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A gripping lesson in speed

A gripping lesson in speed
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First Published: Tue, May 31 2011. 09 20 PM IST

Highway star: The Cabriolet is at its best with the top down.
Highway star: The Cabriolet is at its best with the top down.
Updated: Tue, May 31 2011. 09 20 PM IST
Imagine a pretty country road bordered by hedges and the wind absolutely still. The silence is so all encompassing that you can hear the tinkle of cowbells as cattle graze in the meadows beyond the hedges. The sun’s shining overhead and the sky’s blue and your vision is crystal clear as if you’re inside an advert for high-definition television. You can see the veins on the leaves of the hedges and the grain of the texture of the tarmac.
And then you stamp on the accelerator and the world as you know it dissolves into a blur. The hedges are now just streaks of green and the road is a ribbon of black. Your stomach has been left behind in that TV ad because all you feel is the same kind of hollow you felt when you last rode a roller coaster. Now it seems that you are the star in the new Xbox advert—everything is zipping by at breakneck speed. The wind is howling in your ears trying to batter down the roaring rumpus of the thick twin exhausts.
This is what the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet 997 feels like—top down.
Highway star: The Cabriolet is at its best with the top down.
I would generally start with the car’s looks but this is a car you buy for what it does rather than how it looks. And what it does is shove you ahead so quickly that you feel like a telephoto lens that has zoomed into what seemed like the horizon a split second ago. And the reason for this is partly due to the muscular 500 bhp engine that sits in the rear of the car.
But the rocket-like acceleration comes from the variable vane turbo it features. This means that the vanes of the turbo charger are almost parallel to the flow of the exhaust gases when revs are low, providing helpful boosts at low speeds, but as revs go high and the flow of exhaust gases strengthen, the vanes go almost perpendicular to the direction of flow and the result is a solid punch of torque that rockets the 997 ahead.
Coming back to its looks, the Porsche will turn heads—especially when its roof is down. It features those classic 911 lines though there are subtle new touches such as the titanium-painted slats on the front air intakes, the LED daytime-running lights positioned low down and the turn indicators positioned in the wheel arches ahead of the front wheels.
The cabin feels quite snug at first but both driver and passenger seats are generously electrically adjustable to get that right driving or sitting position. In fact, the optional sports seats also have electrically adjustable side supports, but for a driver with a wide frame these feel very cramped and standard seats are a better option. A good function is seat memory so if someone mucks up your perfect driving position you can retrieve it at the touch of a button.
Though there are two seats behind the front seats, this is essentially a two-seater. Only if you’re dating Snow White and want to take two of her seven guardians out for a drive could this Cabriolet be a four-seater. With the top down, wind is also a constant passenger, but there is a wind deflector in the boot that can be attached to banish it. But it needs to be removed for the hood to go up.
You can easily potter about town in this car, but it needs a tight leash. Stamp hard on the throttle in traffic and the turbo will kick in and in a flash you’ll be all over the rear end of the car in front. However, it’s on highways and twisty country roads that this car completely thrills. You can get the 911 Cabriolet Turbo with the Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) gearbox. In auto mode with the suspension set to “sports” the car will be exciting enough for most, in “super sports” mode, it’s like a filly on the run and you really need to hang on, because the sense of urgency is incredible.
The power is driven to all four wheels and the suspension works very well to keep things tidy, and, of course, the electronic stabilization nannies are at hand so that slipping and sliding is kept to a minimum.
You could turn them off, but do that only on a racetrack.
I thoroughly enjoyed this 911 on the twisty country roads. In manual mode over a series of corners with engine growl guiding upshifts and the wheeze and bang of the turbo egging me on, this car had me heady with happiness. It gripped the road like a gecko, went sinuously around corners and mashed me back into the seat ever so often as it eagerly grabbed the next gear and tore forward with a sense of unbridled glee.
It is moments like these that justify buying this car.
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, May 31 2011. 09 20 PM IST