The Speedster badge has particular significance among American Porsche enthusiasts. Back in 1953, during the early days of the marque going on sale this side of the Atlantic, a version of the 356 cabriolet was created especially for American buyers. It had a more shallow windshield set at a more rakish angle, sports seats and lightweight plastic windows. Called the Speedster, it proved especially popular in Southern California.
So it is only fitting that the latest car to bear this name should make its North American debut at the 2010 Los Angeles auto show. This is the 2011 Porsche 911 Speedster, now based on the modern 911 cabrio, but with a similar low windshield and a few other design cues that have since become associated with this badge, such as the "double bubble" hard cover (this is actually the fourth model to carry the Speedster designation). It also sports some black-and-silver alloy wheels that are a 21st-century take on the traditional Fuchs alloys so beloved of traditional Porsche fans.
However, the 911 Speedster also sports some modern attributes. Like a six-cylinder, 3.8-liter engine that can make 408 horsepower, computer-controlled suspension, special ceramic composite brake discs and a twin-clutch seven-speed transmission... all standard equipment. This is a rear-drive sports car, although it has the same wider track and flared-out rear fenders as all-wheel-drive versions of the 911.
The sprint from zero to 60 mph may be completed in a rapid 4.2 seconds (with the optional Sport Chrono package) and top speed is 190 mph. Yet fuel consumption is quite reasonable, with a claimed 19 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway.
Only 356 examples of the limited-edition 2011 Porsche Speedster will be built, with 100 slated for American buyers at an MSRP of $204,950 (including destination charges). It comes in "Pure Blue" although "Carrara White" (like the marble, not Carrera like the car) may be requested at no extra cost.
COLIN RYAN has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.