As with the coupe, the sixth and new seventh generations were both built as 2012 models (a practice so fraught with problems that it's thankfully rare). If you shop for one, the giveaway for telling them apart is the new generation's parking brake switch on the dashboard, replacing the older version's conventional console lever. The 2013 models — all of which will be seventh generation — should hit dealerships well before 2012 ends.
At $94,650 including a $950 destination charge, the base Carrera Cabriolet is priced almost $12,000 above the equivalent coupe. It also exceeds Porsche's other redesigned convertible, the 2013 Boxster roadster, in cost by more than $44,000. (See all three compared side-by-side.)
Soft-Top: Mostly Pros, Few Cons
Both the Cabriolet and Boxster are soft-tops, and for good reasons. Retractable hardtops need trunk space for their lowered roof panels, and as mid-engine (Boxster) and rear-engine (911) cars, the Porsches don't have the room to spare. Their primary storage trunks are in the front. Soft-tops typically weigh less, too. The 911 Cabriolet weighs just 155 pounds more than the coupe, accounting for the top and reinforcement to maintain stiffness in the absence of a fixed roof.
The soft-top's main shortcoming is rear visibility when the top's up, where the cloth C- pillar is characteristically wide. There's no problem when the top's down, however, because it tucks down low and active roll bars stay out of sight unless a rollover causes them to deploy upward.
A powered rear screen is also pretty easy to see through. Meant to diminish wind buffeting at higher speeds, it motors upward when you hold down a button on the center console. It might not have impressed me as much as it did if the 2013 Boxster's screen were less obstructive. Between that car's screen (removable but not powered) and the fixed roll bars that bookend it, the Boxster's rear visibility is poor for a roadster.
The 911 convertible has some other common soft-top advantages, including quick operation — about 15 seconds, up or down, at the touch of a button. Unlike retractable hardtops, it doesn't require clearance behind the car for the trunk lid to tilt back, and it can be operated when the car's in motion. It also doesn't steal too much cargo space. The main difference is the area behind the cabin, which isn't a continuous storage hatch as it is in the coupe. Instead there's a compartment accessible from the rear when the top's up that's occupied when it's down.
The Cabriolet isn't as prone as you might expect to a traditional soft-top tradeoff: cabin noise. You hear some sounds from behind you when the top's up, but it's mainly the engine, and the same is true in the coupe. The cabin's well-isolated from exterior noise — for a convertible. It's actually better than the similarly priced 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 I recently reviewed, despite its retractable hardtop, which is a presumed advantage when it comes to noise isolation.