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Road Test: Gemballa GT Porsche 991 Cabriolet
Following our first review of the new 911 (991 Series) Coupe and the tuning programs from TechArt and SpeedArt, it was time to have a look at the brand new 2012 Porsche 991 Cabriolet, which is the sum of 30 years of 911 convertibles. In the end it has a similar setup as the 991 Coupe, but with the ability to remove the roof electronically. German tuner Gemballa provided a Porsche 991 Carrera S convertible fitted with their latest kit as our ride for the day.
The most noticeable and fundamental difference with our previous experiences inside the new 991 was the new roof. Like previous 911s, Porsche added an intelligent system to the car, which offers a good-looking Coupe-like silhouette when its closed and excellent open-top drive when it is opened. But it is not simply the old top on the new car. The new roof is an evolution with respect to its predecessor.
The new panel bow roof design has solid magnesium panels hidden beneath the fabric surface. These create a smooth and rigid finish and an excellent cover when the roof is closed. The design also includes the use of aluminum and high strength steel, which ensures lower vehicle mass. The roof system adds a total of only 36kg to the weight of the car. You can open and close the roof up to a speed of 50km/h and it finishes its roof dance after just 13 seconds.
Under the roof cover, you will be able to find the 3.8 liter flat-six engine producing 400hp at 7,400rpm, and 325lb-ft of maximum torque at 5,600rpm. The 911 Carrera S Cabriolet with PDK manages to accelerate from naught to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds. Pressing the Sport Plus button on the optional Sport Chrono package cuts that to 4.3 seconds (add 0.2 for manual cars). The top speed is 299km/h, five lower than the Coupe.
Our test car was fitted with the automatic gearbox and PDK option, like we drove before. The new PDK-gearbox offers ultrafast shifts and launch control which propels you forward easily from standstill. Without any of the sport functions engaged, the gearbox fails in every single way because of its environmental, petrol saving throttle response and constant urge to end up in a lower rev range and a higher gear. The immediate up-shifts to 6th and 7th are annoying at first and constantly ask for a decent amount of throttle response to get pace or a downshift via the buttons or paddle shifters behind the steering.
The only way to get this new 991 convertible going is – like the 991 Coupe – engage any type of sport setting you can find on the center console. It is inevitable in this 991. The convertible changes completely when Sport or Sport Plus is selected. The 911 becomes rewarding and provides you with a type of sporty handling and steering you should always ask for in a 911. The boring 911 changes into a full-bred sports car with its full array of capabilities available for you to challenge even with the roof down! Why can’t you just leave on Sport Plus all the time, Porsche? Without it even a Korean sedan feels more rewarding.
So what did Gemballa add to the equation. The Germans offer a body kit, wheel package and exhaust system for the 911 Coupe and Convertible. The body kit from the specialist from Leonberg features new front and rear bumpers and side skirts. Designed to fit to the car using the factory mounting points, these Gemballa components are a straight swap for the original parts, and the conversion is completely reversible should you ever wish to return the car to standard.
The 21 inch ultra-light five-spoke forged alloy wheels complete the exterior package and aren’t a major influence to the handling and ride quality of the 2012 Porsche 911. The exterior upgrades provide a more aggressive look to the stock 911. The larger air inlets with double fins at the front channel more air to the front brakes and the engine for cooling. At the rear the two air inlets channel out the hot air from the rear brakes.
The exhaust is a story on its own. The six end pipes reveal its origin as being a Gemballa and are equally divided between the left and the right. With the exhaust vales open the engine breathes more easily and speaks with a deeper and more distinctive voice. The sound track is filled with backfire and a high volume scream. Not something you would expect from a 911 Carrera S and better than any of the stock offerings.
On the inside, the cabin offers the same refinement as the coupe. Gemballa added some logos on the floor mates, the door sills and the steering wheel. The interior has some Panamera-style to it, with a more enclosed and luxurious feel. The driving position is spot on, and the seats feel both sporty and comfortable. The new electrically operated wind deflector pops up from behind the rear seats at the push of a button and offers you the option between two additional rear seats and wind blocking without installing a manual equivalent. Quite a nice solution!
The 2012 Porsche 911 (991) Cabriolet is all what we thought it would be, a 991 Coupe without a roof. Even though the roof is an evolution in the world of electric roofs, the car’s sheer ability to bring a smile on our face is only applicable when the Sport Plus mode is engaged and paddle shifters are fitted. The ability to remove the roof did not change our opinion on the car. The 991-era is losing its sporting focus in the face of customer demand for comfort and refinement.
However, Gemballa opened our eyes and ears with their great looking rims, aggressive body kit and backfiring exhaust system. The end pipes may not be everybody’s choice, but the system is a clear winner for us bringing the mild 991 into a completely different league sound wise.