Let’s skip over the marketing puffery about the Boxster Spyder “taking an idea back to the basics” and talk about the real reason this lighter roadster exists: testosterone. You see, the regular Boxster and Boxster S are very good vehicles — nearly perfect vehicles, actually — but they’re often dismissed as chick cars. This is a problem for Porsche, since much of the market for $60,000 sports cars is made up of middle-age men looking to compensate for their receding hairlines and expanding beltlines.
The Boxster Spyder solves this perception problem by becoming much more masculine, which is to say a lot dumber. The power-retractable convertible top has been replaced by a glorified piece of tarp that somehow requires nine steps to fold into the trunk. The brilliant suspension has been retuned for just a bit more grip at the cost of a less comfortable ride. The inner door handles have been replaced by little pieces of red rope to save weight, but somehow it’s still okay to have a navigation system and air conditioning (Spyders can be ordered with no radio or A/C). Oh, and all of this costs extra over a Boxster S.
Of course, the car itself is astonishingly good — exceptional steering, a wonderful manual gearbox, and lovely mid-engine balance. And I’ll admit I am quite taken by the snug carbon fiber seats, not to mention the Carrera RS style decals. But as a whole, the Spyder treatment is that proverbial extra brush stroke on a perfect painting.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
A lot of editors notebook reviews excoriate Michigan’s Third World-quality roads. As a New Yorker, I don’t think road surfaces get much worse than the undulating series of potholes along the East River’s F.D.R. Drive. (Or the conduit section of Delancey Street that leads to the Williamsburg Bridge. Or John Street in its entirety.) My litmus test of a road surface is to trade four wheels for two, and subject my bike’s ultrathin tires to the harsh reality of the pavement. Direct steering and low-profile tires expose the weaknesses of the road that my unwieldy SUV cannot.
Suffice it to say, then, that I was giggling madly as I stepped out of the stripped-out, direct-as-possible Boxster Spyder after just 15 miles behind the wheel. Want to talk about driver involvement? First try snuggling into the tight, grippy bucket seats. With that accomplished, working the somewhat heavy clutch and sweet gearbox is as satisfying as being back on the bike, wind sweeping through my hair. The windswept feeling might have just been because of the questionably loose rear window fitting, which might be better dubbed “peephole” for the amount of visibility it offers.
The last Boxster I drove was a garden-variety roadster equipped with Porsche’s PDK transmission. Having stepped out of a BMW 135i fitted with a seven-speed dual-clutch right before entering the Boxster, I was taken over by the exhilarating palpability of driver involvement that an automatic of any caliber just can’t match. I admit to happily popping the gearbox one cog too low just to hear the fiery howl of the boxer engine.
No, David, I’m neither a chick nor a balding middle-age man, but the raw goodness of the Boxster Spyder is more than appealing. Our tester’s price, which pushed $72,000, makes the case for a less expensive Boxster S or Cayman that much more attractive.
Jeffrey Jablansky, Associate Editor
Automotive journalists will hate the Boxster Spyder’s top. Here’s why:
I jumped into the Spyder for a trip to Comerica Park in downtown Detroit. It was sunny and hot, so I looked around for the electric switch that would open the roof. Nope. Then I saw the central locking device, reached up and unlatched it, and pulled back on the carbon fiber header. The top collapsed on my head. I crawled out from under the canvas and carbon fiber pile, and realized that this top came in pieces that needed to be managed separately.
I got out the owner’s manual and began the tedious process of actually following the directions, page by endless page. The first four instructions, each illustrated and taking up two pages said, in so many words, 1. Open the rear hatch. 2. Locate the prop bar. 3. Locate the hole that the prop bar goes into. 4. Put the prop bar in that hole.
I was definitely going to miss the Tigers’ opening pitch.
The upshot is, it took thirty minutes to complete the entire operation by the book. My synopsis of that procedure is, there are three parts to the top: the upper canvas roof, the aluminum stretcher bar, and the snap-in back window panel called the Weatherguard. Three pieces that hook, latch, and snap together to form an amazingly taut, beautifully engineered, and great-looking upper structure.
You can leave off the weatherguard and air flows through while the top acts as a sun umbrella. If the weather goes to hell, it only takes a minute the secure the five back-window snaps into place and you’re snug as a bug.
So never mind the whining journos. Any owner will be grateful for the overachiever German directions, the Teutonic overengineering, and the absolutely HOT look of the Spyder, with or without the top in place.
Jean Jennings, President and Editor-In-Chief
As I got into the Porsche Boxster Spyder for the first time in our parking structure, a young man driving by in a Lexus IS paused to tell me that I was in a “hot car.” The Boxster Spyder drew lots of attention during my evening driving it around Ann Arbor, including from the driver, another young guy, of a Porsche Cayman coupe.
The retro-style manual top is either endearing or annoying, depending on your outlook on life and, I suppose, your mood at any given moment. I actually found it rather charming and entertaining as I unwrapped the thing and put it back together: so many little pieces of clever engineering that went into designing it! Like the cable that runs through the rear portion of the main part of the roof. It hooks on the driver’s side and then inside the trunk compartment on the passenger’s side, a red lever tightens it down or loosens it. And the flying-buttress fabric tie-downs. And the way the two pieces of the roof stow very cleverly on top of the engine compartment. The back window section, which Jean says is called the Weatherguard (who knew? It’s not like it has a label on it!) rolls up into a little piece of nothing that goes into a small square compartment just forward of the rear trunk, and then the main top spans the entire width of the car just forward of that, and then the trunk lid fits tidily over the whole thing. When the top is up, the fabric flying buttresses are pretty cool looking. Top up or down, you still have full use of both the front and rear trunks, like you do in any Boxster.
Even with the top up, you hear more of the flat-six than you do in a stock Boxster, and it sounds really really good, especially when you’re accelerating up to 100 mph. At that speed you also get a lot of wind noise. So, it’s not a freeway car; it’s a very special-purpose track-day special, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. I don’t perceive a huge performance difference, but what the hell. It’s something different.
By the way, I gave my 12-year-old nephew Ryan a ride in the Boxster Spyder which he enjoyed except for one thing: below the headrest portion of the passenger’s seat, there’s a hard plastic vented section, and since he’s short, his head would bang against the hard plastic when I braked hard. Which I did often. So, the Boxster Spyder is a head-banger car for children, I guess. It will help them build character.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder
Base price (with destination): $62,150
Price as tested: $71,730
3.4-liter horizontally opposed 6-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
Porsche stability management
Engine drag torque control
Automatic brake differential
Brake pad wear indicators
Tire pressure monitoring system
Tilt/telescoping steering wheel
Two-piece manual top
Options on this vehicle:
PCM extended navigation — $3110
Bi-Xenon headlights — $1560
Sound package plus — $700
Automatic climate control — $1760
Self-dimming mirrors and rain sensor — $690
Sport chrono package — $1320
Universal audio interface — $440
Key options not on vehicle:
7-speed PDK automatic transmission — $3420
Leather interior — $2385
Park assist system — $530
Porsche ceramic composite brakes — $8150
Heated front seats — $510
6-disc CD/DVD changer — $650
19 / 27 / 22 mpg
Size: 3.4L flat 6-cylinder
Horsepower: 320 hp @ 7200 rpm
Torque: 273 lb-ft @ 4750 rpm
Curb weight: 2811 lbs
Wheels/tires: 19 x 8.5-inch front; 19 x 10-inch rear wheels
235/35ZR19 front; 265/35ZR19 rear Pirelli Pzero performance tires.
Competitors: BMW Z435is