by Karl Furlong
The 991 series of the iconic Porsche 911 was the most successful generation of the sports car ever, with over 230,000 units produced. It was also the generation that saw the one-millionth 911 to be produced, so when the time came to bid farewell to the 991 series, Porsche wanted to go out on a high. Enter the 911 Speedster, built as a stunning send-off to the 991. The spirit of the original open-top 356 Speedster of the 1950s lives on in its modern successor, with the 911 Speedster featuring a manually-operated fabric roof and the instantly recognizable double-bubble roof cover. It's the intense focus on a pure, unfiltered driving experience that really sets apart the Speedster, though. A high-revving naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six engine with over 500 horsepower is the stuff of any gearhead's dreams, and it's made even more special when partnered with rear-wheel drive and a classic six-speed manual gearbox. Yes, there are quicker 991 series Porsches, but the Speedster has been stripped of all excesses to emerge as one of the most memorable 911s ever. It's Porsche at its best.
The 911 Speedster is an all-new, limited-run model introduced for the 2019 model year, commemorating 70 years of Porsche as well as the successful 991 series. In fact, it's the last of the 991.2 series cars to be built and only 1,948 units will be produced worldwide. The Speedster is fitted with a 4.0-liter flat-six engine developing 502 horsepower and 346 lb-ft of torque, allowing it to hit 60 mph in 3.8 seconds. A manually operated fabric roof, body panels made from carbon fiber composite material, and Porsche ceramic composite brakes are just a few of the extensive weight-saving measures that have been employed in the Speedster's development. Even air conditioning is absent, although it can be optioned on. Carbon fiber interior trim and black leather/Alcantara with red stitching are further highlights.
4.0-liter Flat 6 Gas
The 911 is both criticized and revered for remaining remarkably unchanged through the decades, with only modern detailing really separating today's model from its predecessors. The Speedster is refreshingly different, though. The raised rear section with the double-bubble roof cover (for stowing the manually adjustable roof) significantly changes the classic 911 silhouette that is so familiar. Look closely and you'll also notice the low-cut windshield and side windows - additional Speedster-only touches. 20-inch forged alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, and a centrally-mounted, dual exhaust outlet are some of the noteworthy exterior features. Carbon fiber composite material was used for the rear decklid and front luggage compartment lid.
Just under two inches longer than a 911 Carrera Cabriolet, the Speedster is otherwise similar in size. It has a length of 179.6 inches, a width (including the mirrors) of 77.9 inches, a height of 49.2 inches, and a wheelbase that measures 96.7 inches. Weighing in at a slim 3,230 pounds, it's clear that a lot of effort went into trimming the fat from the Speedster.
Often, limited-edition models like the 911 Speedster will only be available in a handful of colors, but Porsche has been pretty generous with the color palette in this case. A total of 13 shades can be ordered, ranging from standard shades like White, Black, Guards Red, and Racing Yellow to metallics like Jet Black, Carrara White, Agate Grey and GT Silver. A range of eye-popping special colors include Carmine Red, Crayon, Miami Blue, Lava Orange, and Lizard Green, all of which are as extreme as they sound. The Speedster's hood can also be specified in black to offset your chosen primary color.
At the heart of the Speedster is a 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six engine with a massive rev range that extends to a stratospheric 9,000 rpm. Without a turbo, it relies more on power than torque to do its best stuff, which also explains the outputs of 502 horsepower and 346 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual and all that power going to the rear wheels requires you to get the timing right from the start, but if you do, the Speedster will hit 60 mph in 3.8 seconds. It's undeniably quick, but a base 911 Carrera will manage the same sprint time with the Sport Chrono Package. The Speedster is wonderfully flexible though: accelerating from 50 to 75 mph in fifth gear takes just 5.7 seconds, and it'll hit over 190 mph flat out. In short, we're happy to trade a few tenths to 60 mph for the instant throttle response and high-revving glee of that 4.0-liter gem.
Derived from the GT3, the 4.0-liter flat-six engine is a masterpiece. It puts out 502 hp and 346 lb-ft of torque, with that peak power output only realized at a spine-tingling 8,400 rpm. Porsche fettled with some of the engine's internals, such as the high-pressure fuel injectors and the use of individual throttle bodies, squeezing a bit more power out of it while claiming improved efficiency. Not that fuel-saving will be on your mind as you work the accurate six-speed manual gearbox and explore the upper reaches of the rev band.
This is a viciously quick car and it makes you work hard to extract the best out of it, but that only adds to the experience. Throttle response is instant and requires care so as to not upset the car's balance too much when accelerating mid-corner, but the linear manner in which the Speedster gathers speed and bounds past slower traffic is legendary and a perfect example of natural aspiration at its best. The manual gearbox has a solid, reassuring shift action and is coupled with a well-weighted clutch. Auto-blip rev-matching is fitted but can be disabled with a button on the center console if you so wish. Honestly, even Porsche's own brilliant PDK 'box isn't quite as satisfying as this.
The 911 Speedster is a showcase of Porsche making the best on-road car it possibly can. To that end, the suspension isn't as hard as that of the GT3 and, although tuning it this way may reduce the Speedster's lap time on a track, it makes for sheer driving perfection when taking the long way home from the office. The electric steering is still a delightfully talkative tool, transferring useful feedback to the driver every step of the way. A rear-axle steering system contributes to the Speedster's astounding agility and, together with the prodigious grip from the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, you can carry alarming speeds through a twisty stretch. And yet, it's not at the expense of ride quality, where the Speedster sacrifices little to the regular 911 in the way it remains firm but composed, totally unruffled by mid-corner bumps. Switch over to sport mode and the Porsche Active Suspension Management system does its thing and endows the Speedster with a more aggressive edge, perfectly complementing the epic engine and the tactile shifts of the six-speeder. That Porsche has been able to retain so much of what makes the 911 great despite the loss of a regular roof makes the Speedster an even more astounding engineering feat.
The 911 Speedster shares its addiction to premium gasoline with the GT3; these are the thirstiest models in the entire 911 range. The Speedster's EPA-rated economy numbers work out to 14/19/16 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. A 16.9-gallon gas tank equates to a combined cruising range of only 270 miles, but expect this number to plummet further if you often exploit the Speedster's available performance.
Unlike the 911 Carrera Cabriolet, which attempts to seat four with the fitment of tiny rear seats, the Speedster is a dedicated two-seater. The weight-saving signs are evident here, too, with fabric door pulls replacing regular door handles, lightweight door panels, and no air conditioning, although the latter can be added as a no-cost option. The central analog tachometer reads all the way to 10,000 rpm, a sign of things to come. Carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) is used for the construction of the bucket seats, which are designed to provide maximum support when cornering. The infotainment system is outclassed by Porsche's latest system, but otherwise, ergonomics are good and quality is superb.
Even taller occupants will be able to fit inside the 911 Speedster's racy cabin, with sufficient leg- and headroom, even with the roof up. The CFRP bucket seats are upholstered in leather and provide terrific lateral support; again, weight-saving measures see electric height adjustment being fitted, but other adjustments are manual. However, 18-way power-adjustable adaptive sport seats are available at no additional cost. The recesses in the seat centers are said to be inspired by the 918 Spyder. Ingress and egress are fine, although it's obviously easier when the roof is stowed. Rearward visibility is impacted by the elaborate design of the roof cover. In general, though, there are no great comprises to be made and the Speedster is easy to live with.
Unlike the exterior, Porsche has limited the interior color scheme, not that we have any issue with the default black leather/Alcantara that suits the car's personality and makes the environment easy to keep looking smart. Carbon fiber interior trim is standard and, like everything else, exudes a quality look and feel. Red stitching on the seats and dashboard, along with red seatbelts, add some spark to the cabin. An available Heritage Design Package introduces a two-tone leather interior in black and Cognac, including the application of leather to the sun visors and door pulls. Leather can also be applied to the air vents, the steering column casing, and the dashboard.
A mere 4.4 cubic feet of frunk (front trunk) space is all that the Speedster can manage. A few soft bags can be stashed in there, but you'll need to leave your set of golf clubs at home. However, there is a surprisingly large storage space behind the front seats - the problem is, it's nearly impossible to access as the bucket seats can't move far enough out of the way.
Interior storage space is otherwise typically sports car limited, although you do get a covered center console and two amusingly over-engineered cupholders that pop out of the dashboard from beneath a strip of carbon-fiber trim. Other manufacturers have tried a similar trick (BMW did it with the E90 3 Series), and again, one has to wonder how long the mechanism will last.
The 911 Speedster follows the opposite philosophy to almost every other modern vehicle by deleting unnecessary features, rather than stuffing as many gadgets inside as possible. Of course, these decisions were made to keep the weight down. As an example, dual-zone automatic climate control is absent but can be added as a no-cost option. The bucket seats have basic electric height adjustment but can be substituted with 18-way power adaptive sport seats at no cost, while seat heating is an added-cost option. Other markets don't even get a rearview camera by default, but as this is a requirement locally, every Speedster here gets one (along with the central color screen, of course). Cruise control and headlight washers are part of the standard spec, too, as are front/side airbags.
While 911 Speedsters sold in other markets ship without an infotainment system, those sold stateside get a standard seven-inch touchscreen using an older version of Porsche's infotainment interface. The system falls short of others in terms of usability, but it gets the basics done with an 11-GB internal hard-drive, a USB port, navigation, text-to-speech functionality, and Bluetooth connectivity. Apple CarPlay is included, but Android Auto isn't. If you somehow tire of hearing that flat-six sing, an eight-speaker sound system is standard, but a 12-speaker Bose sound system is available.
Like other Porsche 911s, the Speedster has an exceptional 87 out of 100 rating from J.D. Power, one of the highest ratings for any vehicle. The agency's quality/reliability rating, specifically, is 92/100. No recalls have affected the Speedster, another sign that Porsche has built yet another carefully engineered vehicle.
A four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty provides owner peace of mind, coverage that extends to the powertrain as well. A 12-year corrosion perforation warranty, along with roadside assistance for four years, is included too.
Neither the IIHS nor NHTSA has tested the 911 for crashworthiness, as is the case for many high-end sports cars. The low-volume 911 Speedster, with its elevated price, is even less likely to ever be tested.
The 911 Speedster is a stripped-down sports car for the road, so driver-assistance systems like blind-spot monitoring and lane keep assist aren't even available as options. However, local regulations ensure that a rearview camera is fitted. The essential airbags (including front and side) provide excellent protection in the event of an accident. As expected, electronic stability control and ABS/EBD brakes are standard. A rollover protection system is housed in the bubble-like streamliners.
As a celebration of 70 years of Porsche - along with a sensational farewell to the brilliant 991 generation - the 911 Speedster is a fitting tribute, and then some. In many ways, this car is a combination of Porsche's best elements. The six-speed manual transmission is one of the best self-shifters on the market, and while the naturally aspirated engine isn't as powerful as Porsche's latest turbocharged units, its propensity for high revs and the stirring soundtrack more than compensate. The chassis retains most of the GT3's phenomenal attributes, but the softer setup makes it a friendlier daily drive. Then, there's the novelty of top-down driving and the unique proportions of the Speedster's bubble streamliners. At over a quarter of a million dollars, the privilege of driving away in this car is reserved for society's elite. But then again, this is an elite sports car and one of the finest 911s ever made.
An MSRP of $274,500 for the 911 Speedster is nearly double the price of the 911 GT3. The price excludes a $1,250 delivery fee, along with tax, licensing, and registration. With fewer than 2,000 models produced, the 911 Speedster is guaranteed to become a collector's item.
The 911 Speedster is a standalone model built to celebrate 70 years of Porsche, and as a fitting farewell to the 991 generation. It's fitted with a GT3-derived 4.0-liter flat-six engine that produces 502 horsepower and 346 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels exclusively and a six-speed manual is the sole gearbox option.
Outside, the manually-operated fabric roof can be quickly stowed beneath the double-bubble roof cover for top-down thrills. 20-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, and Porsche ceramic composite brakes are all standard. The cabin seats two and features leather-upholstered bucket seats with electric height-adjustment, although 18-way power seats can be fitted at no extra charge. Dual-zone automatic climate control is also a no-cost option, but a rearview camera, cruise control, an eight-speaker sound system, and front/side airbags are all included straight out of the factory. The seven-inch touchscreen can be used for accessing Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth functions.
The only major upgrade is the Heritage Design Package. Available only in combination with the GT Silver Metallic paint option, this package adds a two-tone Black/Cognac leather interior, a GT sports steering wheel, Satin Platinum or Silver wheels, gold-colored Speedster logos on the crossbar and rear, motorsport exterior graphics, and more. Beyond this, you can specify a range of standalone options like the 18-way power adaptive sport seats, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights, seat heating, illuminated carbon door sill guards, and a 12-speaker Bose sound system.
Porsche envisioned the 911 Speedster as a true purist's sports car with a focus on the driving experience rather than frivolous luxuries. Bearing that in mind, we'd prefer keeping our 911 Speedster as close to its basic form as possible. We would, however, tick the boxes for the air conditioning and heated seats, features that we consider essential for a convertible. Otherwise, we trust that Porsche has built the ideal sports car from the start.
At less than half the price of the 911 Speedster, the 911 Carrera Cabriolet may not have the same exclusive appeal, but it's one of the most accomplished drop-tops in the world. The two differ quite markedly from a visual perspective, with the two-seater Speedster's double-bubble roof cover and manually-adjustable roof replaced by the Carrera's more traditional rear styling and electrically-adjustable roof. The Carrera also has four seats, even if the rear ones are tiny. All Carrera models are turbocharged and provide swift performance with strong mid-range grunt, but they don't feel as special as the Speedster's naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six. The Carrera rides and handles better than almost any other convertible, resisting excessive body flex despite the loss of the roof. The Speedster is more accomplished still, but either car will provide endless thrills. If you have the wherewithal to buy a Speedster, it takes all of the 911 Carrera's magic and turns it up another couple of notches. But if you must have a drop-top 911 and can't stretch to the Speedster, the standard Carrera Convertible remains a segment benchmark.
Much lower down in the Porsche convertible range is the Boxster, starting at around the $60,000 mark. To put that into perspective, you could buy almost five base Boxsters for the price of the 911 Speedster. The powertrains differ vastly, though, with the Boxster's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot being both powerful and efficient but failing to get close to the aural drama of the Speedster's flat-six. A bigger 2.5-liter turbo-four produces over 350 horsepower, but it still doesn't evoke the same emotion as Porsche's naturally aspirated motors. The Boxster handles as deftly as it ever has, though, blending feelsome steering with astonishing body control. The classy cabin is a good place to be, but the Speedster feels more special with its bespoke touches. While few buyers would pit these cars against one another directly owing to the giant price difference, it's reassuring that the comparatively old-school, exotic Speedster's DNA lives on in the much more affordable but still fun-to-drive Boxster.
Check out some informative Porsche 911 Speedster video reviews below.