Porsche 918 gets into shape

November 24 2010 at 10:25am

A designer at Porsche’s Weissach development centre works on at clay mock-up of the Porsche 918 Syder.This is the latest teaser image released by Porsche of its 918 Spyder, currently under development for production. It shows a designer working on a 1:3 scale clay model of the body, which shows a revised front treatment, bonnet and side panel from the 918 Concept seen at the 2010 Geneva auto show.

The “productioneering” is being done at Porsche’s development centre at Weissach near Stuttgart, which is being expanded to the tune of about €150-million (R1.4-billion), including a high-tech wind tunnel, a design centre and an electronics integration centre.

Porsche 911 Speedster review

What is it?

The fourth generation Porsche Speedster (following the 356, 930 and 964) and the second standalone model from Porsche Exclusive. To honour the original 356 Speedster, and presumably to justify the monster £144,100 asking price, production of the 997 Speedster is strictly limited to 356 units worldwide.

Technical Highlights

A new colour – “Pure Blue” – has been created for the Speedster, and will never be available on another Porsche model. If you don’t like blue Porsche Exclusive will also paint the Speedster in Carrara White on request. Ironically this will make it the rarer car.

The Speedster’s most striking feature is, of course, its 77mm shallower windscreen. Unlike earlier Speedster models the rake of the windscreen remains the same as other 997s, but the bespoke roof and ‘double-bubble’ tonneau cover are both unique to the Speedster.

Unlike the Boxster Spyder, which has more rudimentary weather protection, the Speedster’s roof is a proper job. It’s manually operated, so you’ll be clambering in and out of the car a few times to stow or erect it, but the procedure isn’t too fiddly or time-consuming. Having experienced torrential rain during our test, I can also confirm it is completely watertight.

Like the Sport Classic (and the forthcoming GTS) the Speedster features the 408bhp ‘Power Kit’ version of the 3.8-litre flat-six. It’s mated to a seven-speed PDK transmission (manual is not an option) and controlled by the Sports steering wheel’s paddle-shifters. Standard equipment also includes PCCB brakes and PASM suspension.

What’s it like to drive?

Unfortunately Nice was hit by atrocious weather on the day of our test. When the car you’re driving is defined by the roof-down experience that’s massively frustrating. We’ll get the chance to drive the car again in a few weeks, but for now what we can say is the Speedster feels every bit as rigid, composed and planted on challenging roads as you’d hope and expect from a topless 911.

The combination of standard PASM suspension and PDK delivers suppleness and easy-going progress when you need it, yet Sport and Sport Plus modes give you increased responsiveness and dynamism when you’re driving quickly. PDK still lacks a sense of connection and engagement, more so in naturally-aspirated 911s than the Turbos, but at least the Sports steering wheel and its conventional paddle shifters make it a more intuitive ‘box to take control of.

It’s a shame that in shedding the power roof’s motors the Speedster didn’t lose any weight compared to a Carrera 2S Cabrio, but the power-kitted engine pulls smooth and strong from low revs to the redline and sounds fabulous through its sports exhaust, even with the roof up. Being rear-wheel drive means you’re much more likely to have some fun than in the similarly wide-bodied Carrera 4S Cabriolet. Throw some sunshine into the mix and there’s no doubt the Speedster will be a special experience.

How does sit compare?

The Speedster is undoubtedly a collector’s dream. With just 356 cars to satisfy a global market (including the USA), demand is sure to outstrip supply. Unsurprisingly many are already spoken for, including the full UK allocation, which rather proves Porsche Exclusive knows its customers inside out.

That’s perfect justification for Porsche to build it, but if Porsche Exclusive’s level of, er, exclusivity, isn’t your overriding consideration then objectively the Speedster is a total extravagance.

997 Turbo S Cabrio is MUCH faster and still usefully cheaper, while the forthcoming GTS Cabrio features the same wide-body, rear-drive and 408bhp motor combination, but with the added appeal of a manual transmission option. Perhaps the most compelling argument against the Speedster is the thought of a 997 GT3 and a Boxster Spyder in your garage for the same money.

Porsche baby Boxster

SMALL is beautiful as Porsche announces a baby Boxster and a new four-cylinder engine.

Porsche‘s president and CEO Matthias Muller this week confirmed that it will make a small, mid-engined roadster.  The car will be heavily based on the Volkswagen Bluesport roadster and is expected to be publicly unveiled in 2012 and go on sale in 2013.

It is the latest announcement of product cross-sharing between Porsche and its new owner, Volkswagen.  The Porsche baby Boxster – as yet unnamed – is in “an advanced stage of development” at Porsche’s research and development centre in Weissach, says a report by Auto Express.

“We have a model based on the Bluesport, but we are not yet ready to show it,” says Muller.  “When we are convinced about the project, we will be ready to show it. The first time you see it, it will be as a production ready car.”

Muller says the baby Boxster will get a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine – likely to be turbocharged.  The engine, in a higher level of tuning, will also be available in the next generation Boxster and Cayman.

Both naturally aspirated and turbocharged versions of the 2.4-litre engine are being considered.  But it won’t stop there.

The engine could become the internal-combustion power source for a new range of Porsche hybrids, including the 911, and has potential in the next small Cayenne SUV that is based on the Audi Q5.

At the same time, Porsche is rumoured to look at stretching its Panamera range with a coupe and convertible.

Porsche Cayman R

Porsche Cayman R Debuts in Los Angeles

Released from the pressure of protecting its range-topping 911 now that an all-new model will be launched next year, Porsche has finally produced a really hot Cayman.

The black-striped Porsche decals on the side and the ‘R’ suffix give the game away: the company is harking back to the 911 R of the 1960s, a stripped-out homologation special equipped with a 906-spec flat-six.

The newest Cayman won’t bequite so uncompromising, though. A/c will be a delete option and the car runs on the lightest 19in wheels in the entire Porscherange. A complete rim set weighs less than 40kg. These, together with sundry other lightweight components shave a significant 55kg off the weight of the car.

Engine power is up by 10HP to 330HP, thanks to a retuned Cayman S engine. The capacity remains at 3.4 litres. Two gearboxes are offered, a six-speed manual or the company’s highly regarded seven-speed Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe(PDK). The latter gives the fastest 0-62km/h time of 4.9 seconds (4.7 seconds if equipped with the optional Sport Chrono package). Top speed is 175mph for the manual, 174mph for the PDK.

Externally, the R model has a fixed rear spoiler, is lower by 20mm than standard, and has black-painted headlamp surrounds – another retro racy touch.

The vibrant green you see here (Peridot) is unique to the car, which will be launched at the Los Angeles Auto Show today, 17 November. Customers will be able to order the car from February 2011 onwards. In Germany, it carries a list price of 69,830 euros, in the UK £51,731.00 – both figures including VAT.