I eyeballed the achingly good-looking, red-roofed 2020 Porsche Carrera S Cabriolet in GT Silver Metallic parked out front next to my Ford. The fleet company left the sanitized key inside the unlocked car then essentially ding-dong ditched me. This Porsche—the first convertible version of the Best Driver’s Car–winning 992 that MotorTrend has had in for testing—will not be tested.
The California Speedway, our test facility, was not designated as an “essential” business (methinks someone in Sacramento is gonna need to give the word “essential” a rethink) and as a result, we ain’t testing nothing for the foreseeable future. What to do with this $147,280 thing, then? A rhetorical question, for sure, though with the world’s economy tanked and in the gutter, a relevant rhetorical query at least.
The answer is my own personal Hozomeen. The car world knows this “Hozomeen” as Angeles Crest Highway, a 66-mile-long ribbon of two-lane excellence that begins just minutes from my front door. One of the planet’s great roads, no question. An actual jewel, and my most perfect place possible to go psycho-ish in a Porsche.
What is a Hozomeen? It refers to Hozomeen Mountain, situated just south of the Canadian border in the Northern Cascades range, about three hours from Vancouver, B.C. It was made (sorta) famous by the two sequels to On the Road, Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels. In the latter, the father of the beats spends a summer as a fire lookout atop Desolation Peak in extreme isolation and seems to spend half the book staring at, chatting with, humanizing, and straight up exalting a particularly mighty-looking peak called Hozomeen. The peak serves as his only friend (aside from a mouse, the antagonist to his Duluozian protagonist, as well as “the void.”
I dusted off my copy of Desolation because, hey man, the mood fits. Makes sense, too, as Kerouac writes, “The void is not disturbed by any kinds of ups or downs, my God, look at Hozomeen, is he worried or tearful? Even Hozomeen’ll crack and fall apart, nothing lasts, it is only a faring-in-that-which-everything-is, a passing-through, that’s what’s going on.” Like everything—including Kerouac’s constant flirtation with Buddhism—this sickness, and the strange, isolated world it’s created, will pass.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I spend (arguably) too much of my time up in the Angeles National Forest within the San Gabriel Mountains on this fantastic road. First of all, if you’re facing north standing basically anywhere in L.A., you’re staring at the mountain. A quarter of the time it’s literally in your face. I am lucky enough to drive and test cars for a living, and ACH is the closest great road in a city literally littered with them. I’d bet I know two thirds of the Crest’s turns by heart, and the plan is to one day learn them all. Some people learn the Nürburgring. My quest is the Crest. As such, ACH was my first choice of place to take this ragtop Porsche, as well as my only choice. Maybe, like Kerouac, being alone on a mountain will teach me something.
What’s the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet Like to Drive?
Right, up my Hozomeen I go. Top up? Top down? The weather has been a soggy, Southern Californian version of frigid the past few weeks. Daytime temperatures in the low 60s, and even dropping down to the mid-50s on occasion. Up on the Crest, altitudes rise (as high as 7,900 feet at the tip top), temperatures drop, and precipitation hangs around in the form of snow.
I leave the top up for the heavily trafficked section that rises out of the ritzy suburbs of La Cañada Flintridge, everything below Clear Creek, right at the turnoff for Angeles Forest Highway.
I continue on up in Sport mode up until I get to what I call the Jethro Bovingdon Turnout. Good old Death Row has filmed a number of historically awesome drifts for camera around the big turnout, most impressively with a Cadillac CTS-V for an episode of Head 2 Head—which you can binge watch for $1 a month on the MotorTrend app. I’d guess that 75 percent of all the pictures you’ve ever seen of cars on Angeles Crest were taken at this massive and otherwise unnamed turnout.
It’s cold and quiet but not too cold. Top down, I continue northeast toward Mt. Wilson-Red Box Road.
Now’s the part where I mention that during normal times and under normal circumstances, I have but one rule when it comes to testing convertibles: The top must be down unless it’s hailing. But in the Age of Desperate Illness, is it socially acceptable or medically advisable to drive around sans roof? Probably not. Besides that, the passing air is actually cold, the wind chill is making it worse, and I get to the point where I decide to violate my only rule. After all, I’m up on Hozomeen to test the car, not shiver and get a stupid creeping crud. I pull off into the turnout where we filmed a video with a 2019 Ford GT. Seems like a world ago. I can’t even imagine being around that many people these days. Shaking hands seems like a lifetime ago. Top goes up. Away we go.
How Fast Is the Porsche 911 Convertible
The thing with convertibles is, with the rare exception of carbon-fiber tubbed droptops like McLarens, removing a roof reduces a car’s stiffness and adds weight. Both are enemies of performance. When it comes to a Porsche 911, performance is (perhaps) the most important part.
Luckily for 911 Cabriolet customers, the 992 version of Porsche’s icon starts from quite a lofty place, performance wise. Adding a few pounds and slicing off the lid hurts things, but not enough to complain about. Judging by the previous-gen 911, the 991, the weight gain switching from hardtop to soft is about 150 pounds, give or take and depending on options. That’s right around the 3,500-pounds mark (we’ve weighed two 2020 911 Carrera Ss—one was 3,369 pounds, the other was 3,413).
In terms of measured performance of the old 991, that added a tenth of a second in 0–60 mph, quarter-mile, and figure-eight times. That’s hardly a thing. If the same holds true for the new car, we’d be talking 0 to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds, the quarter mile in 11.3 seconds, and a figure-eight time of 22.8 seconds, plus a probable stopping distance under 100 feet. All of which are world-class, supercar numbers. However, since we can’t test anything right now, it’s all just speculation and educated guesswork.
I experienced nothing while driving this silver-and-red beauty that would lead me to believe it would be any slower, any worse, or any clumsier than my guesses. Remember, the Carrera S’ twin-turbo 3.0-liter flat-six produces 443 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. That power is routed through Porsche’s brilliant new eight-speed PDK (twin-clutch automatic) gearbox and then to only to the rear wheels, which are wrapped in better than average 21-inch Pirelli P Zero tires. The staggered fronts are 20-inchers. Grip, even on cold asphalt, is staggering.
How Expensive Is the Porsche 911 Cabriolet
I should also mention that aside from being the best-looking soft top currently on sale, Porsche’s folding top is amongst the best in terms of sealing the outside world out. No, the Cabriolet doesn’t make you feel like you’re inside a coupe, nor is it supposed to. But you do get struck by a sense of quality.
As you should, because the car’s base price is $127,450, with this one reaching $147,280. I know, I know—Porsches are expensive, and in other news water is wet. But still, the base price of a GT3 was $144,850, and the last six-speed manual GT3 we tested cost $147,890. Different customers, I know, and different purposes, believe me I know. Plus the GT3 is out of production, and the eventual 992 version will cost more … I’m just sayin’.
My photo crew showed up, and we shot a very surreal, socially distanced, alcohol-wiped shoot. Back down ACH, and the Porsche felt at home. Then I hit the grocery store where four bags (of not toilet paper) fit easily in the Carrera S Cab’s frunk. Then home.
Two days of #SaferAtHome later, I decided to head back up. Hozomeen beckoned as always. And I’m weak. After gassing up at the Shell station at the bottom in Montrose, the plan was to drive hard with the top down all the way up to Newcomb’s Ranch. Much further than that, and I’d be running into early spring snow (there’s no winter in SoCal). Being somewhat more familiar with the car, I pushed her harder.
A Top-Down Porsche Convertible in Winter
The steering is quite good, helped no doubt by the optional Rear Axle Steer ($2,090), but like every 992 911 I’ve driven, there’s this wonderful back and forth between meaty accuracy and delicate feel. You can whip this sucker like a rented car yet tenderly make midcourse corrections. Pretty amazing.
The power is stonking—we dyno-tested a 992 Carrera S and discovered it’s much closer to 500 hp than it is to the rated 443 hp. The Porsche assaulted the mountain, there’s no polite way to put it. Power, traction, lovely noise (with the roof stowed, you can truly hear the optional Sport Exhaust, part of the $5,460 Sport package that also includes Sport Chrono and PASM), the blowing wind, the scents—a mix of pine trees, hot rubber, and hotter brakes—vivid late March colors spinning by. Talk about the quintessential sports car experience. This was it. This is the reason you plop down the extra $12,800 for the Cabriolet. Because it’s worth the dough.
I parked in front of the Newcomb’s Ranch sign, took a picture for the ’Gram, and looked around. Two other Porsches were up top with me, a top-up silver Boxster and a Guards Red 997 GT3, all socially distanced, all looking fly. We waved. No other cars bothered to climb this high.
That Jethro fellow said something once about the Ferrari 812 Superfast that I’ll never forget—he called the car “annoyingly good.” Meaning that by all means, it would be great to simply hate $400,000 worth of bright yellow Italian frippery. But you can’t, because the Superfast is so annoyingly good. Same story here way up Hozomeen with this silver Porsche.
Angus MacKenzie always says that we want to love every car, and we’re disappointed when we don’t. But he’s a good person. I approached this 992 Cabriolet the opposite way; I went in looking for flaws, an Achilles’ heel, some weakness other than price (the average American 911 owner earns over $700,000 a year—they don’t worry about the cost, nor should you) that could knock this Porsche down a peg or two. Couldn’t find a thing.
Do sports cars have a point in this day and age? More specifically, does this Porsche? Not sure I reached any concrete conclusions, other than if you feel an uncontrollable urge to climb the mountain simply because it’s there, you sure could do worse. Once things return to normal—and hopefully much sooner than later—and you need to scratch that convertible itch, the 992 iteration of the Porsche Carrera S Cabriolet is about as good as they get. As for me, I’m holding out for the Targa. Perhaps one with a California black plate that reads “HZOMEEN” out back.
|2020 Porsche 911 Carerra S Cabriolet|
|LAYOUT||Rear-engine, RWD, 2+2-pass, 2-door convertible|
|ENGINE||3.0L/443-hp/390-lb-ft turbo twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve flat-6|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,600 lb (MT est)|
|L x W x H||177.9-178.4 in. x 72.9 x 51.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.1 sec (MT est)|
|EPA FUEL ECON, CITY/HWY/COMB||18/23/20 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||187/147 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.97 lb/mile|
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