Do you remember riding in the car with your parents on a long road trip when you were a young child? The feeling of air rushing across the tips of your fingers as you thrust your hand out the window on a warm summer day. In those carefree childhood days, the car didn't matter, it could be a Suburban or a sports car. The vehicle was just your conduit to pure connection with the universe. The ability to drift away from reality, stare into the void, and just be. Carefree. With every passing year, that connection to the world becomes harder to find. We're torn away from that by workaday lives, paying bills, responsibilities. Porsche's new Spyder, however, is carefree distilled into a car. Let everything go, relax, hang loose.
When Porsche asked if we wanted to drive the new Boxster Spyder in Hawaii, it only took me about the length of an inhale breath to say "Yes, absolutely, I can't wait!" because what other response could there possibly be? Bags packed for the long mid-Pacific flight, it was the new car launch I'd looked forward to more than any other. As much as I loved the Cayman GT4, I've always had a penchant for open-topped cars. Could Porsche's Spyder set the new standard for sports cars?
How Is The Boxster Spyder Experience Different From Any Other Boxster?
Porsche's 981 Boxster is already a thrilling drive. We loved the Boxster GTS we had in Los Angeles. But the Boxster Spyder takes that concept and amps it up just a bit for optimum driver enjoyment. Sure, it's more powerful, but that's not really the point. The larger 3.8 liter engine provides loads of torque, and makes the car so much nicer to drive on the street. As I mentioned in my GT4 review, the torque of this engine pairs nicely with long gearing as it's a lot harder to be in the wrong gear.
The Boxster Spyder is only available with a manual transmission to match its manual top, and frankly I find that a welcome change from Porsche's fondness of offering everything with PDK. This is a Porsche that deserves the connection of driver and car through the stick shifter. I love PDK, it's a phenomenal transmission, it's faster than I'll ever be, but for connectedness with the car, you can't beat this slick 6-speed unit. It's possibly the best manual transmission Porsche has ever built.
The new Boxster Spyder tips the scales at just 2899 pounds, making it 66 pounds lighter than a manual Boxster GTS. Some of that weight is lost by deleting the radio, the air conditioning system, the headlight washer system, and removing some sound deadening material. The manually operated top accounts for 24 pounds of the difference. By shedding pounds and adding power, the Boxster Spyder has accomplished a power to weight ratio of only 7.7 pounds per horsepower. You can feel it.
What About That Top?
The Spyder is also a lighter car than any other Boxster. Part of this weight savings is accomplished by the move to a lightweight manually operated top. The outgoing Boxster Spyder top was fiddly, took forever to remove and erect, it wasn't stable at high speeds, and wasn't exactly suitable for a trip through the car wash or a particularly heavy rain storm. This new top, however, is much improved. The top frame is crafted of magnesium, aluminum, plastic, and some high strength steel. Porsche accomplished the weight loss by replacing the glass rear window with a polymer window, removing the power operation motor, and all insulation from the inside of the top.
Porsche Boxster Spyder Top Operation
As operation goes, the new top is much better than the old one. The old top required some 14 steps to take down, and more than 3 minutes to accomplish. The new top takes less than one minute, and only 6 steps. Not to mention the new Spyder's top has proper sealing, remains relatively quiet with the top up, and can even handle the Porsche's top speed.
The procedure for lowering the top in detail:
1. Electrically unlatch the top and rear trunk lid by pushing the top button.
2. Manually detach ends of fins from the rear trunk lid and insert them into the pocket provided for them on the top.
3. Open the rear trunk lid.
4. Manually stow the top.
5. Close the rear trunk lid.
6. Close the top cover flaps, left and right.
The procedure for raising the top in detail:
1. Unlatch rear trunk lid electrically by pushing the trunk release button and open the rear lid manually.
2. Open top cover flaps, left and right.
3. Raise top manually.
4. Close rear trunk lid.
5. Detach ends of fins from top and insert them on rear trunk lid.
6. Latch top to windshield frame by top button.
The manually operated top still requires the driver to get out of the car to accomplish the task, but it's much less time consuming. This method of top operation makes top-down driving more of a production (ordeal?) and requires the driver's involvement. That said, it's still one more barrier between you and the open road. It still takes long enough that the top cannot be lowered or raised at a red light, which can be crucial in changeable weather. If you've been in Mazda's new MX-5, you've seen how a nice lightweight manually operated top should be. In the MX-5, the operation requires one hand, and the top is down before you can count to two.
I've been lucky enough to have driven every iteration of 981 Boxster, and this is easily my favorite. I'm not normally a 'big power' kind of person, preferring small engines that rev over big ones that produce lots of power. That said, this one is just spectacular. I already loved this engine in the 911 Carrera S, but slotted into a Boxster it's become my favorite Porsche engine and chassis combination ever. In the 60s, Muscle Cars were created by taking the larger V8 engines from a full-sized car and dropping it into the engine compartment of a mid-size car. By that logic, Porsche has created their first Muscle Sportscar in the GT4 and Boxster Spyder.
The Cayman GT4 and the Boxster Spyder are siblings. Porsche keeps them separate, but they really are comparable to each other. Having driven both in the last couple of months, I can confidently say that the GT4 is the faster car, and the Spyder is the more fun car, but the margin is hardly a wide one. On the any race track, the GT4's ten additional horsepower, stronger torsional rigidity, trick GT3-derived suspension, stickier Michelin tires, and wing-induced downforce would provide it the lap time advantage. On the street, though, it's hard to beat the fun-to-drive quotient of an extremely competent cabriolet. The Boxster Spyder provides a more comfortable drive than the GT4, as well. Put the top down, and all of your cares melt away. In the GT4, it might be your fillings that melt away. I have a hard time saying that, because I absolutely adore the GT4, but if I had to choose, and I had to spend my own money, I'd choose the Boxster Spyder every time.
Booming. Sonorous. Phenomenal.
Fire up the engine and you're immediately lost in the glorious crackle of the Spyder's sport exhaust. I know it's the same exhaust that you hear on the Cayman GT4, but you can just hear more of it with the Boxster Spyder's top lowered. It's almost like that exhaust note is directly plumbed into your ear canal. Driving past a building, or through a tunnel only proves to amplify the phenomenal sound. With the Sport Exhaust button engaged, the sound cannot be beat. The revs build to a lovely crescendo, and when you let off the throttle, the tips let loose with a crackle and pop that would make Rice Krispies jealous. While the world has been applauding Jaguar for making the F-type sound pretty darn good, a small group of engineers in Stuttgart have been squirreled away in a secret room somewhere finding a way to make the F-type sound weak and fragile.
Once you get over the sound, you get down to driving. The steering rack (apparently cribbed from the 911 Turbo) feels direct and properly weighted in a way that a Boxster hasn't felt since the last Boxster Spyder. I feel like a broken record I've been saying this so much lately, but 'Porsche has really figured out how to calibrate their electric-assist power steering'. It's good. Really good. Suspension here isn't nearly as trick as what the Cayman GT4 has, instead the Spyder makes use of the X73 package Sport Suspension (optional on other Boxster models), which features 20mm lower suspension than standard, stiffer springs, and stiffer sway bars. It might just be the "just right" suspension between the too-soft standard Boxster and the too-hard Cayman GT4. Porsche may have chosen wisely on this one, as it's firm without being punishing.
The engine carries the car forward smoothly and fluidly. The massive torque gives you a welcome shove in the back as you hurtle down the road. While most cars use power to hide flaws in a their chassis, the 981 chassis is about as close as you can get to perfect neutral handling, and the power is all the more usable because of it. There were a number of times where I found myself coming in to a corner with too much or too little speed, but never felt unnerved, because the Boxster simply allows you to correct without drama. There were a number of times where the state-installed suggested speeds for some corners were less than half the speed the car was capable of taking them. Engine, good. Chassis, great.
How Would I Order My Spyder?
Of everything that Porsche builds at the moment, the Boxster Spyder is probably the one I'd most like to have, though a GT4 cuts in a close second. It looks as stunning as it drives, it's a performance bargain, and if the outgoing Boxster Spyder is any indication, this special car should hold its value quite well. So, which options do you absolutely need?
Personally, the pure drive of this car should not be hindered by anything. I would keep my car exactly as the factory intended, in lightweight configuration sans air con, headlight washers, and radio. This is cliche at this point, but the included sports exhaust is all the symphonic engagement you'd ever need. I logged over 300 miles in this Porsche over the course of a day, and I didn't ever feel the need to turn on the radio. And air conditioning isn't necessary. If you ever get too hot in this car, just pull over and put the top down. Seriously, you won't regret it for a second.
The standard seats are nice, but if you're going to be ordering this car from the factory, do your bum a favor and pony up for optional seats. Either the Adaptive Sport Seats or the Fixed Back "Full Bucket" seats. I'd favor the Full Bucket, but they can get a bit old hat on a long drive, especially if you're driving freeway. What's a focused driving experience without a focused driving experience seat, though? And since we're talking about the interior, do not order your Boxster Spyder without checking the box for the gorgeous two-tone Spyder Classic Interior Package. That blood-red over grey alcantara interior setup is the most exquisite interior I've ever put my eyes on. Everything feels premium and the splash of color really helps liven up the car
Aside from that, the Porsche of your dreams is only dependent on the exterior color you choose. With the Spyder Classic interior, it's probably best to stay away from the really loud colors. The cars present on our test drive were shown in White, Jet Black Metallic, and GT Silver Metallic. All three looked great, but given the choice for my own car, I'm having a tough time deciding between Rhodium Silver Metallic and Sapphire Blue Metallic. Either of those would be stunning, in my opinion. The Boxster Spyder just doesn't lend itself to screaming loud colors like the Cayman GT4 does.
Even with a premium color option and the best interior ever, this order form still runs less than $90 grand, including delivery charges. I know Porsche doesn't really want to hear this, but I'd have a hard time ordering a Carrera S Cabriolet when the Spyder is available for less money.
This has been an amazing year for Porsche, they've made all the right steps this year, winning accolades and trophies in motorsport, as well as on the street. Victories at Le Mans (both Petit and Proper), launches of new driver-focused sports cars, and higher sales figures than they've ever achieved were the defining moments of Porsche's year. It's only appropriate, then, that they've assembled what may be the best road-going sports car platform ever made. For me, that car is the Boxster Spyder. The best.
The Boxster Spyder is a phenomenal sports car. This could be the perfect third car in a two-driver household. It's comfortable, it's extraordinary to drive, it's beautiful and exciting to look at, and you are getting a lot of car for the dollar outlay. If you have room in the garage and the budget for a fourth car, maybe consider getting a Cayman GT4, too.