It almost seems strange sitting in a brand new car powered by a naturally-aspirated flat-six. And not just any N/A six - we’re talking about a boxer-six which sends its power to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. Remember those?
It’s not like this particular car comes from a company obsessed with looking to the past. It’s built by Porsche, a company busy pummelling billions into developing an army of shiny new electric vehicles, spearheaded by the Taycan. But that’s the whole point: Stuttgart is insisting that the new 911 Speedster is all about showing the world it can still do fast, angry, unleaded-burning sports cars even as it prepares for an electric future.
So can it? Hell yes, it can. In fact, in the creation of the Speedster, Porsche might just have put together its finest 911 yet.
Certainly not from a technical standpoint - the GT2 RS is significantly quicker, and both it and the GT3 RS would give it a damn good spanking on track. By almost every measure it’s worse than the 991.2 GT3 upon which it’s partly based - it’s heavier, less rigid and doesn’t have that sizeable wing pushing the rear of the car into the tarmac.
And no, that’s not a mistake in the last sentence: we do mean partially-based. The engine and chassis are lifted from the GT3 - albeit with some modifications to the rear-wheel steering system to compensate for the drop in downforce at the rear - but the body in white is a bit of a hybrid.
It’s the front end of a GT3 mated to the rear of a 991.2 Carrera 4 Cabriolet, created with tooling that cost Porsche millions to build. The rear bumper is the same part found on the GT3 Touring, while the composite front wings and bonnet are borrowed from the 911 R.
The windscreen has been cut down, as have the windows, resulting in a car that looks extremely long and very wide. There’s an almost Carrera GT-like vibe to the Speedster, and we dig it.
All of this sounds like a lot of effort to create a compromised Weissach product. Yes, it has kinda/sorta rivals like the McLaren 600LT and Ferrari 488 Pista, but particularly for Porsche, this seems a bit weird. The old 997 Speedster was, after all, merely a 911 GTS with a fiddly roof mechanism made by Porsche Exclusive. Why follow it up with what is essentially a less capable GT3?
That’s easy: because it wanted to. There’s been an urge within Porsche to make something like this for years. And we’re glad it’s happened, as with no pesky roof getting in the way of the flat-six’s mechanical violence, every drive becomes immediately stamped on your hippocampus.
God, it sounds good, this thing. You get to the 8500rpm peak power mark thinking “this is the best noise I’ve ever heard,” forgetting you’ve another 500rpm to go, during which it gets even better. There’s a particularly beautiful moment during the 4.0-litre engine’s linear sweep up to the redline where the mid-range howl turns into a high-rev scream. This engine sounds as though it belongs on a race track, and there’s a good reason why: Porsche sticks this engine in the 911 Cup with no changes other than a slightly ruder exhaust.
Even in this era of turbocharged performance car dominance, this car feels fast, so long as you smash that dial round to the exciting end every opportunity you get. It’s well worth leaving gear-shifts a little late, too, with a proper, slightly violent hard rev-limiter to headbutt.
The aforementioned Pista and 600LT make this flat-six’s 503bhp and 346lb ft outputs seem a little tame, and that’s before we get to the relavitely leisurely 0-62mph time of four seconds dead. But this car is about more than just the raw numbers - as far as emotional appeal goes, it knocks the twin-turbo V8s of the Ferrari and the McLaren out of the park.
It’s received a few tweaks, too. It’s had a couple of petrol particulate filters fitted, so it complies with the latest (try memorising this, you’ll fail) Euro 6d TEMP EVAC-ISC (EU6 DG) emissions rating. All you need to know is this means the marvellous N/A lump will be sticking around a little longer. One Porsche spokesperson did cheekily hint that they wouldn’t go to all this effort for just one application of the engine, so watch this space.
It has new individual throttle bodies, making the response even more rabid than before. The high-pressure fuel injectors are new too, giving an “optimised spray pattern”. The icing on the already tasty cake is a 10kg lighter stainless steel exhaust which is a little quieter thanks to new EU regs, but as you might have gathered already, we have no complaints when it comes to the soundtrack.
Gearing is fairly long, so on public roads, you’ll usually find yourself milling around the territory of second or third. When it comes to shifting down, spot-on pedal action and good spacing makes for easy, oh-so-satisfying heel-and-toe action, but if you’d prefer, there is a very slick rev-matching system. It’s just a shame the gear knob itself isn’t a little fancier.
Despite the loss of the roof, it’s not all that easy to detect a sizeable difference between the way this and the standard GT3 drive - you’d have to get them on track back-to-back. On the road, with its Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres and the same under-body bracing as the old 911 Cabriolet keeping things stiff, the Speedster is still an outrageously capable beast.
Like any modern GT 911, it really doesn’t feel rear-engined. The way it changes direction even with the most aggressive steering inputs, the all-wheel steering giving the feeling of a shrunken wheelbase, its ability to stubbornly stick to the asphalt whether you’re loaded up in a fast corner or being a little too greedy with the throttle on exit - this is the work of Weissach we know and love.
It’s not diminished here by the lack of roof - it’s enhanced by the increase in drama. It helps that it’s scarcely heavier, with the weight increasing by only 51kg. The manual roof adding only 10kg certainly helps.
It’s inevitably more involved than an electric setup, but it only takes a few goes to get the hang of it. Once you’re there, it’s possible to do the whole thing in 30 seconds, marvelling at the giant carbonfibre clamshell as it proudly hinges up and away from the car. We did have a little trouble getting it to properly close and sit flush with the car at one point, although weirdly, it wasn’t possible to repeat the problem later on.
Once it’s back up, induction noise rather than exhaust bark becomes the order of the day, with a side-helping of sweat. As standard, there’s no air conditioning, nor an infotainment screen for that matter. But it doesn’t seem worth punishing yourself for the sake of a few kilos - we’d option both back in.
Both are no cost options, thankfully, but that’s small comfort when the base price for the Porsche 911 Speedster is £211,599. Or to put it another way, the price of a GT3 RS and a 718 Cayman combined.
For the engineering that’s gone into creating this strange but wonderful mongrel of a 911, perhaps that’s not so bad. And in any case, it’s probably irrelevant - even with the steep opening price, it won’t be hard to find a buyer for each and every one of the 1948 Porsche is making. Perhaps it already has. Plus, the hilariously inflated used market for these kinds of cars does show that maybe the sought-after likes of the 911 R and GT3 RS are effectively under-priced.
And don’t forget, this is the best 911. Not because of what it’s able to do, but because of the big, dumb grin it puts on your face as you gun it through a tunnel. As you ‘accidentally’ run into the rev limiter yet again. This is a 911 GT car with a sense of humour, and it doesn’t get much better than that.