Seven Less Obvious Reasons the New Porsche 911 Speedster Is Special
We go beyond the buzz with Porsche’s pared-down 911 roadster.
The 2019 Porsche 911 Speedster—the production version of which was unveiled alongside a Heritage version—upholds Porsche's 65-year tradition of building trimmed-down, limited-production chop-tops. But the new model marks a major departure from Porsche's tried-and-true Speedster lineage in that it aims to be even harder-core and more special than ever before. Here are seven things you probably didn't know about Porsche's latest, greatest Speedster.
The Speedster concepts' sweet hood-mounted fuel filler cap was ditched—but not for the reason you likely think. Fanboys went crazy over the concept cars' centrally positioned fuel filler, and rightly so: The feature is a proper, functional nod to motorsports. But the symmetrical design wasn't ditched because of DOT regulations, according to Porsche GT product line boss Andreas Preuninger. "It's almost impossible to fill up, the car is so wide. It's not a Singer and it's not a 356," he says. "Needing to put the nozzle in the middle also makes it easy to scratch the fender. It's just not practical." Some 20 Speedsters were destroyed in the process of crash testing, meaning that Porsche could have theoretically incorporated the feature and properly validated it if it felt the real-world sacrifices were less of an issue.
Porsche agonized over the production numbers. It's not always easy for Porsche to accurately project demand for its limited-edition cars. Take the 918 Spyder, which took longer than expected to sell out its 918-unit run—or the half-million-dollar 911 R, whose 991 units sold out so fast they spiked the market value of the car to seven figures. Preuninger admits that, at more the double the 911 R's numbers, the Speedster's 1,948 car run is relatively prolific for a limited-production car. But the ultimate test will be how long it takes the Speedster to sell out.
One key engine feature trickled down from the GT3 R race car. While the GT3 coupe from which it is largely derived is a purer sports car, the Speedster has been blessed with a first-ever innovation for a Porsche road car: individual throttle bodies as seen on the GT3 R race car. And that's just one of numerous elements that signal the fact that this is the first open-air Porsche to hail from their motorsports-focused GT division.
The engine's secret sauce not only boosts throttle response, it aids efficiency. Having six discreet throttle bodies makes the already fast-revving 4.0-liter flat-six spin to its 9,000-rpm redline even quicker. But one added silver lining is increased intake tumble, which produces a more complete fuel burn and, subsequently, greater fuel economy.
It rides softer than a GT3. While the Speedster's engine is a radicalized take on the GT3 mill Porsche fanatics know and love, the GT3-derived suspension was actually tuned for real roads, not race tracks. "[Tracking] this car would be a little bit off the topic. This is a car to enjoy on the weekends, on a long winding road," says Preuninger. Not that we wouldn't mind exploring its limits on a track . . .
Speedsters trace their roots to New York, then California. Back in the 1950s, U.S. importer Max Hoffman encouraged Ferry Porsche to build a more affordable, stripped-down 356 variant to compete with the attractively priced Jaguar XK120. The Speedster was borne of that request, debuting in Hoffman's Park Avenue, New York, showroom with a sticker price of just under $3,000. But it wasn't until Hoffman drove the first 356 Speedster (and later, several additional ones) across the country to Southern California that the car became a success.
You're not spending $275,750 just for that glorious engine and chassis, you're getting one of Porsche's last great manual gearboxes. Porsche is still technically offering manuals, of course—the latest 992 model was launched with the dual-clutch PDK automatic first, and row-your-own 'boxes will follow. But not all P-car sticks are created equal. The semi-ubiquitous six and seven-speed manuals in regular 911s are fine bits of kit, but the Speedster's GT-derived six-speed veers away from standard protocol. This hallowed gearbox, which was also used in the 911 R and later in the GT3, is a special short-throw unit that's stouter than normal to handle the extra torque of the competition-capable engine. The Speedster's gearbox is special, and we'll miss it when it's gone.