It sometimes can seem that there are as many variants of Porsche's 911 as there are Crayola crayons. But for 2013, Porsche has winnowed down the seventh-generation model, which it introduced last year, to six versions. We drove the Carrera 4S Cabriolet — convertible — that is the new-for-'13 all-wheel-drive version.
Appearance: For Lyra, our tester's Aqua Blue Metallic paint was a case of love at first sight. The car's iconic look changes ever so slightly, gaining about 2 inches in length and 4 inches in wheelbase. (Peter detects more of a family resemblance now to the Panamera.) The 4S Cabriolet also sits slightly lower, and the rear fenders flare out more to accommodate wider tires. Bright red brake calipers peek out of the 20-inch Carrera S alloy wheels. The slender wraparound taillights get an LED light strip that connects them for a sharp look. LEDs also sit under the car's familiar oval headlights. The cloth convertible top, with a magnesium frame, is light and maintains the profile of the coupe. When the top is down, it tucks neatly away with only a hint of bulge.
Performance: The rear-mounted 3.8-liter, flat-6 puts out a healthy 400 horsepower with 325 pound-feet of torque. Zero to 60 is a tick over 4 seconds. The car has an auto start-stop function to save on fuel, but the restarts can be a bit jarring. The note from the twin-tube stainless steel exhaust is an awesome rumble. We found the ride more balanced and composed with the AWD; the car deserves twisty open roads that the bay area can't deliver. One of the best features in the car is the Torque Distribution Gauge in the instrument panel. It shows you real-time power distribution to the wheels. (Most of the time, it's like driving an RWD with more power to the rear.) Be careful, it's mesmerizing. The electronic steering is precise and agile. As much as we both love to shift for ourselves, Porsche has one of our favorite transmissions: the 7-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic, which snaps off precise shifts. There is a manual mode, but the PDK is so good, it just makes sense to let it take care of things. Our tester had the full complement of safety features — most notably the Porsche Active Safe accident-avoidance feature. Still, there is no rear-view camera, which would come in handy when the top is up.
Interior: One thing you can count on with Porsche is a comfortable, jetlike cockpit loaded with controls. The driver's view is dominated by a host of gauges that flank the large tach. The virtual buttons on the 7-inch touchscreen are large, though, which is helpful. The Bluetooth connects easily, and the voice recognition system works well enough. The Bose audio system is more than enough for the small cockpit. The AC controls are located in front of the shifter and can be awkward to reach. Elsewhere, the interior carries the expected quality in materials both soft (leather) and hard, as well as in the fit and finish. The car has a 2+2 configuration, but those rear seats are seats in name only; they're really for small items — and that doesn't include children.
Our 3 favorites
Driving modes: There is Sport and Sport Plus, as well as a suspension setting.
Wing it: The rear wing is deployable with three adjustable positions.
Refined design: Porsche keeps successfully tweaking the 911's look.
Paint: The Aqua Blue Metallic is stunning.
Seat feat: The 14-way power driver's seat is plush. Is it worth $2,330?
Talk about a distraction: Torque Distribution Gauge is a techie's delight.
The bottom line: The 4S version improves on an already great driver's car. But you'll need fairly deep pockets to experience it because most of the must-have features are optional — and rise as quickly as the 911 accelerates.