2016 PORSCHE BOXTER SPYDER
Stiff, stripped down and pricey: 2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder a purist’s dream car
IN terms of stress relief, there’s nothing like a crisp fall day, with the sun shining and the leaves changing, to make you want to jump into your convertible, flip back the top and go for a cruise, maybe even a couple of hundred kilometres or so.
But what if it’s a grey day, the foliage is stubbornly holding on to its greenness and dropping the top is a six-step, one-minute procedure that requires you getting in and out of the car and fiddling?
When you have only 48 hours with Porsche’s otherwise delectable Boxster Spyder sports car, you suck it up, silently (or not) curse the engineering trolls who devised such a lid, slide that sucker into the rear hatch and revel in Zuffenhausen’s most engaging creation. Then you think about the previous-generation Spyder and laugh because as tedious as it is to stow the top on the new 2016 model, it’s an absolute walk in the park compared to the older version. (I still contemplate a special level of hell for the guys who rigged that contraption.)
Naturally, one can forego all this angst and just buy a regular Boxster, replete with power top. But Porsche being Porsche, with all of its iconic models and motorsport history, feels the Spyder — what the company calls a “purist” roadster — offers the “utmost driving pleasure.”
Mandatory retrospective here: Porsche introduced its first Spyder, the 550, in October 1953. That twoseater was the first sports car from the automaker to be developed specifically for racing; however, a streetlegal version was also produced. In subsequent years, the Spyder, weighing just 550 kilograms, garnered numerous road-racing victories.
It would be next to impossible to build a street-legal sports car that flimsy today, but at 1,215 kg, this Spyder is the lightest model in the Boxster range. Its weight reduction is achieved through the manually operated lightweight top, the use of aluminum, magnesium, polymers and reduced insulation, and the deletion of radio and air conditioning (which can be added at no charge). Combine that with the most powerful engine to be found in the model range and you get a power-to-weight ratio of one horsepower per 3.5 kg, giving the Spyder the acceleration of a higher-powered sports car and the moves of a cat.
Oh, yes, sitting behind your head and bellowing into your ears is the six-cylinder from the 911 Carrera S, a 3.8-litre direct-injection engine that also drives the Cayman GT4. In the mid-engine Spyder, the power plant delivers 375 hp at 6,700 r.p.m., 45 horses more than the 3.4-L boxer six in the Boxster GTS.
Producing 310 pound-feet of torque between 4,750 and 6,000 r.p.m. — 30 lb-ft more than the GTS — the Spyder, Porsche says, will scream its way to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds. Going to 120 km/h from 80 in fifth gear takes 5.5 seconds. And, because the Porsche faithful will riot if this factoid is not included, it runs on the North Loop of the famed Nürburg ring racetrack produced a lap time of 7:47, eight seconds faster than the GTS.
So the Spyder is fast and, with four-wheel vented discs, it stops on a dime; that much is a given. But a car clearly built for the Porsche traditionalist is full of compromises. How livable is it?
Well, it’s stiff, for one thing. Not stiff as in firm, the way sports car suspensions are supposed to be, but stiff as in any decent stretch of moderately bad road will pulverize your kidneys into Pablum in no time, and that’s without touching the Sport or Sport-Plus buttons, which tighten up all manner of things and make the little two-seater into even more of a screamer.
That includes amplifying the exhaust sound into a snarling, crackling aria of evil intent — which causes cheers and shout-outs from kids in school yards and death stares from geezers outside retirement homes.
The six-speed manual (no PDK transmission is offered) is a model of precision, with short throws and defined gates, though both the stubby shifter and clutch pedal require a little muscle. (I jumped into my Mazda Miata minutes after driving the Spyder and just about put my left foot through the floorboard.)
The Spyder is a cacophony of noise when under throttle, engine bark mixed with the wind rushing over, around and through the cabin. As dorky as it looks, it’s good to have the door windows up at anything approaching highway speeds; they keep the noise level down to a dull roar.
The interior setup is simple, with minimal adornment or extraneous content: three large instrument gauges in the binnacle, thick-rimmed steering wheel trimmed in Alcantara, chrome shifter and various and sundry knobs and buttons for the heating/air conditioning, audio system, roof operation and sport functions. The sport seats are thickly bolstered and hugely comfortable, supporting the body in all the right places — especially when hooning the twisty bits — though those with big butts will find them a tight squeeze.
There are a couple of safety items lacking from the car’s list of standard features, however, that should be mandatory, including a blind-spot monitor and a backup camera, or at least front and rear backup assists. Even with the top down, rear visibility is not the greatest, compromised by the “streamliners” that stretch from behind the head restraints over the trunk lid (an esthetic nod to the 718 Spyder of the 1960s). With the top up, there might as well be a brick wall behind your head.
Despite the downsides, I absolutely love the visceral pleasure of pounding this little beastie into corners and powering out of them with a roar and a giggle (the latter coming from me). If I were 20 years younger, I would be all over it. But age has a mellowing influence, and I find the near-$100K Spyder a little too hardcore for my tastes and much too pricey for its minimalist nature. The Boxster remains a dream vehicle, but it’s the S version I’ll covet.
At 1,215 kilograms, the Spyder is the lightest model in the Boxster range. Weight reduction is thanks to a manually operated top and the removal of the radio and air conditioning (which can be added at no charge).
The interior is fairly minimal and features a thick-rimmed steering wheel trimmed in
Alcantara and a nice offering of chrome, including on the shifter.
There is a deep cargo area behind the 375-horsepower 3.8-litre directinjection engine, which is buried
within the middle of the car.