• First Speedster developed from Porsche’s GT3 Touring
  • 2-seat Speedster is more driver-focused
  • Only 1,948 examples will be produced
  • Priced from $275,750
  • Special order model will be delivered to customers in late 2019

 

The new 2019 Porsche 911 Speedster combines traditional elements from past models– like a chopped windshield and weight savings– with a take-no-prisoners approach to performance hardware. By inheriting the mechanical underpinnings from the GT3 Touring, the new Speedster becomes the most aggressively tuned open-air model in Porsche history.

Porsche’s Speedsters don’t come along very often; there have only been five versions produced since 1948, each built in limited numbers. Because of their scarcity the models have a history of stoking desire, even long after their debuts. Consider the 1994 Speedster, which was priced at $66,400 new: nowadays, a well-preserved example can trade for four times that amount. So while the Speedster claims a dizzying price in 2019, it might even become more astronomically valued down the line.

Only purists need apply…

The 2019 Porsche 911 Speedster is based on the GT3 Touring, a special edition coupe equipped with a throwback setup of sorts: a naturally aspirated (as opposed to turbocharged) 4.0-liter flat-six powerplant producing a considerable 502 horsepower, and a mandatory 6-speed manual gearbox.

Appealing to committed drivers, the arrangement removes many of the mechanical elements some enthusiasts say detract from the purity of the driving experience. Also inherited from the GT3 Touring is a sharply tuned suspension setup. Even further, the Speedster’s engine receives individual throttle bodies from the GT3 R racecar, enabling quicker throttle response with the added benefit of more efficient fuel combustion.

The Speedster adds (or, more accurately, subtracts) to the equation by trimming down an already minimalist setup. With a shorter windshield, the roofline takes on a lower silhouette; carbon fiber body panels, including a rear decklid that is the largest of sort ever produced by Porsche, save weight; additional weight savings come from fixed carbon fiber bucket seats and a revised exhaust system. More symbolic mass reductions come in the form of thinner roof materials and nylon door pulls. Also, because the seats only slide fore and aft (not up or down), outward visibility can be challenging for people of smaller stature.

… But not all is lost to purity

Despite its track-ready performance components, the Speedster is not entirely focused on turning out ultimate lap times. For starters, though the suspension uses the same springs as the GT3, they’re not as tightly wound since the ride height is 5mm higher. Additionally, the electronically controlled dampers are tuned for a softer ride, making the Speedster considerably more comfortable over bumpy terrain.

Much of the Speedster’s configuration allows for a relentlessly focused driver experience. For instance, my Euro-spec tester was so stripped down, it lacked air conditioning and a multimedia screen for weight savings (the latter is federally mandated in the United States to satisfy backup camera requirements). A power-operated top has also been omitted, forcing the driver to pull over, open the rear decklid, and manually fold the roof down, a ritual that includes tucking in the right and left roof fins before recessing the top into the body.

However, the softer suspension calibration yields a notably smoother ride than the fixed roof GT3 Touring, managing to absorb bumps and road irregularities with far more aplomb than the aggressively tuned coupe. A button on the center console enables stiffer settings, but the chassis feels so dialed in and connected that you’d be hard pressed to imagine needing it unless you’re driving on a marble smooth surface.

A 9,000-rpm song

Graced with a host of exotic hardware plucked from Porsche’s motorsports program, the Speedster’s 4.0-liter flat-six is a specially built powerplant whose technological advances are somewhat eclipsed by its analog nature. For instance, the engine uses a high-pressure fuel delivery system and a complex dry sump oiling setup to enable high g-force driving without exposure to oil starvation.

However, the quick revving powerplant is ultimately all about the driver, satisfying those who enjoy pushing the analog tachometer all the way to the 9,000 rpm redline. If you’d rather not try to tap the accelerator while downshifting, a button labeled “auto blip” will rev the engine for you, perfectly matching rpms. Connoisseurs might notice that the Speedster’s exhaust note is a bit less sonorous than the GT3 Touring, due to a new gas particulate filter on European models and a similar addition on U.S. cars that keeps the noise levels lower.

In a car that has already reduced many of the filters that take away from the driving experience, not all is lost to automation: right there behind the “auto blip” button is another to disable stability control, and yet another to turn stability and traction control completely off. Even experienced drivers are unlikely to reach for the second button. While fast driving through corners can be made slightly faster by disabling stability control, there’s no concrete need to do so on public roads because the Speedster is already so capable that faster-paced driving would only be appropriate on the racetrack.

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Speedy and satisfying handling

The Speedster’s engine may grab headlines with its 502-horsepower rating and shove you back into your seat, but this roadster’s secret weapons is its stellar suspension and chassis. Because it’s tuned more for the real world than improbably perfect track surfaces, the Speedster feels surprisingly at ease over rippled and bumpy roads. The upside of that dynamic is that the Speedster encourages swift, confident driving on windy roads, a style of driving most enthusiasts savor.

Coupled with the clean mechanical feeling of the shifter and the potent response of engine, the Speedster rounds out its skillset in a way that rarely comes around in this day of automatic transmissions and insulated experiences. By capping it all with a weatherproof soft-top that quiets some, but not all of the outside world, the Speedster offers a sweet (but expensive) way to experience a modern open-air sports car.

2019 Car Reviews: First takes on new models

When will the Porsche Speedster be available?

The limited-run of 1,948 vehicles is expected to be delivered late in 2019. Pricing starts at $275,750.

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