2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder at a glance
- Handling: ★★★★★
- Performance: ★★★★☆
- Design: ★★★★★
- Interior: ★★★★★
- Practicality: ★★★★☆
- Costs: ★★★★☆
THE original 1950s Porsche 550 Spyder was the car you could buy on a Saturday, race on a Sunday and drive home on a Monday. James Dean, the Hollywood star, did exactly that but he never made it home, crashing his “Little Bastard” in 1955.
Now the Porsche Spyder is back, with a new Boxster Spyder – the ultimate version of the German car maker’s most affordable sports car range.
It was 2010 when Porsche resurrected the Spyder concept. The principle, laid down by the 550 Spyder, was for a small, bare-bones roadster that was designed to be as agile and amusing as a stunt plane.
Bits and pieces that were considered superfluous to the art of threading a car along a winding mountain road were thrown out at the production line. Piling up in a heap on the factory floor were the radio, roof, air conditioning system and heavy, thickly-padded seats.
In their place came a roof that was as crude and robust as a desert island shelter fashioned from bin bags, lightweight carbon-fibre seats and a subtle restyle of the bodywork that gave it a lower, streamlined look.
The end result was a saving of 80 kilos and a lower centre of gravity — not to be sniffed at if you craved the most responsive Porsche roadster going.
Today, however, Porsche has succumbed to more practical considerations. So the roof of the latest Boxster Spyder is a much sturdier affair, said to remain shut like a limpet, even at the Spyder’s top speed of 180mph.
It’s car-wash-proof, too, although putting any car that’s your pride and joy through a car wash could be considered akin to wiping down a Rembrandt with a dishcloth.
It’s the best looking Porsche money can buy, a supercar that’s shrunk in a hot wash
And although the air conditioning and audio systems aren’t included, buyers can choose to have them reinstated as a no-cost option, something most are expected to do. So exactly how much lighter most Spyders will be compared with a GTS, the next model down in the Boxster range, is debatable. Officially, there’s a saving of 30 kilos — down to 1315kg — and a slight improvement in the centre of gravity, as the roof does without the heavy electric motor and associated gubbins needed to raise it in a rainstorm or open it for a spell of sunshine.
Does anyone really care over a kilo here and there when the car in question is as good looking as the Spyder, though? This is, to my eyes at least, the best looking Porsche money can buy, a supercar that’s shrunk in a hot wash and, happily, ends up being a much more manageable size on the road.
The Spyder shares its front and rear bumper arrangements with the Cayman GT4, but does without that car’s comedy-size rear wing. It is devilishly handsome. And beneath the rear speed humps sits something equally devilish, a 3.8-litre that’s substantially more powerful than the 3.4-litre of the Boxster GTS, raising the stakes from 325bhp to 370bhp.
Before the fun can begin, the roof has to be lowered. After all, that’s a huge part of the Spyder’s appeal over a Cayman GT4; the wind in your hair, engine and exhaust note turned up to 11 and the general feeling that this is a special experience at any speed.
It’s refreshing to have to lift more than a finger to operate the roof. After releasing the fastening catch by pressing a button near the handbrake, you get out of the car, lift the panel incorporating the elegant speed humps and then release pair of catches that fasten the rear of the hood to the back of the car, reattaching them and folding back the roof before shutting the bodywork. It sounds complicated, but takes around 30 seconds and is a novelty in this day and age.
Another novelty for high-powered sports cars is having a manual gearshift. There is no option for an automatic gearbox on the Spyder, despite it being available on lesser Boxsters. This is Porsche’s way of saying that the Spyder is for drivers who know their understeer from their oversteer and care about being involved in the process of driving from A to B.
If that’s you, what do you get? Let’s start with the 3.8-litre engine. Needless to say, it’s bigger and stronger than any other Boxster motor. But because the flat-six-cylinder is naturally aspirated – the very thing that makes it so lovely and linear to use – it needs plenty of revs to set the Spyder flying, only charging hard once past 4,000rpm.
Also, the gear ratios don’t help, especially first and second, which are too tall and leave the driver torn between them when tackling a hairpin. Given a full head of steam, it’s said to be capable of powering the car from standstill to 60mph as quickly as you can unscrew the cap from a bottle of sun cream, hitting the benchmark in 4.3 seconds.
Whatever the speed, there’s one constant, the sound. It’s a high fidelity, surround-sound experience, especially with the roof down. The engine gives a deep boom at the bottom of the rev range and a shrill scream at the top, and all the while, the exhaust accompanies it with an assortment of small explosions. It should be easy to spot a Spyder driver in the car park, as they’ll be the one with their hair standing on end.
The engine and exhaust perform a duet every bit as memorable as Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Tackling any road, let alone a winding mountain pass, in the Spyder is a thrilling experience. In addition to the performance and the sound, there’s the roadholding. The car steers precisely, never feel less than perfectly balanced between the front and rear axles and the driver gets a good amount of feedback about remaining grip levels from the steering and the seat of their pants. It also rides well on its sports suspension, which is 20mm lower than a standard Boxster.
And the pleasure to be had from operating a suede-capped stick between the seats and third pedal is not to be underestimated. Nothing compares to rolling your sleeves up and getting stuck in, becoming reacquainted with the art of a good heel-and-toe gearchange, and holding third gear through a tunnel, just to listen to the snap, crackle and pop as the engine and exhaust perform a duet every bit as memorable as Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.
The rest of the package is equally impressive yet surprisingly practical. With the roof lowered, the cabin is civilised enough to hold conversations at motorway speeds, and with it up, it’s snug and surprisingly quiet.
There are two boots, one in the nose and the other above the mid-mounted engine, giving a total of 280-litres — just about enough space for a couple’s holiday bags — and the cabin is no less expensively appointed than a regular Boxster’s. The only differences are that the interior door handles have been replaced by straps, a neat touch borrowed from Porsche’s 911 RS and Cayman R models, and the regular seats are swapped for deep and thinly padded carbon-reinforced bucket seats that offer a vice-like grip no matter how aggressively you tackle a hairpin.
There is no limit to how many Spyders will be built, other than the rate at which Porsche can build it and the lifespan of the current generation Boxster. All that remains is the thorny issue of paying for it. The £60,459 Spyder commands a price premium of just over £6500 compared with a GTS. But don’t let the price put you off; the last Spyder held its value impressively.
Most significantly, a Boxster Spyder driver will have more fun more often than any other Porsche driver. If that doesn’t make it the best value model on sale, I don’t know what does.
2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder specifications
- Price: £60,459
- Engine: 3800cc flat-six-cylinder naturally aspirated, petrol
- Power: 370bhp @ 6700rpm
- Torque: 309Ib ft @ 4750 – 6000rpm
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
- Performance: 0-60mph: 4.3sec
- Top speed: 180mph
- Fuel: 28.5mpg (combined)
- CO2: 230g/km
- Road tax band: L (£870 for the first year; £490 thereafter)
- Release date: On sale now
2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder rivals
Lotus Exigs S roadster, £56,450 (view cars for sale)
- For Agile and responsive, rigid body structure, different to the norm
- Against No power assistance for the steering, top speed is restricted to 145mph
Jaguar F-Type S convertible, £65,745 (view cars for sale)
- For Looks great and has a cool interior
- Against Can’t match the Porsche for poise on the road