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First drive: Porsche 911 Speedster (991). Image by Porsche UK.

First drive: Porsche 911 Speedster (991)
Holy moly! This is something extraordinarily special we drive the majestic Porsche 911 Speedster.

 



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Porsche 911 Speedster (991)

5 5 5 5 5

Lopping the roof off a 991.2 Porsche GT3 manual? Charging almost double for it? Sacrilege, surely? Well... no, possibly not. Here's why the 991 Speedster might very well be one of the greatest 911s of all...

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Porsche 911 Speedster (991)
Pricing: Speedster was from 211,599 (all 1,948 examples sold out)
Engine: 4.0-litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive with PTV and limited-slip diff, six-speed manual
Body style: two-door rear-engined roadster
CO2 emissions: 317g/km (VED Band Over 225: 2,135 first 12 months, then 465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 20.6mpg
Top speed: 192mph
0-62mph: 4.0 seconds
Power: 510hp at 8,400rpm
Torque: 470Nm at 6,250rpm
Boot space: 125 litres

What's this?

This is a car which might, if you're a staunch petrolhead with an aversion to open-tops, just about convince you that you're wrong. In fact, no; scratch that - it WILL convince you that you're wrong. It's the Porsche 911 Speedster and, yes, it's a 991-series 911, not an example of the box-fresh 992. That Speedster name means it is the latest in a line of cars dating back to 1954, while it is only the fifth 911 of all eight generations to receive the epithet. Quite what a Speedster should be, of course, no one is quite sure - not even Zuffenhausen. It began life as a lightweight, low-spec 356 with a chopped windscreen that was solely intended for the US market, and has since evolved through varying degrees of sportiness and/or rarity in G-Series, 964, 993 and 997 formats; indeed, the last Speedster we saw from the factory was the run of 356 (yes, quite...) units of the 2011 special.

This 991-based Speedster is nothing like as rare as that 997, though, nor even the hen's-teeth 993 (of which only two were ever built), as 1,948 examples of it will be bolted together. This is because it launched in 2018, the 70th anniversary of Porsche making sports cars, and so - because the year being commemorated was 1948 - then this latest 911 Speedster is the most numerous since the G-Series edition of 1989, of which more than 2,100 were built.

Not, though, that this should put you off the 991 variant. Or make it any the less special in intent. Albeit, you can't actually buy one of these Speedsters, because all 1,948 examples were long since snapped up by the Porsche cognoscenti. And this, despite a UK price of 211,599... and no, that's not a typo. You see, the new Speedster is a GT department Porsche, which essentially means all the really fast, really involving, really desirable ones. More accurately, the Speedster is a circa-111,000 991.2 GT3 manual with its roof lopped off.

It has the same 4.0-litre, normally aspirated flat-six, only here fitted with a new intake system and throttle valves, high-pressure fuel injectors and a 10kg-lighter stainless-steel sports exhaust to increase its output from 500- to 510hp. It employs a massive amount of multi-letter Porsche acronyms and initialisms to keep everything on its driver's intended course, such as Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with a 25mm drop and its own state of sports tune for the switchable dampers, Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) with a mechanical limited-slip differential, tweaked Porsche Stability Management (PSM), Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) with a bespoke compound of pads, Rear-Axle Steering (RAS), Porsche Active Drivetrain Mounts (PADM), and 20-inch, centre-lock forged alloys wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. It is a proper weapon, rather than just a 991 Targa with a fancier roof, a more steeply raked windscreen and an inappropriate engine transplant.

On which point, Porsche's GT department has done plenty of hidden work to keep the Speedster as torsionally rigid as is possible, without its weight ballooning out of all reasonable control. At only 50kg or so heavier than a GT3 coupe with the same six-speed manual, much of the Speedster's svelteness can be put down to the extensive use of carbon-fibre composite for the front wings, bonnet and that idiosyncratic double-bubble transom aft of the passenger compartment.

So it's a stiff car and a relatively light one. And it's completely gorgeous, too. The more accelerative 992 Cabriolet might now be out and about, but externally the 991 Speedster can more than live with it for jaw-dropping, head-turning magnetism. The same can't quite be said of the Speedster's interior, though. Specific touches include black leather on the side bolsters and head restraints of the carbon-fibre bucket seats, as well as the door armrests and gearlever, with lightweight panels in the doors necessitating the fabric-loop pulls and stowage nets. 'Speedster' logos adorn the head restraints, the door sills and the central rev counter, which sits in a cluster bearing white needles and green numerals on black dials as a direct nod back to the 356 Speedster, and there's a plaque on the bulkhead to say which of the 1,948 examples of this special 911 you're sitting in. Brave buyers could opt to go without either air-con or the satnav, so the Guards Red model we're in is a luxury item in comparison, but this cabin - as lovely as it is, and blessed with an oh-so-perfect driving position too - feels dated by comparison to the latest 911's showy, high-class interior. This is a very, very minor gripe about the Speedster, though, that we've only included in order for it to masquerade as some sort of objective critical balance, as you shall soon see...

How does it drive?

Good god above, this thing is tremendous. Magnificent. Utterly beguiling and transcendental and heavenly. Cosmic, even. Come on, it's (to all intents and purposes) a 911 GT3 with the roof removed, so even though it has a couple of gasoline particulate filters (GPFs) to make that mighty six-pot conform to the latest EU6-DG emissions regs, the noise it makes is just... it's just... divine. Whether you're ambling about on the lower slopes of this wondrous atmo-engine's mountainous reach, or slightly more pointedly winding it up to 4,000-5,000rpm on a half-open throttle, or (summoning up the most massive of cojones) pinning that right-hand pedal to the bulkhead and listening to one of the greatest man-made symphonies that will surely ever be emitted by anything in the history of the universe that we know of, you should be sitting there, mouth agog, daft face vacant in stupefaction, at precisely what you're hearing. There are cars which sound good. And then there are others which sound goooooood. And then there's this.

The scintillating soundtrack kind of dominates the early proceedings, as it always does on these GT Porsches, but when you (somehow) manage to filter that out and focus on other aspects of the Speedster's make-up, you will find that this is a 911 that is categorically not 'all mouth and no trousers'. The speed of it is phenomenal and, crucially, accessible - even in freezing conditions and on that Cup 2 rubber. We drove the Speedster at night, in November, into Northumberland's dark-sky park for a spot of stargazing, and then again the next day over the highest B-road in Britain (it's the B6277, in case you're wondering) through a beautifully bleak and barren landscape smattered with snow, frost and ice, and we regularly accessed the celestial heights of 9,000rpm without once fearing for our mortal wellbeing. Granted, the Speedster has enough potency to break traction in all of second, third and even fourth gears in such conditions, even with its tuned PSM fully engaged, but the car so clearly conveys everything it is about to do that you can deal with such slides and squirms and wriggles in the utmost of confidence.

That's mainly because you can catch any movement of the Speedster's back end with steering that's peerless in the modern, electrically assisted age. Accurate to the millimetre and brimmed with as much feel as you're ever likely to get in a post-hydraulic age, it's a tactile, energising delight to deal with. As is that six-speed manual gearbox, with a marvellous, mechanical heft to its throw and action, and decently spaced (if slightly on the long side) ratios contained within. As the 4.0-litre, 510hp mill gives you throttle response from the gods and the ceramic brakes are operated by a middle pedal with modulation levels that are nothing short of faultless, you can therefore enact heel-and-toe downchanges which will make you sound like a far more talented driver than you actually are. There's an Auto Blip function on the Speedster's transmission tunnel; trust us, you won't ever need that.

But if all of this is incredible enough, and you obviously have all the 911's usual rear-engined dynamic magic to call upon, you'll be stunned by just how supple the Speedster is at covering ground. Those two-stage dampers are exquisitely judged, because - in Sport - the car feels too tough for the roads (especially cold, slimy roads). You can tell that Sport would be epic on a circuit, which is where it merits its inclusion, but - thankfully - what you have here is Normal damping that might be operating at a level which can only be known as 'sports-car perfection'. The way the Speedster flows and oozes its way across lumpen tarmac is nothing short of ethereal and otherworldly, those 20-inch wheels singularly failing to thump and crash their way through any imperfections they encounter. With precisely the right amount of squidge in this set-up, and the GT department's structural know-how, you're never aware that you're in a convertible via means of anything as grotesque as scuttle shake or a feeling of the shell twisting at your sides; it simply feels like a thoroughly well-sorted machine. We really shouldn't be saying a limited-edition, 212,000 Porsche GT open-top is something you could conceivably consider using every single day if you were lucky enough to own one, given it is every bit as easy and enjoyable to use at normal road speeds as it is to drive as fiercely as its manufacturer intended, but that's really where we're at.

The roof, by the way, is mainly electrically operated, with only a minor bit of human intervention needed to get it fully closed/open, and it's a far more robust construction than it has been on previous Speedsters. But you'll want the top down. All the time. And what makes the Speedster truly exceptional is not just that you're in an open-top 911 GT3 where you can hear that glorious, rear-mounted engine all the better; it's that it's a cohesive, rewarding, delightful and downright supremely talented sports car in its own right. No matter what type of shell it is wearing.

Verdict

This Porsche 911 Speedster is, well... it's plainly... wow. Comfortably the greatest open-top car yet produced, it's also a seminal sports machine that deserves to be included on anyone's 'Top Ten' drivers' cars of all time. If the Speedster message and lineage has been somewhat garbled prior to 2018, it has received a laser-like focus and epiphanic purpose in this 911. This is probably one of the best cars we've had the unmitigated pleasure of driving. Ever.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 18 Nov 2019









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2019 Porsche 911 Speedster (991). Image by Porsche UK.2019 Porsche 911 Speedster (991). Image by Porsche UK.2019 Porsche 911 Speedster (991). Image by Porsche UK.2019 Porsche 911 Speedster (991). Image by Porsche UK.2019 Porsche 911 Speedster (991). Image by Porsche UK.

2019 Porsche 911 Speedster (991). Image by Porsche UK.2019 Porsche 911 Speedster (991). Image by Porsche UK.2019 Porsche 911 Speedster (991). Image by Porsche UK.2019 Porsche 911 Speedster (991). Image by Porsche UK.2019 Porsche 911 Speedster (991). Image by Porsche UK.








 

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