The 2011 Porsche Speedster is Marketing Kool-Aid

Posted: March 7, 2011 in Rants

The 2011 Porsche 911 Speedster is everything that is wrong with Porsche today.  It is one of a 20-odd model lineup of the 911, which in and of itself is a farce.  But the real issue I have with the car is that it is a blatant attempt to play on Porsche’s heritage and storied history, while pawning off a bloated charicature of the original car to consumers who don’t know any better.  And the worst part is that it will be profitable – which is why Porsche is doing it in the first place.

Which brings me on a small tangent – automakers do all sorts of things that qualify in my mind as sins against god – but they do these things because they are in the business of making money.  If some fat, arthritic middle aged ninny thinks there’s a connection and heritage between the current Speedster and prior Speedsters, and buys it, waxing it, washing it, staring at it, maybe taking it to a show or two but rarely actually driving it – then Porsche doesn’t care – they made money off that ignorant rube, despite polluting their brand’s gene pool and committing an atrocity against the original car.

Now, lets get one thing straight.  Take a look at that car.  It gives me a giant, pulsing boner.  It is VERY hot.  The color alone is jaw droppingly gorgeous.  It has the throw back cues.  The hump, the lowered wind shield, even black wheels similar to the Fuchs on the 3.2.  But reading the spec sheet, we start to realize what this car really is – its just a gussied up Carrera Sport Classic / Carrera GTS with a less practical top.  Lets look at the weight – 1540 kg – that’s 3,388.62 lbs to my non-metric friends out there.  Big deal, you say.  Big deal indeed.

What’s the big deal?  Lets start with the original car – a no frills, stripped down, light weight car.  The original intent was to distill and purify the essence of the 356 (and with later Speedsters, the 911) by removing components that interfered with the message of the vehicle.  The original Speedster weighed in at a svelte 760 kg – that’s  1,672.30 lbs.  That means the new car is essentially DOUBLE the weight of the original car.  Now, granted, the new car also has 6.8 times as much power (408 hp vs. 60) . . . . but power isn’t everything – power does not convey the experience of the drive, and more importantly, weight dulls performance – you can’t fight physics.

Porsche didn’t follow up the original Speedster until the Carrera 3.2, arguably one of the finest 911s ever made.  Option M503 designated the car as such and featured the same formula – low windshield and a hump back for the simplified top.  Again, it was light weight – no electric windows, seats, or other contrivances.  It was said to be about 70  kg (154.02 lbs) lighter than a regular 911 of its day.

Responding to consumer demand and once again sensing an opportunity to make big bucks (you have to pay more and you actually get less – classic Porsche genius marketing resulting in enormous profit), Porsche revived the Speedster for one last time with the 964 generation.

In standard practice, this car eschewed a practical soft top for a complicated, albeit light weight top and the raked windshield.  This time around the car retained wide bodywork from the turbo as opposed to allowing the car to stay the narrow bodied, although this is clearly what consumers wanted as it was the best selling Speedster of all time.  It had almost none of the conveniences of the traditional soft top Cabriolet, and as a result, despite the  extra weight from the wide body work and extra chassis bracing required for an open top car, it weighed in exactly the same as the regular 911.

Now I’m not going out and arguing that the original speedster or any of its following iterations were superior cars.  In fact, I’m quite confident without having to drive the new car that it is superior in every way, shape, and form.  But it doesn’t meet the requirements for a Speedster.  It is not in line with a vehicle carrying this badge.  It is essentially like having a minivan with the SS badge.  There is no stripping down, rather, there is dumbing down.  The car is essentially made to LOOK like it fits in with the heritage of the Speedster line, and one might assume it is even a lighter, stripped car from the looks – yet  the new car is actually HEAVIER than a standard 911 by 314 lbs – blasphemy!  This car is nothing than a marketing exercise – it is delivering hype without any substance.  It is like those “ricers” that people love to mock – the appearance of performance while actually decreasing the vehicle’s performance.

No, my closing argument is that the 2011 Speedster should not be marketed as the spiritual successor to the original Speedster.  That honor should go with the Boxster Spyder – a stripped (although nowhere near simplified), lightweight top, use of lightweight materials, the removal of essentially all amenities (including door handles), and a resulting loss of 176 lbs.  This is the purest Porsche made right now.  This is the car carrying the torch for all the original cars.

Furthermore, at a cost differential of $204,000 versus $61,200, I know which is the better performance bargain as well.


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