Read the right comments and you'd think Porsche, of all the manufacturers, would be the last one that needs any further praise. However, in the case of this 911 Speedster, it's deserved. Because it would have been very easy to make a Speedster like the 997: chop the screen and boost the booty of a Carrera S, paint it a funky colour and charge a few people a heck of a lot for it. No doubt a clamour would have ensued, the car would have been perfectly decent and the world would have continued to revolve.
But as you're probably aware, the 991 Speedster is not like a 997 Speedster. It's still a lot of money given the ingredients, sure - old habits die hard in Stuttgart - yet it's also a noticeably more potent sports car. For the first time there is involvement from the GT department, with a Euro 6d compliant version of the 4.0-litre flat-six that's been making mischief in various GT3sfor the past couple of years. There are suspension and steering parts borrowed from those cars, as well as the six-speed manual first seen in the 911 R. The carbon composite wings arthe stripy 911, too. Peak power is at 8,400rpm. Maximum torque doesn't materialise unt6,250rpm. The rear spoiler is adapted from a GT3 Touring. Ceramic brakes are standard fit. The coloured wheel lips, thank heavens above, are not. But the message is clear: this is a 911 Speedster as much for driving as concourse collecting. Carbon in the construction (including that enormous roof panel) means kerbweight is 75kg less than a 911 Cabriolet, it uses individual throttle bodies like a naughty MX-5 track project, four-wheel steer is standard and the tyres are Dunlop Sport Maxx Race 2s. GT3 cabrio is tragically predictable, but that said...
The impression of something more vivid than we'd expect from a limited-run, fiddly roof 911 continues away from the spec. The dials emulate the 911 R, tacho reading to 10, not going red until well past 8 and the green font oh-so-cool; the steering wheel is only adorned with contrast stitching at 12 o'clock; the pedals are spaced near-perfectly and the idle is promisingly lumpy. As a 992 strives to distance its driver further from what's going on, the Lauren Laverne Glastonbury highlights on a Sunday evening, the Speedster throws you straight in the mosh before it's moved anywhere.
Unlike any similar sports cars, indeed unlike most other 911s in fact, the Speedster is not an immediately cushy cabrio for slow speeds. The clutch won't suffer fools, the tyres would prefer temperatures above six degrees ambient and the brake pedal requires some force. They're all recognisable (and laudable) traits from similarly configured GT 911s, reminders that this Porsche needs some driving to extract the best from - though they may well come as a shock to those wanting a pussyfooting, poseur's Porsche.
The impression of a car innately more focussed than those which have shared the badge increases with speed. It's a pared-back, engaging, raw - certainly top down in November, that is - 911 experience, one that bristles and fizzes with excitement, challenge and reward. Emiddling revs and commitment to build temperature, there's a sense of connection with that sublime throttle response, the weight of the gearshift, the odd wriggle from the steering wheel - that help build a relationship and rapport. It sounds daft, but driving, and especially the driving of cars as special as this, should be a two-way process: you input, the car reacts and communicates back, thus informing the next input, building speed, confidence and fun. When done well, it's a delightful thing to be a part of, yet happens irregularly - even with sports cars. Rest assured, it's done very, very well here.
And really, this powertrain could go in a 150,000 mile 993 cab on its original suspension and create something seriously special. Perhaps 'memorable' would be more appropriate, but you get the point: the 4.0-litre is a wondrous centrepiece, complemented by a six-speed manual that currently knows no equal. And now it's more vocal than ever! Whether the feral, manic 9,000rpm crescendo in the fresh air is an experience quite worth £200k is one for further discussion, though there can be little doubt that - teamed with that gearbox - chasing the Speedster for every last rev is one of the most joyous experiences in fast cars.
It is truly a magnificent unit, effervescent and enthralling in a way that only high-revving, atmospheric engines can be. Given the figures it'll be no surprise that it rewards revs, though the Speedsteer is remarkably docile too, happy to pootle and anything but peaky. The only drawbacks, really, are the obvious ones: performance isn't quite as bombastic as those lighter coupes, and perhaps the petrol particulate filters have robbed the 4.0 of a certain sonic something. What's recalled as a baying musical shriek has been replaced with a scream that seems to mimic it almost note for note - and would be wonderful by any other measure - might be a tad muffled by comparison.
Furthermore, and again somewhat predictably, the illusion of a drop-top GT3 - not an official line, of course, but inevitable enough - does eventually fade under strain. By almost any other measure the Speedster is a divine driver's car: forgiving in adverse conditions, blessed with superb traction, supple despite a suspension drop, composed, immediate and alive with feel. Like a GT3, in fact, only the weight robs it of a sliver of agility - and with the roof some structural integrity has departed, too. Once more, we're talking the finest of margins, but the odd quiver and tremor from the chassis is evident over testing tarmac where it wouldn't be in the coupe. And, er, that's really about it. Top down in a Speedster will be a treat, an opportunity to cherish, whatever else you've driven.
Will buyers care about the minor drawbacks? Of course they won't. The Speedster is a visceral, fast, attention-grabbing (because that's what you say when undecided on looks) limited-run 911, one that celebrates the history of Porsche while also pointing to its future with the WLTP-ready engine. As a collectible, indeed as a 911 without a roof, the Speedster is a triumph, vastly and patently more talented than it was ever required to be. A car of which there will only ever be 1,948 never needed to be this good, didn't have to work on the public road as well as it does, didn't have to prove that, actually, a 911 without a roof can certainly stand as an equal in the GT range - that it does is a reason to be cheerful.
From a truly objective standpoint, however, at least as objective as it's possible to be with cars of this type, the Speedster can't quite justify the money being asked. Fact is a 600LT Spider is an even better resolved, faster, rarer sports car than this Porsche; the Lamborghini Huracan may not reward the keen driver quite the same, but boasts a surfeit of performance and presence; finally, weird concoction though it outwardly seems, it would be a brave person to bet against the GT R Roadster being a mighty AMG sports car.
Will buyers object? Again, not likely. The powertrain, the design and the status ensure this Speedster is a unique prospect, something that's becoming ever more difficult to locate in the automotive world. Putting this engine and gearbox in this body means it offers a driving experience not seen in rivals (or anywhere else in the Porsche range, crucially), which will be more than enough to many to justify the outlay. Like the 997 generation, a run-out Speedster for the 991 was always going to be a vehicle lusted after by the lucky few, because a limited-run 911 always is nowadays. That it's a truly great limited-run 911, however, should be music to the ears of Porsche fans everywhere, because it implies a careful and considered - as opposed to a slightly cynical - approach to the Speedster name and heritage, which bodes well for the future. Those 1,948 buyers are getting a good'n - and the 992 will one day have a very high bar to hit.
SPECIFICATION - PORSCHE 911 SPEEDSTER (991)
Engine: 3,996cc flat-six
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 510@8,400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 346@6,250rpm
Top speed: 192mph
Weight: 1,465kg (DIN)
Price: £211,599 (as standard; price as tested £219,634, comprised of Black leather interior (in conjunction with leather interior decorative stitching in red) for £2,147, Headlight cleaning system covers painted for £143, Sideskirts painted for £438, Front axle lift system for £1,599, Wheels painted in satin black with wheel rim painted in Guards Red for £422, Light design package for £312, Automatically dimming interior and exterior mirrors with integrated rain sensor for £387, cruise control for £228, Steering wheel rim with top centre marking in red for £168, Guards Red seat belts for £194, Storage compartment lid with Porsche Crest for £161, Leather interior with decorative stitching in red for £834 and Bose Surround Sound system for £1,002
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