► New ultimate Boxster driven
► Manual roof helps drop weight to 1315kg
► 3.8-litre flat-six good for 370bhp and 180mph
Don't mistake the new 2015 Porsche Boxster Spyder for a Cayman GT4 convertible. The tin-top GT4 was a Porsche GT project, developed under ‘Mr GT3’ Andreas Preuninger and making use of the (presumably ultra-lightweight and sweet-handling) GT parts bin. This Boxster Spyder is a mainstream Porsche model, though it also borrows some choice parts from the family stock cupboards.
The Cayman GT4 donates its front and rear bumpers and 3.8-litre six, which also sees service in the 911 Carrera S. The engine’s detuned slightly for Boxster Spyder duty, developing 370bhp at 6700rpm – 10bhp down on the GT4. But where the Cayman GT4 uses bespoke, GT3-derived suspension, the Boxster Spyder uses a non-PASM set-up based on the Boxster GTS’s Sport suspension. The brakes, with their bigger 340mm front discs, are pinched from the 911. Wheels are Spyder-specific; 20in by 8.5in at the front and 10.5in on the back. Cayman/Boxster kingpin Stefan Weckbach claims go-faster engineering expertise also flowed freely between the Cayman GT4 and the Boxtser Spyder.
It’s pretty. Really, really pretty
It is, isn’t it? There’s a real elegance to the bespoke aluminium rear deck, with its curving Speedster humps and 2.7 RS-style ducktail spoiler, certainly with the roof stowed. Remarkably the car’s almost as attractive with the roof in place, complete with fabric flying buttresses, and the weight saving (11kg) is ample reward for the manual labour required. It’s a pretty straightforward process – think half a minute of mild concentration rather than the 10 minutes of swearing some fabric roofs demand.
Further weight savings stem from the eschewal of PASM suspension (5kg), reduced sound deadening (5kg) and the lack of air-con (9kg), though the latter can be optioned back in without charge. The net result, at 1315kg, is the lightest Boxster in the range, despite sporting the biggest engine (the 3.4-litre GTS weighs in at 1345kg), and a car usefully lighter even than the Cayman GT4 (1340kg).
Inside you get a six-speed manual gearbox (no PDK option) with the Cayman GT4’s shorter lever, a pair of extremely handsome, comfortable and supportive shell-backed carbon buckets, one of the greatest driving positions known to man and the delectable 918-style steering wheel from the GT4 Cayman. Door release is by fabric loop – cute.
So essentially it’s the cutest, lightest and most powerful Boxster you can buy? Good then?
Really good – think diametrically opposed to rubbish. Jump in, marvel at the essential rightness of everything from the weighting of the pedals to the anatomy of the seats, start the engine and prod your way almost immediately into Sport Plus (for more slip-angle freedom, rev-matched downshifts and increased exhaust volume). What follows is an enthralling, wholly immersive driving experience that takes the Boxster’s fundamental brilliance and glosses it with yet more layers of dynamic excellence and joy.
Yes the gearing still feels overly tall (ratios are as per the Boxster GTS) and yes you will, if you press the car into daily service, miss the duality and versatility of GTS with PASM and PDK, but fundamentally the Spyder is an exceptional sports car. It’s focused unashamedly on the generation of driving happiness, and the results are spectacular. Even at low speeds you appreciate the gorgeous gearshift, the smooth, tractable engine and the admirable pliancy – it’s stiff but, given the 20in wheels, the ride’s far from intolerable. And when the opportunities arise to drive the Spyder as intended it’s simply magical. Magical and really fast. 370bhp and 1315kg are good numbers – others include Porsche’s claimed 0-62mph time of 4.5 seconds and the 180mph top speed.
But the numbers aren’t what captivate. No, the wonder comes from the engine’s instantaneous response and shattering soundtrack (complete with filthy pops on the overrun), the nicely weighted, deliciously tactile steering, the deeply impressive grip and poise of the chassis and the endlessly fascinating interplay between your right foot and the car’s balance on the exit of every corner.
There's so much to like about the 2015 Boxster Spyder. But can it justify that lofty £60,459? On the one hand £20k more than a 2.7-litre Boxster is hard to swallow, as is the truth that you’ll be 98% as ecstatic behind the wheel of the £7k cheaper Boxster GTS. But the Spyder is special. Those little touches – the more purposeful styling, that gorgeous Speedster rear deck, the history and romance of the name, that 3.8-litre motor, those seats… – they add up to a lot of want.