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