Is the new Porsche Boxster Spyder the best Boxster you can buy, or the worst? Rather than being a stickers and stripes special edition, or an expensive limited-run like the 911 Sport Classic, the Spyder joins the Boxster range as a third model. And it features some clever weight saving tech that cleaves 80 kilos from the kerbweight – at 1275kg it’s the lightest car Porsche currently makes – while there’s also more power and Carrera GT-inspired looks.
But Porsche calls this Boxster a Spyder because it’s lost the regular cars folding fabric roof, a roof than made it a great everyday car. Has the sacrifice to make the Spyder a sharper driver’s tool been worth it? Read our first drive of the new Porsche Boxster Spyder to find out.
How has the weight been cut from the new Porsche Boxster Spyder?
The aluminium doors save 15kg, the one-piece rear deck made from the same stuff cuts another 3kg, and carbon-backed bucket seats trim 12kg. The new ten-spoke wheels are the lightest set of 19-inch wheels that Porsche make, weighing less than ten kilos each, and the lower side windows also helps shed a few pounds.
The lack of an electrically folding fabric roof also helps cut weight. The new ‘cap’ – as Porsche calls it – weighs less than 6kg, and the carbonfibre frame that supports it is 5kg. The roof clips onto the windscreen header rail, and two hooks fasten onto the rear deck, and when you close the new Carrera GT-style boot, it acts as a lever to pull the roof taught. Top speed is limited to 124mph with the roof in place, but lifted to 166mph without it.
There’s also lower – and thus lighter – side windows, new front bumper with LED lights, black mesh inserts for the side intakes, a plastic wind deflector between the seats, a high-level third brake light, and a larger fixed rear spoiler.
Inside the Spyder you won’t find a radio, air-con, cup holders or door pockets, though you can spec the sound system and the beverage holders back in at no extra cost. And you can choose the less extreme (i.e. heavier) sports seats if you want. Fabric door pulls, red seat belts, the lack of a cowl for the instrument clusters, plus the transmission tunnel in the same colour as the exterior, completes the makeover.
What about the power? And how improved is the performance?
The direct-injection 3.4-litre flat-six is the same size as the unit in the Boxster S, but the engine in the Spyder is actually tweaked to the slightly hotter Cayman S tune. It means peak power output is actually achieved at 7200rpm, 950 revs above the maximum engine speed of the Boxster S. And rather than the Boxster’s spread of 266lb ft from 4400-5500rpm, the Spyder produces 273lb ft at 4750rpm.
Stick with the standard manual gearbox and the Spyder will hit 62mph in 5.1 seconds, 0.2sec quicker than a Boxster S, although it’s slower flat out thanks to the lack of a roof. Go for the seven-speed, dual-clutch PDK ‘box and you’ll manage five seconds to 62 (4.8 if you use launch control), 163mph, 30.4mpg and 218g/km – and you can choose proper paddles over the awful rocker switches
There’s also new sports suspension, incorporating shorter, stiffer springs, firmer dampers, and new front and rear anti-roll bars. Thanks to a 20mm drop in ride height, and the lack of bulk from the lightweight roof, the Spyder’s centre of gravity is 25mm lower than in the Boxster S. Braking is by 318mm discs up front and 299mm discs at the rear, 350mm ceramic stoppers are available if you’re really keen, and a proper mechanical diff is also standard.
Just how practical is it?
Well Porsche says the Spyder has been ‘developed first and foremost for driving in the open air’, which tells you just about all you need to know about this car’s usefulness in the UK – when’s the last time you saw a convertible with its top dropped? And the regular car’s rear boot has gone thanks to that new decklid. You can still store luggage underneath but you need to lift the whole section of rear bodywork up to do it.
What’s it like to drive?
Like a Boxster S but with an added kick. The combination of the Cayman’s extra 10bhp and an 80kg weight reduction make acceleration feel more urgent, and the sports exhaust just adds to the effect. Any lingering criticism that the Boxster is a poor relation to the 911 when it comes to performance is banished when you flatten the right pedal. You don’t have to thrash it either, the weight reduction magnifying mid-range torque, although you’ll want to wind it out simply for the side effects.
The handling feels equally improved. The communicative, if slightly leisurely steering, is as positive as ever, but the Spyder seems that much more alert and keen to change tack. Obviously the drop in kerb weight plays a massive part here but you can also thank the sports suspension for that; you certainly won’t be thanking it when you get to a rough bit of road: the ride is solid and there’s no electronic facility to back off the dampers and calm things down because the PASM adaptive dampers went in the same bin as the cupholders.
The bucket seats are at least fabulously comfortable and the driving position excellent so it takes little time to get comfortable. Not so speedy is the roof-up process. The tent of a roof isn’t quite as nasty to use as we’d feared but it still takes a couple of minutes to put in place. We weren’t able to test it for rain resistance but can report that wind noise behind your head is authentically 1950s Speedster.
The Boxster Spyder is mixed bag: stacks of fun but with a very narrow appeal. On the one hand it’s genuinely better to drive than the standard car having been on a proper diet, it’s faster and more focused and just looks and feels that bit more special than the Boxsters you see every day. If you lived in sunny California and had another car in the garage for sensible duties, we’d say go for it, providing you can stomach the brittle ride. But for those of us subjected to a more varied, okay awful, climate, the Spyder will remain a Lotus Elise-style Sunday fun car at best, and the Boxster S (plus a few choice options) still the best way to spend your money.