PetrolBlog drives a Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 Cabriolet

Major Waffle 80s cars
Thanks to Adrian Crawford, PetrolBlog took a Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 to the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Here are some words.

The text was quick and to the point: “Would you like a car for Goodwood?”

You may remember that last year I was fortunate enough to be offered a wonderful Porsche 968 Sport to take to the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The opportunity came courtesy of Porsche specialist Adrian Crawford and I assumed it would be a one off.

Not so, because fast forward 12 months and Adrian repeated the huge act of generosity by suggesting I take a 911 Carrera 3.2 Cabriolet to West Sussex. He also muttered something along the lines of needing to arrive in style, rather than in the Saab 9000i. Bloody cheek!

Anyway, it was an offer I couldn't refuse, so I turned up at Adrian's Porsche emporium on the banks of the River Tamar in Cornwall to collect my steed. This meant Adrian had to put up with the Saab lowering the tone for the weekend. Touché.

911 Carrera 3.2

The Carrera 3.2 is for many people the very essence of the Porsche 911. It may not be the purist's choice, but for the everyman, it's the archetypal Porsche. The one we all remember, from a time of ‘80s excess, complete with red braces and comically large mobile phones. Imagine Gordon Gekko driving a car and there's a good chance you'd be picturing a Carrera 3.2. Probably in Guards Red, but definitely a Cabriolet.

The Carrera 3.2 bridges the gap between old and new. 911s before it are considered to be ‘classic’, whereas anything after it are seen as ‘modern’. It's powered by a 231bhp 3.2-litre flat-six engine and can be bought in coupé, targa or cabriolet form. Prices for good examples range from between £10,000 and £25,000 depending on spec and mileage.

I sense that the majority of cabriolets will have led quite a pampered life, many being bought for leisurely Sunday afternoon tours rather than early morning B-road blasts. Indeed, I think you'd struggle to find a better example than the one I drove to Goodwood. But then with only 62,000 miles and one owner up until 2005, it's hardly surprising.

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 Fuchs

Being a 1989 car, G483 SGO was one of the last of the line before Porsche unveiled the 964. With a virtually unmarked Slate Grey body, a new electric roof and the sought after wider Fuchs alloys at the rear, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd stepped back in time. I only needed the sound of The Bangles or Roxette to complete the effect.

Leaving Adrian's premises, it dawned on me that I'd never actually driven a 911 on a public road. My previous experiences had been on the track at Silverstone and Estoril, in more modern machinery. In comparison the Carrera 3.2 feels delightfully old school, free of electronic aids and wizardry. This is matched by a classic 1980s Porsche interior, wonderfully cosy, beautifully put together and so very German. It's dominated by a set of dials that could only come from a Porsche 911.

Like the 968 I'd previously experienced, the Carrera 3.2 takes a bit of getting used to. Manoeuvring a £20k, 231bhp rear-wheel-drive Porsche for the first time is hard enough, but when you've only borrowed it and are trying to leave the owner's house, it's even harder. The exit from Adrian Crawford's gaff involves an uphill gravel driveway, a tight exit through a couple of gateposts and a blind turning onto a narrow country lane. Throw into the mix an incredibly heavy clutch and equally heavy steering and you've got yourself a recipe for embarrassment, not to mention expense. Fortunately I ‘escaped’ without any disasters and was able to join the open road.

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 petrol station

First things first, I needed fuel, so I tiptoed gently to the nearest garage. Locating the fuel filler cap release by the passenger door, I promptly spent a good minute wrestling with the fuel cap before prizing it off. No hiding the wannabe amateur Porsche driver then? Luckily I had the option to ‘pay at pump’, saving me the embarrassment of paying in the kiosk. But with a full tank of super unleaded, I headed home and waited for the next morning.

As is common for my annual pilgrimage to Goodwood, I left early and made my way east. But rather than take the A35/M27/A27 route, I instead took a chance on the A303/A34/A272 option. It was a great decision, not least because the traffic heading down from Petworth was non-existent. A top tip for travellers to the Festival of Speed in 2013?

The A303 gave me a chance to get to grips with the Carrera 3.2 and I began to revel in the directness of the steering and the amount of communication throughout the car. The lack of driver aids means that the level of feedback through the steering and pedals is unmatched in the majority of modern cars. It's not an easy car to drive, but there's a real sense that the driver is working in harmony with the machine. Surely that's the way all good drivers’ cars should feel? On the face of it, the Carrera 3.2 didn't feel as accessible as the 968 Sport, but I was revelling in the car's balance and soundtrack. Not to mention its pace.

After a brief refreshment stop at Amesbury, I headed up to Winchester, before joining the fabled A272. When I lived locally, I'd often take a special trip just to drive the stretch between Winchester and Haywards Heath and I'm pleased to say its lost none of its magic. Yes, there seem to be more 40 and 30 limits, but it remains a brilliant A-road. With the sun making a rare appearance, I took the earliest opportunity to lower the roof and had my first taste of a topless 911.

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 roof down

And you know what? I much prefer it with the roof up. It's probably the fact that I'm not as young as I used to be, but the driving experience somehow seemed more complete with the roof closed shut. Maybe it was psychological, but without the buffeting wind or the increased noise, the Carrera 3.2 felt better with the lid on. But I enjoyed the fresh air and the relatively quiet roads in the British sunshine.

At Midhurst, the traffic became heavier and the heavy clutch became a right royal pain in the left foot. Resisting the temptation to follow the yellow signs south to Goodwood, I headed to Petworth and watched as a steady stream of exotica headed in the other direction. I began to wonder if they knew something I didn't.

But no, there were only two of three of us heading down from Petworth and we drove straight into the car park and were enjoying the festival in less than ten minutes. A result.

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 Goodwood

After a slow crawl up to Midhurst and with the sun setting in front of me, I joined the A272 and headed home. It's not every day you get a chance to drive a mint condition 911 from the late ‘80s, let alone on the A272.

I wouldn't go as far as saying it was one of the best drives I'd ever had, the traffic was too busy for that, but it did allow me to properly assess the Carerra 3.2. What struck me was just how useable the car was. It wouldn't take too much imagination to consider using a 1980s 911 everyday. With a reasonable amount of space in the luggage compartment, a pair of rear seats that could comfortably sit two small children, the Carrera 3.2 is almost practical.

The 284Nm of torque ensures that your right foot doesn't require the same level of force as your left, meaning that fuel consumption is relatively good. Makes you think doesn't it? A classic useable Porsche for the price of a new Ford Mondeo. For sure, used daily the value of the Porsche would suffer, but not to the same extent as a brand new car. Used sparingly and you could probably get your money back if you ever decided to sell it.

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 dashboard

With the roof down on the A272, I was free to enjoy the wonderful sound of the Porsche's flat-six engine. Naturally I slowed down before the entering the tunnel near West Meon Hut, just to change down a gear and revel in the sound of ‘foot to the floor’ acceleration. Simple things, etc, etc.

What surprised me was how stiff the car felt. Despite the lack of roof, the Carrera 3.2's body felt tight and relatively free of shake. I love the balance of a 911 though, it's a unique driving experience. The way in which the back-end digs in when powering out of a corner is an intoxicating experience. I won't claim to getting within a tenth of the car's ability, but I did enough to prove Adrian's theory that a Saab 9000i wouldn't have been the right choice of transport over the weekend.

A frustratingly slow meander up the A34 was followed by a rather blustery and increasingly chilly drive west on the A303. As I approached Thruxton, with my hands turning blue, I did the right thing and raised the roof. It's a one-touch operation that's booth smooth and efficient. After an hour or so of open air motoring, the immediate sense of snugness was very welcome.

The remaining 130 or so miles were enjoyed with the roof up, the radio off and the heater set to low heat. Late Sunday evenings are a good time to enjoy the A303. Most people are at home preparing for the following week, leaving you to enjoy the numerous roundabouts and overtaking opportunities by yourself.

The Carrera 3.2's 284Nm of torque may be tame by today's standards, (the Mk6 Golf GTi has 280Nm), but it's the way it goes about its business that matters the most. A modern hot hatch simply won't give you the sense of occasion that a 1980s Porsche will. Each journey is an adventure and the driving experience is all encompassing. The sounds, the smells, the involvement, the sheer excitement.

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 review

It's a huge cliche, but they simply don't make them like this anymore. For all their technical wizardry, the modern Porsches I've driven lack the character and charm of the older models. Why lose a whole heap of cash on depreciation when cars such as this Carrera 3.2 still feel as fresh as they did in the 1980s? Chat to Adrian and you'll discover that things are a lot easier (and cheaper) to deal with should things go wrong too.

I have to say a huge thank you to Adrian for the loan of the car. A ‘1980s 911’ is still the one I'd choose with my own cash, although I'd opt for the coupé rather than the cabriolet. This particular Carrera 3.2 was a real peach and I understand it has since gone to a new owner in Guernsey. He'll love it.

In the meantime, the 968 Sport remains at the top of my ‘want’ list. It just feels more ‘me’. But thanks to Adrian Crawford, I can now add another epic Porsche journey to my back story. Cheers Adrian.

PetrolBlog Score:

1989 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 Cabriolet

  • Pint of milk: A tin top will edge the cabriolet, but it remains a great drive: 8.
  • Filling station forecourt: The classic lines of the 911 are lost, but the Carrera 3.2 Cabriolet looks so very 1980s: 9.
  • You don’t see many of those: Healthy numbers and a cult following, but still a rare sight: 6.
  • Bangernomics: Prices for cabrios such as this will command around £20k: 4.
  • PetrolBloggyness: An ‘80s car is about as PetrolBlog as 911s get, but not in cabrio form: 7.
  • Total for the Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 Cabriolet: 68/100