. It stopped so quick the G meter showed 1.1 Gs under straight, hard braking from 60-mph. For safety, eight airbags and twin pop-up roll bars.
- Porsche price – The base 911 starts at $84,300. Our 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet started at $117,530 with standard 3.8-liter boxer six, all-wheel-drive, 7-speed manual transmission, 20-inch wheels, leather power seats, power top, AM-FM-CD stereo, navigation, MP3/USB inputs and alarm. Options were plenty: $710 blue paint,$3,690 full leather interior, $2,950 sport exhaust, $4,080 PDK, $3,160 dynamic chassis control, $2,490 adaptive cruise, $380 park assist, $2,370 SportChrono, $320 fold up power side mirrors, $490 SportDesign steering wheel, $430 rear footwell lighting, $295 headlight cleaner, $335 painted key fob, $2,320 14-way power seats, $2,420 BOSE sound system, $2,330 Premium Package Plus with seat heat/cool/cornering lights/keyless entry and start/LED cabin accents/auto-dim mirrors/power sport seats, $1,635 black wheels, $210 online service, $490 wheel spacers and $895 illuminated satin alloy door sills. Final price – $150,750!! For comparison, we focused on German neighbors as well as some American muscle – the $105,000 Mercedes-Benz SL550/$64,000 BMW Z4 sDrive35is/$78,000 Audi RS5 4.2, $103,000 Jaguar XKR, $60,000 Ford Shelby GT500 and $76,000 2013 Chevrolet Corvette. Powerplants range from a twin-turbo 3-liter inline six with 335 hp in the Z4, on up to V-8s – the RS5’s 450-hp 4.2-liter/SL’s 429-hp 4.7-liter/ Jag’s 510-hp supercharged 5-liter/GT500’s supercharged 662-hp 5.8-liter/Vette’s 505-hp 7-liter. They are all very quick – 3.2 seconds to 60-mph for the GT500 and 3.5 for the Vette, on up to 5.3 seconds for the Z4. They all stick like glue to a skidpad, the Vette and GT500 amazingly good on the curves, but the Jag and Benz great too and the RS5 a winner with all wheel drive. All have well-done convertible tops, the Benz’s a retractable hardtop. All have good to great chassis stiffness with the top down. The most visceral is the Shelby, its exhaust sound too good to be true. The Jag and Audi are the subtlest of the crowd, the Vette and the Shelby the most arresting. But none of them drive like the 911.
- Bottom line – I was very sorry to see this 911 go. The power, the control, the car-shrinks-around-you sensation, the engine snarl and the look are evocative, evolutionary and nostalgic, while its abilities are near-supercar. Nuff said.
Just The Facts:
2013 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Convertible specifications
Vehicle type two-plus-two convertible sports car
Base price – $117,530 (as tested – $150,750)
Engine type – 24-valve quad overhead cam VarioCamPlus aluminum horizontally-opposed boxer six
Displacement – 3.8-liter
Horsepower (net) – 400 @ 7,400 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) – 325 @ 5,600 rpm
Transmission – 7-speed double clutch automatic w/paddle shifters
Wheelbase – 96.5 inches
Overall length – 176.81 inches
Overall width – 77.8 inches
Height – 50.9 inches
Headroom – na
Legroom – na
Cargo capacity – 4.41-cu.ft.
Curb weight – 3,384 lbs.
Fuel capacity – 18-gallons
Mileage rating – 19-mpg city/ 26-mpg highway