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Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet

Broadcast date : 23rd May 2004


If you have ever wondered why there are so many Porsches on the road compared to any other supercar, it is time you organised a drive in one.

There is simply no other car on the planet that is as efficient in offering stupefying performance with everyday driveability.

And that applies more so than ever with what Porsche calls its "cruiser" model, the 911 Turbo Cabriolet.

Here is a car that can accelerate from standstill to one hundred in less than four and a half seconds, top three hundred and five kilometres per hour, and yet be as docile as a new-born lamb in peak hour traffic.

What's more Porsches are built to last. Drive around Randburg, Durbanville or Musgrave Road on a weekday and you are likely to see examples from the early 1970s being driven as daily runabouts. And most of them in near-perfect nick.

What makes the 2004 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet so good is that it is the result of 40 years of Porsche 911 evolution.

This concept remains essentially unchanged from the day in September 1963 when the first 911 prototype was unveiled - then badged as the Porsche Type 901.

The car followed on the highly 356 Porsche which was still in production. In August 1964 the first 911s reached the showrooms in Germany - and a world-wide phenomenon was born.

Close on half a million Porsche 911s have been produced since that day and yet the same layout -rear-engine, flat six-cylinder concept remains unchanged.

Start up a Porsche 911 from the 1960s or a 2004 spanking new model and the familiar flat bark of the horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine is still the theme tune.

It is an uncompromising engine note, purposeful, even brutal when you hear an un-silenced racing version.

And it is an engine that has won the Monte Carlo Rally three times, the Daytona 24 Hour, the Le mans 24 Hour, and thousands of other races over the years.

Since 1997 the Porsche 911 has featured water-cooling as opposed to the air-cooling system of the early models.

Yet much work was put into ensuring that the essence of the air-cooled six, the same bark that becomes a shriek at high revs, was retained in the water-cooled version.

Porsche engineers say it would have been possible to produce far more than the 309 kilowatts of the turbo model if only there was more space in the car.

Cooling the engine is the problem and there simply wasn't enough space to fit in large enough radiators and intercoolers for the turbochargers to produce all the power inherent in this three-point six-litre, twin turbo engine.

Beneath the rather unassuming exterior is an array of heat exchangers, ducting, a dry sump for the engine oil, front-mounted radiators, pipes, and sophisticated systems for the four-wheel drive system.

Since the early 1990s the Porsche Turbo has employed four-wheel drive to put its tremendous power to the road and this Turbo Cabriolet features the latest mechanical hardware and computerised software to ensure safe, thrilling car control.

It has Porsche Stability management, which brakes individual wheels and closes the throttle when traction is lost. The difference between the Porsche system and others in use is that the Porsche processing speed is so great, it sorts out the skid, closes and reapplies the throttle before the driver has even realised he or she is dancing on the edge of control.

The four-wheel drive system also constantly varies the amount of torque going to the front or rear wheels through a viscous coupling between front and rear axles. Push hard through a corner on a slippery road and you can feel the front wheels scrabbling for grip and blasting you up the road.

And yet it is all so civilised too, with an electronic roof that can be raised or lowered a speeds of up to 50 km/h.

The body shell was designed at the conceptual stage as a cabriolet, when the latest generation 911 was developed in the mid 1990s. It shows in the rigidity of the chassis. And also the stability at high speed.

Were it legal to do so, as it is in Germany, this car would be safe right up to its top speed of 305 kilometres per hour. In the right hands, of course.

And yet the Porsche does not require any particular skills to drive normally at urban speed limits. It behaves like a well-bred Golf or Toyota, just with a little more growl to its engine note.

Until you stand on the throttle; then the engine note becomes a flat bark, developing into a howl as the revs rise beyond seven thousand and the hair on your arms and neck rise up in sympathy.

Right now the 911 Turbo Cabriolet costs a cool one comma eight million Rand and some change.

Is it worth it? Oh yes.


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