2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet First Test: Ballistic

Porsche 911 Full Overview

Welcome, everyone, to the quickest cabriolet we’ve ever tested. That’s right—as far as soft-tops are concerned, the 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet sits at the tippy-top of our testing data heap. We’d love to say this is the quickest aire libre rocket sled we’ve shot down the strip, but alas, Porsche’s own 918 Spyder matches the new Turbo S Cab from 0-60 mph with a disc-slipping, 2.4-second scramble. Wowza.

As the 918’s roof is of the classical targa variety with a rigid, manually removable center section that must be physically stowed, we’ll crown the Turbo S Cab as the king of the soft-tops. The Turbo S Cab yanks that title away from the 2017 Porsche Turbo Cabriolet, a deliciously fitting coup—or is it cab?—we predict will occur once again to that older Turbo Cab once we get the similarly ballistic S-less 992 Turbo Cabriolet on our drag strip.

It’s All About The Numbers

That will be a battle for the VP slot, as the 2021 Turbo S Cab isn’t going to relinquish its claim to the throne anytime soon. Beyond that wicked 2.4-second 0-60 run, 100 mph takes just 5.7 seconds—about the time a workaday Subaru WRX or Volkswagen GTI is rounding 60—and the quarter-mile passes in 10.4 seconds. Porsche is up to its usual tricks of sandbagging its official figures, so it’s no surprise our data bests Porsche’s quoted figures by a cheeky 0.3 second to 60 mph and 0.2 second in the quarter mile.

A few more eye-opening comparisons to drive home just how adept the Turbo S Cab is at converting 91-octane into early-onset crow’s feet: A 2021 Turbo S Cab will nose ahead of a garden variety 2005 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 in a race to 60 mph by 0.3 second, beat it at every 10-mph gate to 90 mph, and match it at that 5.7-second 0-100-mph figure.

In our data pool, there’s not a Lamborghini, Ferrari, or McLaren—soft-top, targa, or otherwise—that sits above it in the arena of pure acceleration. The cars that do aren’t numerous, either—the 992 Turbo S Cab is number four on our 0-to-60 leaderboard, behind a Tesla, a Taycan, and its fixed-roof Turbo S sibling. It seems it takes either another Turbo S or something with a big honkin’ battery pack to beat a Turbo S Cab, and though the coupe is indeed quicker, just a quantum-flash 0.1-second margin separates the two cars in both 0-60 mph and the quarter-mile.

How Does It Scoot So Quickly?

Just like the “secret” ketchup-mayo-mustard-relish dressing proudly trumpeted by your local burger joint, the Turbo S’s accelerative secret sauce isn’t all that wild when broken down to its elements. Power—a tremendous amount of power—is the primary wellspring. Cropping the top does nothing to diminish the Turbo S’s mechanicals, so the same 3.7-liter twin-turbo flat-six spins out the same 640 hp and 590 lb-ft, routed to all-four wheels through the 992’s familiar eight-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission.

And…that’s it. Big power, smart all-wheel drive, and a think-and-you’ll-miss-it-quick transmission is all it takes to turn the view through the windshield into a weird expressionist painting. Engaging said ballistics isn’t a complicated affair, either. Put it in Sport Plus, left foot hard on the brake, mat the throttle, wait for revs to stabilize around 5,000 rpm, sidestep the brake, wheeze, curse, laugh, and then call your pulmonologist for a collapsed chest cavity. Associate road test editor Erick Ayapana summarized the Turbo S’s no-nonsense approachability: “Launches were typical of 911 Turbo—precise, consistent, and bonkers.”

That’s a good way to put it. The air around the 992 Turbo S Cab almost shimmers with a heady aura of precision engineering and blunt-force trauma, and not just from that fusion reactor perched over the rear axles. Porsche’s Turbo S nameplate is best understood as an all-inclusive package in both performance and accoutrement, so all the hot hardware is here when compared to the regular Turbo—which itself is a substantially upgraded step up from the corresponding Carrera 4 and 4S.

Carbon ceramic brakes are standard, as are those fetching center-lock wheels. What’s not standard, surprisingly, is a Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) Sport suspension, though our tester thankfully rode low on that $1,510 setup and barked through the also-optional ($3,490) Sport exhaust package.

No Roof, No Problem

Reduced upper structural rigidity and an extra 176 pounds compared to the coupe do little to dull the 992 Turbo S’s superhero composure and pace through our figure-eight course, the skidpad, and the myriad canyon roads that snake through southern California. Any remaining doubters who think the 911 Turbo S is too cushy and too digital for trackwork or backroad blasts need to slide behind the wheel and experience the fury for themselves. Or, at least slip into the passenger’s seat while our resident testing maestro—er, road test editor—Chris Walton blasts around our figure-eight and skidpad.

“What an absolute monster. There’s nothing it does wrong,” Walton said. “The steering loads up beautifully, and you can tell when the front grip starts going away when the steering gets lighter and looser telling you exactly where you are in the grip.” And grip it did, with the Turbo S Cab cutting a 23.0-second path through the figure-eight at an average of 0.91 g. That’s a clean 0.5 second and 0.05 g behind the Turbo S coupe, but it’s a near-zero price to pay for all that blue sky above your head. The margins were narrower on the skidpad, with the Cab’s 1.07 g average against the coupe’s 1.10 g.

The Turbo S Cab’s ridiculously effective power delivery is a large part of the magic. In most scenarios, a car that efficiently applies its 300 hp cracks more smiles than a tricky, greased-up 400-hp maniac, and the same applies as the numbers get bigger. Spinning the rear wheels through fourth is great fun—but it doesn’t produce great numbers.

The Democratized Hypercar

It takes a Bugatti or a dual-motor EV to replicate the Turbo S’s unerring inventory of 640 ponies, making the whole effort feel significantly closer to the 800-hp mark. “I could feel the all-wheel drive shuffling power around and making it go where I pointed it,” Walton wrote. “Man, does it put the power down. Up- and down-shifts were exactly where I would’ve put them myself, but I left it in auto the whole time. What an absolutely magnificent machine.”

Combine this with the Turbo S Cab’s wild surefootedness, and you’ve got a rarified concoction of everyday approachability and hypercar hysterics. It’s a bit like picking up “Nuclear Fission for Dummies” at a garage sale. Seriously, just about anyone can plop down in the Turbo S Cab’s leather chair and set a jaw-dropping outlap before the Pirelli P Zeros have time to reach operating temperature.

If your confidence in this four-wheeled particle collider turns sour, stand on those standard 10-piston, 16.5-inch front ceramics to fold your ears like a gross taco. Braking is the Cab’s sole victory over the Turbo S coupe, with the drop-top’s mental 96-foot 60-0 mph stop barely beating the hardtop’s 97-foot skid. Ayapana echoed Walton’s reverence for the Turbo S’s tidiness. “My goodness, 96 feet on the first try. Tremendous brakes, great grip,” he noted.

As Versatile As It Is Quick

Very impressive stuff, but we reckon the Turbo S Cabriolet has to be the 911 least chosen by track-day enthusiasts, despite its baked-in Can-Am capability. This is a car for societal flexing, a rolling wealth signal to passersby down on the waterfront, and not for spattering your metallic paint with molten tire residue at your local autocross.

With that in mind, here comes the Turbo S’s magic trick. With both PDK and PASM left in Normal mode, this 205-mph javelin putts around like a vaguely buzzing, rear-engine Mercedes SL. It’s as quiet, comfortable, pliant, and well-equipped as the Merc, but the same could be said for a 992 Cabriolet of any variety—this just happens to moonlight as a rail gun on the weekends.

If you have room for just one sports car next to your daily SUV, the 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet is likely the best you can do. It’s as quick as a Bugatti, fast as a Ferrari, capable as a GT3, comfortable as a Mercedes, and as well-rounded as a Porsche 911. Just make sure your financial portfolio shares the same versatility, as prices start at $218,650; ours broke our hearts at $234,570.

Looks good! More details?

SPECIFICATIONS 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet
BASE PRICE $218,650
VEHICLE LAYOUT Rear-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 2-door convertible
ENGINE 3.7L/640-hp/590-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve flat-6
TRANSMISSION 8-speed twin-clutch auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,804 lb (38/62%)
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 178.6 x 74.9 x 50.8 in
0-60 MPH 2.4 sec
QUARTER MILE 10.4 sec @ 132.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 96 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 23.0 sec @ 0.91 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 225/169 kWh/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.15 lb/mile

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