1993 Porsche 911 Speedster Road Test

Martin Padgett, Jr.
Photo credit: Porsche - Car and Driver

From Car and Driver

From the September 1993 Issue of Car and Driver.

Here's a simple test to determine if you suffer from attention-deficit disorder. Okay, you're still reading. That's a good sign. But you still might have the other attention-deficit disorder, the one where no one notices you or listens to you, no matter what.

Is there a cure? You could try eating a plane. But the Guinness Book of World Records says it's already been done.

One Michel Lotito of France (called Monsieur Mangetout, of course) regularly consumes pieces of bicycles and supermarket carts, plus the occasional Cessna.

If you're aching for public adoration and you've got $70,838-here's a way to turn yourself into an instant celebrity. Simply drive out of the local Porsche purveyor's lot in a Speedster. Necks will strain. Strangers will shout encouraging obscenities. Scout's honor.

Okay, fine. Once your exhibitionistic urge is satisfied, you'll need to bring the leadfoot urge under control, because, short of the scorching 3.6 Turbo, no Porsche is more satisfying underfoot than the Speedster. This agile drop top is even more lightfooted than other Carreras. Think of Mazda's new lightweight RX-7 and Porsche's own RS America and you won't be far off the mark.

Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

Because it's derived from the Carrera 2, the Speedster feels familiar. It zips along with the stock 247-horsepower 3.6-liter flat six-the one that sounds like the entire Nirvana entourage beating on thick-gauge steel with ball-peen hammers. This racket can be summoned with either the five-speed manual box of our test car or the optional semiautomatic Tiptronic. Brisk acceleration (60 mph is yours in only 5.0 seconds) and a 158-mph top end come as no surprise to Porschephiles.

Nor will the tail-heavy handling. Like all 911s, the Speedster does not indulge an immoderate foot on the gas. Slamming the throttle open unleashes a festival of torque, accompanied by heavy understeer, but lifting in mid-corner can snap the tail around like a military salute. Mind you, today's 911 s are much less inclined to wheel around unexpectedly than previous generations, but the tendency can still catch the uninitiated off-guard.

Its razor-edged performance envelope does include some neat and easy tricks, however. On smooth highways, it tracks perfectly (though in the rough, the variable-assist steering sometimes kicks back). Brakes are of the no-fade variety, and stabbing them brings the Speedster to a standstill from 70 mph in just 161 feet. Turbolook seventeen-inch wheels shod with Pirelli P700-Z tires (255/40ZR-17s in the back and 205/50ZR-17s up front) provide enough grip for 0.87 g of lateral acceleration. Dual airbags and anti-lock braking are standard, as on all Porsches.

Aside from handling, the Speedster has few other riddles to solve. Beneath waist-deep paint applied to both the body and the wheels is a basic 911 pared to the bone. Most accessories that aren't manually adjusted have been chucked in the wastebasket, save power windows and the electrically activated whaletail spoiler. The side windows have shrunk, the windshield is smaller, and a double-humped composite plastic lid fits behind the headrests. This dromedary add-on covers what used to be the rear seats, now turned into carpeted luggage areas.

Snipping off the top leaves the passengers vulnerable to the elements and to bad hair days. So, Porsche fits a sleek top designed for something between frequent and emergency use. First-timers confronted by this array of latches, loops, and hooks might find it more complex than Madonna's bustiers. With some training (seriously, have your dealer demonstrate), it becomes simple to use. Freeing the cockpit involves releasing the composite lid, attaching the fabric top to the headliner and the lid, then lowering a handle to clamp the top down firmly on the tail.

When the top is raised, the Speedster is better contoured and more attractive than the Cabriolet, but the cloth top's lower roofline and the high seat side bolsters tum exit and entry into a gymnastic feat best accomplished by five-foot-tall women named Svetlana or Kristii. Porsche says the Speedster doesn't seal as well as the Cabriolet, either, but it's better than the 1989 Speedster was, thanks to new rubber trim and a modified headliner. The Speedster is also less rigid than the Cabriolet, but it's still among the tightest convertibles we've driven.

Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

Porsche doesn't want to be left at the bottom end of the hip-o-meter, so it fits the Speedster with leather trim that turns the dashboard face, some pieces of console trim, and the door pulls (loops of rip top fabric borrowed from the RS America) to body color with eye-popping effect. This trim can be ordered in black at no additional charge. Separately, owners can order the backs of the standard Recaro racing-style seats with body-color paint.

Or, if the Recaros seem too cramped, they can order different seats. Hip-reduction surgery might also work. A straw poll of the C/D staff found the thinly padded, fore-and-aft-adjustment-only Recaros rich in flash and short on comfort. Those who fit said the seats were supportive, but everyone with more than a 36-inch waist found them punishingly narrow. So for soft-side bodies, Porsche offers different power-operated buckets, from the base 911.

It's fair to say this Speedster is just one more of the endless derivatives of the 911. But it delivers the kind of ear-to-ear grins that Mercedes and BMW can't summon with their similarly priced convertibles and coupes. And it's one of the least expensive 911s offered. Grabbing attention still isn't cheap, but at least you don't have to worry about indigestion.

COUNTERPOINT

It seems strange that Porsche would go to the trouble of producing a sleek new convertible top and windshield, only to plop it on a bone-stock 911. Couldn't it have finished the job with a revised snout or tail, or perhaps a few more horsepower? On the other hand, the Speedster is undoubtedly a looker, and a swift, top-down run in this car is nothing short of delightful. The $71,000 tag on the limited-production roadster is almost reasonable-something I thought I would never write about any new Porsche. Sales may be down, but don't write these guys off just yet.—Don Schroeder

I lowered the top in no more than twenty minutes, nearly sacrificing a finger in the "ripstop loops" and ruining a handpainted tie awarded me by Editor Csere. Beyond that, I just want to say two words: red wheels. Not since 1977's Purina-checkerboard seats in the 928 has Porsche expended this much effort to embarrass itself. And speaking of seats. Like those in Acura’s NSX, the Speedster’s are mere fiberglass shells, Junkers-stiff, sans power adjusters. They are comfortable, cheap, light, and more efficient than a pro sandblaster whose assignment is to remove red paint from alloy wheels.—John Phillips

Hassan Rifat Kotob, a 30-year old business whiz in Ann Arbor, bought a Carrera 2 convertible last year and is itching to trade. The Speedster caught his eye. "It's beautiful," he said. "It looks like it's been working out-it's muscular." He put the Speedster’s top down, then sat in the driver's seat. "This seat is wonderful." He was captivated by the sleeker windshield but announced a decision: "I think my car is more of a car. I'll keep it." Reasons: the Speedster’s multi-task top mechanism would keep him from driving top-down on short trips, and he would miss the power seat adjustments of his Carrera 2.—Phil Berg


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