No automobile has a closer link to its past than the Porsche 911 series. It has been front and centre, in one form or another, for at least 48 years, and despite numerous engineering updates and redesigns, still has a horizontally-opposed engine slung out the back for power.
In 2009, the 911 was on the receiving end of a freshening up. It featured more power, a revised AWD system and double clutch transmission, plus various interior and exterior tweakings. It still had a liquid-cooled, six-cylinder powerplant, and remained one of the most enjoyable cars to drive on the road.
In the non-turbocharged Carrera 4 Cabriolet model, it developed 345 horsepower. This legendary engine was mated to your choice of either a conventional six-speed manual stick or Porsche's newest incarnation of the "Doppelkupplung" seven-speed sequential shifter. This arrangement, more commonly referred to as the PDK, basically allowed the driver to shift gears manually via the floor shifter or through a pair of steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles. Or you could just leave it in fully automatic mode. Interestingly, the autobox 911 has traditionally outsold its manual-transmission counterpart by a substantial margin, both in North America and Europe.
Available in two versions, the '09 Carrera 4 Cabriolet was one of at least five 911 soft-top models offered by the company this year. You could choose the regular Carrera 4 Cabriolet, or the S version, which had 40 more horsepower and various extras. Both models came with full-time all-wheel-drive, with traction control and drivetrain stability systems.
The Carrera 4 Cabriolet's power top deployed in about 20 seconds. There are no tabs to unlock or levers to pry loose. Just lift up on the console-mounted button and hey, presto.
Once folded down, the top stashed itself neatly under a hard tonneau cover, and there was a small amount of storage room under the front hood – some 105 litres in total. Storage space has never been one of the 911's stronger points, but you could carry a loaf or two of bread up front, and this model did have a small back seat, with enough room for a pet or very small humans.
As ever, this vintage of Porsche still utilized an ignition key located on the left side of the dashboard. Depending who you talk to, this idiosyncrasy either goes back to Porsche's early Le Mans race days, when drivers had to sprint to the car and get underway as quickly as possible, or is just a case of expediency. Either way, it's unique and a nice touch.
In terms of performance, the 2009 Carrera 4 Cabriolet effortlessly accelerated from a standing start to 100 km/h in just over five seconds, with a top speed of about 285 km/h.
No safety recalls to report, either from Transport Canada or the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The latter organization does have two technical service bulletins on file for the '09 Carrera 4 Cabriolet. One is pretty trivial: instructions on how to read the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), while the other concerns a possible problem with the exhaust system on high-mileage examples of this car. Specifically, the mufflers can crack and leak.
Consumer Reports has mixed feelings about this vintage of the 911. It gets failing grades for its electrical system, brakes, transmission and "body hardware", but it does rate an "average" used-car prediction and, the magazine concedes, it is fun to drive.
Some comments from owners: "A great piece of history," "This 911 would be flawless if Porsche would spend a few bucks on the interior" and "Shifting with the PDK transmission is smooth and extremely fast." One note here: C.R. tested the hardtop coupe version of the 911, but since both models share many components, its observations are still valid.
Market research company J.D. Power, meanwhile, likes this one. A lot. It gets an above-average rating for predicted reliability and, in virtually every area, receives top grades. There seems to be some reservations about the powertrain quality from J.D. Power, but otherwise, it's all good.
Pricewise, the Carrera 4 Cabriolet has aged reasonably well. From a base price of $115,000 in 2009, it's dropped by $25,000 to $30,000, depending on the model. The S is fetching about $10,000 more than the base version.
2009 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Cabriolet
Original Base Price: $115,000; Black Book: $76,550-$84,250; Red Book: $79,675-$90,250
Engine: Normally aspirated, 3.6-litre, horizontally opposed six-cylinder
Horsepower/Torque: 345 hp/287 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual/seven-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 11.5 city/7.6 highway (automatic); premium gas
Alternatives: Audi S4, BMW Z4, Dodge Viper, Chevrolet Corvette, Mercedes SL