Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.
The original Boxster concept of 1993 was very clear in its homage to the delicate mid-engined Spyders of the 1950s, not least the 550 Spyder unveiled 40 years before. Porsche credits the Spyder as its first production racing car, giant-killing performances on track and long-distance road races like the Carrera Panamericana and Targa Florio demonstrating minimalism and lack of weight can more than make up for a lack of cylinders or horsepower. That message is, of course, very ‘now’ and the forthcoming four-cylinder Boxsters and Caymans will be prefixed ‘718’ in reference to a later version of the 550 Spyder. In the meantime we’ve had various special edition Boxsters paying tribute to these iconic cars, some merely trim options but, in the case of the 2009 original and this new version, true back to basics heroes.
The last Boxster Spyder took the minimalist traditions of the name to reasonably extreme lengths for a mainstream Porsche. Weighing around 80kg less than a standard S, it got aluminium panels, Carrera GT style fairings behind the seats and a ludicrously complicated ‘shower cap’ roof that took an age to remove. Unless you drove it at motorway speeds, when it would simply blow off. But it looked brilliant, and drove even better. This new one takes the same philosophy, keeps air-con and a radio as no-cost options but polishes some of the rough edges off in the name of daily usability. A Cayman GT4 front bumper makes it stand out from regular Boxsters, the lower stance, ducktail rear spoiler and new roof all marking it out as something special. It’s less extreme than the last one though – sensible compromise or Porsche losing its bottle and opting for a more style over content approach?
In a word, no. Because where the previous Spyder used a slightly tickled Boxster S motor the new one – like the Cayman GT4 – gets a 3.8-litre flat-six from the 911 Carrera S, in this case with 375hp. This is a big move for Porsche, having previously kept the Boxster and Cayman range on a tight leash to avoid it nibbling at the heels of its big brother. The manual only transmission option is a refreshingly purist view too, likewise the passive, non-switchable dampers and ‘sport’ suspension that runs 20mm lower. Although the weight difference to a standard Boxster isn’t as dramatic as last time the Spyder feels scalpel sharp, significantly more muscular and hugely more characterful than even the 330hp Boxster GTS. Given the difference in feel the £6,000 premium over that car seems actually quite reasonable.
The quirks of the previous Spyder set the threshold sufficiently high as to put off all but the real enthusiasts. Porsche has toned down the practical compromises – though the roof is still a bit of a faff – and broadened the Spyder’s appeal as a result. Does that dilute the concept though? Perhaps a little. The extra power, the stunning looks, the insistence on a manual gearbox and the focus on rewarding drivers willing to put the effort in remains true to the Spyder ethos though. And the fact Porsche has been willing to finally give the Boxster real teeth in the form of that 911 engine should, hopefully, silence the few remaining ‘not a proper Porsche’ snobs who think the Boxster can never be the real thing.
Price tag of our car: £69,702 (£60,459 list price + £9,243 of options)
Images courtesy of Porsche