There’s more to Art Basel than a banana taped to a wall
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£211,599 when new
A new Porsche drop-top? An old Porsche drop-top. It’s a 2019 car, but it’s the outgoing generation of 911 rather than the spangly new 992 version. This 911 Speedster is effectively the 991’s run-out special, with 1,948 being produced for a smidge over £211,000 apiece. Um, what now? Yeah, it’s not cheap. But before you dwell on the price, they’ve all long since sold out. Those beginning to bob up in the classifieds are commanding double their RRP. You could call it 911 R syndrome, especially given what you’re looking at is the R’s non-identical twin. Porsche’s Andreas Preuninger – often referred to as Mr GT3 among car nerds – concocted the idea for both R and Speedster versions of the 991 at the same time, but Porsche’s stretched budgets meant the two couldn’t be produced alongside each other.
So while the R launched in the 991’s first phase, the Speedster had to wait for its facelift, which is jolly good news, as it means the 503bhp 4.0-litre flat-six dangled behind the rear axle revs to a truly hedonistic 9,000rpm. The R’s rev limiter called time at a meagre 8,250. It sounds good, then… Damn right. You can often distil the entire experience of a motor car into one, single moment of your drive in it. The way the differential drags you ruthlessly out of a corner in an old Megane Trophy, the cartoonish oversteer of any 63-badged AMG… and the shrill, nape-prickling howl as this 911 Speedster racks up those last few hundred rpm, your left arm tensing up as it fights the urge to change up early. We discovered as much on the sun-drenched roads of Sardinia earlier in the year, when Porsche officially launched the 911 Speedster on the roads it was made for. Or the roads that were made for it. Ferraris have felt less at home around Fiorano than Porsche Motorsport’s convertible did on a summery Mediterranean island. I gather it’s not there anymore. It was high time we dragged it out of that comfort zone and drove it on sodden, leafy, almost wintry British roads. You’ll have seen what a deluge of weather we’ve had recently. It is, we reluctantly accept, the kind of weather that’ll keep a quarter-million-pound Porsche in the garage for most people. Gotta keep that resale value up. Well, this is a Top Gear public service announcement to anyone who’s bought one of these. Take it out. Now. Whatever the weather. Sure, the Speedster absolutely shines when the sun does. But when it’s misly and dank outside, this thing just feels plain otherworldly. Rather like seeing Quentin Tarantino on the neighbouring table in your local café rather than the bar of a fancy Hollywood hotel, the Speedster has an ethereal swagger to it on neglected British B-roads. Is it not… fragile? While it looks every inch a delicate trinket on a purely aesthetic level, it doesn’t feel brittle mechanically. From its superbly progressive brakes to its ruthlessly efficient damping, it’s a car – just like the 911 R and GT3 it’s so tangibly related to – that relishes rough treatment and committed driving. It actively encourages it, in fact, even on the equivalent of Cup 2 tyres on almost minus-temperature roads. There’s none of the wobbliness that afflicted 911 cabrios of old - you’d need a stern heart and hours of back-to-back driving to find a sliver of softness in this chassis. Is the flat-six the star? It’s mesmeric at 9,000rpm but there are naturally few opportunities to actually hit those dizzy heights on the road. Luckily this is a superlatively atmospheric engine at all speeds – some reckon it’s suffered with the addition of a particulate filter, I think you’re splitting hairs to make a fuss about it – and the band between 4,000 and 7,000rpm, where you’ll reside on the road in third gear, still comes with a cultured, spine-tingling howl that’ll pin your arm hairs to attention as it resonates off nearby stone walls. Anyone who’s spectated during the wee small hours of Le Mans or the Nürburgring 24-hours will get a joyous quiver at déjà vu upon hearing a nicely warmed-through flat-six punch through cold air. You can play tunes with this engine, in fact, abundant torque allowing you to explore the bassy tones of the six-speed manual gearbox’s higher gears before you dip briefly into the frenzied, crazed zone when you dare pull second for a while, flares of revs as the rear tyres relinquish and regain grip for the briefest, most pulse-raising of moments. It’s an all-out sensory assault, not least if you’ve gone topless; once the roof’s down here, it’s down. A fiddly one, then is it? Yep. There’s electrical operation, but it’s marginal, and the bulk of the process requires you to clamber out of those embracing sports seats and walk around to the back of the Speedster, hoik up the biggest single piece of carbon produced by the Volkswagen group, then manhandle the fabric roof up or down. If rain starts spitting on the move you’ll just ramp up the heating rather than pull over to faff on with the soft-top. The verdict? The 911 Speedster exhibits the beauty and delicacy of a roofless special with the nous, strength and integrity of a Porsche Motorsport product buried only just beneath its skin. Sure, you could hypothetically have two GT3s for the price. But head to the Nordschleife these days and you’ll find everybody and their mums packing a GT3, so rocking up in this would feel joyously outlandish. I just hope everyone who’s bought a Speedster at least samples it on the winter days where it’ll feel so otherworldly, and don’t take its swelling values as an excuse to lock it away when their weather app isn’t a full house of sun icons. It’s an experience that’ll lift their mood and enhance their life enough to make £211,000 suddenly seem like small change. Score: 10/10