Porsche's four-liter mid-engine drop-top has been a massive international hit for the company. With a reactive naturally-aspirated engine, gobs of torque, a sublime chassis, and open air motoring, it's one of the best sports cars to ever leave the factory. For the Chinese market, Porsche's biggest market, it holds a problem, however. Under China's current automotive sales scheme, any car with an engine displacing between 3 and 4 liters is hit with a 42.12 percent tax. For that reason, the big naturally-aspirated engines don't tend to sell particularly well. According to this report in the Journal of Southeast Asian Research, as much as 90 percent of all cars sold in the People's Republic displace between 1 and 2 liters, because those cars are only taxed at a comparatively light 24.88 percent.
Enter the China-only 2-liter Spyder. Unveiled at this week's Shanghai Auto Show, the Boxster Spyder's 4-liter is gone, and in its place is the 298-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four engine from the standard Boxster. In China, the 718 Spyder comes paired only to the 7-speed PDK, which is the much more popular transmission anyhow. The flying-buttress-style convertible top is carried over from the Spyder sold in the rest of the world, but the bumpers are cribbed from the Boxster GTS rather than the aggressive 4-liter Spyder fascia.
As with every other Boxster Spyder, the Chinese model receives lightweight 20-inch alloy wheels, a 10 mm lowered suspension with standard Porsche Active Suspension Management, and a GT3-derived track-ready suspension setup. The little turbo motor shoves this variant from 0-62 in just 4.7 seconds, which is pretty quick, but about 0.8 seconds slower than a PDK-equipped 4-liter model. Top speed of the 2-liter drops from 187 miles per hour to just 167. Do you really need those extra twenty mph, though?
Porsche's 718 is an extremely popular car in China, both in Cayman and Boxster variants. Unlike the North American market, the 718 even outsells Porsche's iconic 911 in Asia. Taxes, emissions, and overall cost are part of the reason for that. Everything is much more expensive in China, with a standard model 718 Boxster starting at 565,000 Chinese Yuan Renminbi (with the value added tax included), which is about the equivalent of $87,120 at today's exchange rates. Jump up to the 718 Boxster S with a 2.5-liter and you'll see a much higher tax and a starting price of 797,000 CNY, or $122,860.
With a 2-liter engine, Porsche can actually price the Spyder under the S model by a pretty significant margin, simply due to the taxes. At just 738,000 CNY, the Chinese Spyder will cost the comparatively low rate of $113,766. That may not sound like a great deal in the face of the 4-liter Spyder's U.S. market starting price of $98,300, but I promise you, the Chinese are rejoicing at this bargain-priced model. Think about it this way, if you could get a 718 Spyder with the standard model's 2-liter for an eight percent discount under a Boxster S, about 68 grand, wouldn't you consider it? I know I would.
Why is this important? Well, according to reports from Motor 1, a four-cylinder Spyder has recently been spied testing at the Nurburgring, perhaps in preparation for a global model. I certainly think a less-expensive 2.5-liter Spyder even could be a big deal in the U.S. and Europe. Price it somewhere above the S and below the GTS and you'd have a hit on your hands, Porsche.