Along came a Spy­der – light, fast and built to be en­joyed with the top down

Fans of the Porsche Boxster will en­joy this low-fat, high-per­for­mance con­vert­ible, says Fred­eric Manby.

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - FEATURES -

I WAS once on a Jeep press camp in Cyprus. We were driv­ing the Wran­gler. In the Troo­dos moun­tains, it started to snow (with hind­sight a harbinger of cli­mate change). The Wran­gler han­dlers sprung into action to erect the hoods on the Jeeps. It took th­ese ex­perts 15 min­utes.

With no pres­sure of pass­ing traf­fic or fall­ing snow, it took Wayne Dar­ley two and three­quar­ter min­utes to put the hood on the Porsche Boxster Spy­der, though the cabin sec­tion was cov­ered in about a minute. It is a com­pli­cated rou­tine, in which the clo­sure of the boot lid ap­plies the nec­es­sary ten­sion to the can­vas sec­tions which trail back from the main sec­tion. There is a hid­den lever to ten­sion an­other sec­tion, plus a re­mov­able panel hold­ing the flex­i­ble rear win­dow, se­cured with pop studs. The re­verse op­er­a­tion is a bit quicker, and the doors need to be open for easy ac­cess.

The hood sec­tions roll up and store in an in­su­lated com­part­ment over the 320ps flat-six 3.4 litre mo­tor which helps make this light­est Porsche a real flier. The 0-62mph time with the stan­dard six speed man­ual gear­box is 5.1 sec­onds. With the dou­ble clutch PDK au­toshift it is five sec­onds. Add the Sport Chrono pack with full power start and the 0-62mph time is 4.8 sec­onds.

The Spy­der is 80kg lighter than the 310hp Boxster S. The big­gest sin­gle “loss” is 21kg by us­ing the sin­gle skin roll-away roof in­stead of the much more sub­stan­tial Boxster roof with in­su­la­tion and elec­tric motors – which closes in about 20 sec­onds. So far, the only hood colour is black, by the way.

The alu­minium doors (from the 911 Turbo) save 15kg and an­other 15kg is saved by delet­ing cabin fit­tings such as cuphold­ers, door pock­ets, a cowl over the in­stru­ment bin­na­cle and the in­te­rior door release han­dle – re­placed by a red fab­ric loop.

The car­bon-backed bucket seats save 12kg, so does dele­tion of the a/c unit, and no ra­dio saves 3kg. The Spy­der-only 19 inch al­loys with hol­low spokes save 2kg and it has an alu­minium bon­net and en­gine cover. The car weighs in at 1,275kg. It is 20mm lower with re­vised sus­pen­sion and steer­ing ge­om­e­try which makes it even more ag­ile than a reg­u­lar Boxster.

Cus­tomers can re­quest some of the deleted items.

A more comfortable light­weight seat is of­fered at no cost, but re­in­stat­ing things like the ra­dio and a/c will add cost.

Wayne, who is brand com­mu­ni­ca­tions & strat­egy man­ager at Porsche GB, says that more time went in to the de­sign and in­tri­ca­cies of the roof than any other as­pects of the Spy­der. Its name, in­ci­den­tally, is from the mi­dengined 550 Spy­der of 1953, which weighed 550kg, had 135hp, and dom­i­nated track and hill­climb racing for a gen­er­a­tion.

The Spy­der is a Boxster for the real en­thu­si­ast. It costs more and in var­i­ous ways you get less. The hood is not guar­an­teed to keep out all the rain at speed, and it lacks the insulating prop­er­ties of the nor­mal hood.

The idea is that own­ers will be hav­ing lots of fun with the roof down, whether at a track day or en route to the Le Mans race, for ex­am­ple. They will use the roof if it rains heav­ily, or has to be left unat­tended, or to keep the sun off when cruis­ing at lower speeds.

Porsche showed it to us on its 0.7km han­dling cir­cuit at Sil­ver­stone. It coped with my in­ten­tion­ally crude ef­forts, stayed on four wheels, seemed dis­in­clined to spin, sounded su­perb and was just mar­vel­lous fun all the time.

Th­ese demo cars were fit­ted with the in­ter­me­di­ate seats, which make sense for long jour­neys. They also had the sports ex­haust, which does not make the car any faster and, frankly, only sounds louder when you are at high revs – and when did you last hear some­one com­plain­ing about the sound of a Boxster S?

It raises the deci­bel level to 99 (from 90), and this higher fig­ure is above the 92Db limit be­ing ap­plied at cir­cuits to com­ply with pub­lic con­cerns about noise pol­lu­tion.

The top speed of the Spy­der is now 166 miles an hour – with the hood down. The speed is re­stricted to 124mph with the hood erect, oth­er­wise it could tear free from the aft fas­ten­ers on the en­gine cover. There is no me­chan­i­cal speed cut-out. The driver is ex­pected to ob­serve the sug­gested limit. One senses this could cause trou­ble in the lit­i­ga­tion-minded USA.

Porsche’s cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager, An­drea Baker, says: “124mph is user lim­ited and we make this very clear to cus­tomers – it is a Porsche rec­om­men­da­tion to main­tain the in­tegrity of the roof. The spirit of the car is an open top speed­ster, with a roof pro­vided for when the weather con­di­tions re­quire it – ei­ther to shield from in­tense sun or rain.”

She adds: “Please re­mem­ber that, at 124mph, this speed is far be­yond the na­tional speed lim­its for road use both here and the US (which are also self­im­posed). For track ac­tiv­ity at higher speeds, the car would be used without the hood, for per­for­mance and aero­dy­namic rea­sons alone.”

The Spy­der looks best open, any­way. The twin speed humps be­hind the seats give it a racier pro­file. The roof as­sem­bly, though, is stylish, and the trail­ing pan­els give it an el­e­gance from the side. From the back it looks like one of those tents which are de­signed to cling to Mont Jovet in a gale.

An ap­prox­i­mate car com­par­i­son is the Lo­tus Elise. Porsche thinks some Elise own­ers may move to the Spy­der, though the price will skit­tle some as­pi­ra­tions. The Spy­der with man­ual gears costs £46,387 (that is £3,800 more than for a Boxster S). PDK gears cost an ad­di­tional £1,962, and then an­other £730 for PDK with the rapid start Sport Chrono pack. Be­cause the PDK model has lower CO2 (218g ver­sus 228g for the man­ual gear­box) you save £350 on the one-off show­room CO2-based tax be­ing in­tro­duced this April.

Pic­tures: Fred­eric Manby.

FULL THROT­TLE: The Porsche Boxster Spy­der is re­stricted to 124mph with its top up. WIth the hood down it can reach 166mph.

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