Sports coupes usually receive most of the accolades when it comes time to focus on pure performance. Thanks to the extra stiffness provided by their fixed roofs and the weight savings when compared to a drop top thanks to their lighter frames, coupes can provide acceleration and handling that are difficult to match in an open car. It is for this reason that most racing junkies opt for hardtops when it comes time to select an automobile that will serve as a go-fast platform for either the street, track or strip.
There is a certain magic that occurs, however, when a vehicle's roof is removed and drivers are permitted to experience the joys of motoring underneath the sun or the stars. The thrill of allowing the ears unfettered access to the vehicle's rumbling exhaust note, combined with the drama of the wind coursing through the cockpit have allowed many enthusiasts to break away from focusing on raw numbers and instead take notice of the other pleasures associated with a fast and fun roadster.
Porsche has long been cognizant of the need to produce automobiles which were not only technically perfect but also capable of connecting with drivers on an emotional level. With a reputation for an uncompromising and hardcore focus on speed and handling, Porsche also offers buyers another dimension within which spirited and passionate driving can be found through a fine selection of roadsters and convertibles. While the 911 Cabriolet may be an adaptation of the extremely successful 911 coupe, the other two Porsche drop tops currently on the market were engineered specifically to provide open air motoring.
The Boxster, introduced in the mid-1990s, was a return to the company's early roots as the builder of capable roadsters that traded on their reduced mass and small size and which helped launch the brand in North America. Priced more affordably than the 911, the Boxster immediately found an audience amongst performance fans who had always fantasized about owning a Porsche but could not justify the high price tag. Porsche also produced, for a limited time, a halo vehicle positioned above the 911 Turbo called the Carrera GT, a genuine supercar comfortable competing with the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini for the title of the ultimate motoring experience.
This article focuses on these three vehicles, which together form the contingent of best used convertibles available from Porsche.
2005 - 2007 Porsche Boxster
Improving on a popular vehicle is never an easy task, particularly when having to keep in mind the fact that the automobile in question cannot stray too close to the performance specifications of the genre-defining Porsche 911. By listening to the suggestions of both buyers and the automotive press, Porsche went to work re-designing the Boxster after an almost 10 year run. The result was an automobile which looks very much the same, but which incorporates significant improvements cribbed from the outgoing 911 platform. This adds a level of maturity to the Boxster that is quite welcome and which compliments the roadster's positioning as the most fun vehicle in the Porsche stable.
One of the first steps taken was to give the 2005 - 2007 Porsche Boxster a boost in the power department. Base models jump 15 ponies from the previous generation, now featuring a 2.7-liter 6-cylinder engine topping out at 240 horsepower. This was tweaked to 245 horsepower in 2007. The Boxster S has also been given greater grunt, with a 280 horsepower (295 in 2007) 3.4-liter motor finding its way under the hood. Either edition of the car can be ordered with an optional 5-speed automatic, while the base model comes with a 5-speed manual and the Boxster S a 6-speed. Both Boxsters are incredibly nimble, with a slight edge going to the Boxster S and its active suspension management system. The Boxster is designed to leave a smile on the face of any driver lucky enough to get their hands on the keys for an afternoon of fun, and at this task it succeeds in spades.
With a larger, more comfortable interior than the previous generation and a range of excellent engine choices, the 2005 - 2007 Porsche Boxster is a used convertible that should be near the top of any performance-hungry driver's shopping list.
2006 - 2007 Porsche 911 Cabriolet
The Porsche 911 has for many years had a split personality. Upon the introduction of the Cabriolet convertible model in 1982, fans of the vehicle could be divided into two camps: those which preferred the pedal to the metal, no compromises approach of the coupe and those who instead enjoyed the poise and pleasure of driving their 911 with the top down. While at times a certain animosity might exist between these two groups, each can agree that the 911 presents one of the most appealing performance vehicles on the planet.
Removing the roof on a 2006 - 2007 Porsche 911 actually engenders few compromises. For the most part, aside from the track-oriented GT3 and the GT2 and Turbo supercars, engine choices are much the same. Convertibles riding on the new 911 platform first hit the streets in 2005 in Carrera and Carrera S trim, sporting 325 and 355 horsepower 6-cylinder engines respectively. All-wheel drive is also an option. Each vehicle comes with a 6-speed manual transmission, but Porsche's Tiptronic S automatic is also available. The Cabriolet feels almost as well composed during hard cornering as the coupe, lagging behind only a few hundredths of a second when it comes to responsive driving. This is more than compensated for by the wonderful feeling of adventure that accompanies the powerful convertible when driven with the top down.
The convertible's interior is well appointed, with leather seats and trim coming as standard equipment, along with power everything and a trip computer. First-time Porsche drivers might be surprised by the location of the vehicle's ignition switch - to the left of the steering wheel, and on the dash - but the rest of the vehicle's ergonomics are well thought out. The front seats are where the action is, as the rears are not capable of comfortable supporting anyone who has graduated from the 4th grade.
The 2006 - 2007 Porsche 911 Cabriolet is an outstanding used convertible that presents a nice balance between all-out performance and grand touring elegance.
2004 - 2005 Porsche Carrera GT
There are some who would claim that the Porsche 911 Turbo is such a potent vehicle that to offer anything with a greater performance capability would be an exercise in excess. However, feeling the need to follow its Italian competitors into the rarified air of exotic automobiles, Porsche returned to their motorsports heritage to produce the 2004 - 2005 Porsche Carrera GT, a barely-disguised race car made legal for the street. With radical bodywork and a hyper-aggressive appearance, the Carrera GT is a vehicle which is firmly devoted to riding the ragged edge where technology and speed intersect.
When it comes to the mechanical details, the 2004 - 2005 Carrera GT is quite impressive. There is only a single model available, and it is powered by a 5.7-liter V-10 engine matched with a 6-speed manual transmission. With 605 horsepower and 435 lb-ft of torque, the Carrera GT taxes its all-wheel drive system to the max when launching to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds. The vehicle has a top speed that pushes well into the triple digits, and its active aerodynamics and specially-tuned chassis help to keep the vehicle planted when the pedal is pushed down to the floor.
The interior of the 2004 - 2005 Porsche Carrera GT is an interesting mix of tradition and tomorrow, with the German automaker's traditional restraint when it comes to furnishings combined with a somewhat elaborate center console that houses the shifter and numerous buttons, knobs and other vehicle controls. A split-level dash is reminiscent of some of the nicer designs to have been found in the 1960's, and the vehicle's open top contributes an otherworldly feeling of freedom as mile markers whizz past with incredible quickness.
The 2004 - 2005 Porsche Carrera GT is a used convertible that is well-targeted at buyers with deep pockets and an addiction to earth-shattering performance.