First Drive: 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder

Moderate mechanical changes
The 3.4-liter flat-6 of the Boxster S powers the Spyder, but output is up 10 hp and 7 lb-ft thanks to engine control modifications. Total output now mimics that of the Cayman S at 320 hp and 273 lb-ft. Buyers can choose from either a six-speed manual transmission or the seven-speed dual-clutch PDK.

The suspension has received a complete rework with new springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars, resulting in a ride height that is 20 millimeters - 0.8 inches - lower. As a result of dropping the suspension and removing weight from the roof the center of gravity is a almost a full inch lower than the Boxster S. The larger wheels accommodate wider tires, which are now run at a lower pressure due to the weight reduction. Traction also improves with a standard mechanically locking rear differential.

Still a Boxster, subtly a Spyder
Setting out in the Spyder, it's instantly clear that this is still very much a Boxster. It's still the same car that we love, with a firm clutch pedal, positive stick shift, and phenomenal steering. Winding on mountain roads in Carmel, California, the Boxster's poise and confidence is exercised by blind turns, battered pavement, and gravel spilling over from the shoulders.

The Spyder part is less clear. Porsche has the numbers to prove the Spyder's changes make a difference, namely a 0-60 mph time that is 0.2 seconds faster than the Boxster S. But the increased lightness and power don't trumpet their presence. Of course, when turn-in is so brisk and acceleration so visceral as it is in the Boxster, deciphering such subtleties can be fuzzy. If anything, it's the suspension changes that are most noticeable, creating a busier, stick-to-the-pavement ride. It's not harsh, but there's a distinct difference in daily comfort between the Spyder and other Boxsters.

We didn't test with our own equipment, but Porsche claims the Spyder will blast to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds when equipped with the Sport Chrono Plus package and a PDK transmission. Maximum speed with the roof in place is 166 mph with the top down, or just 125 mph with the roof in place.

Some people don't like Spyders
The Spyder will arrive at U.S. dealerships in February 2010 with a base price of $62,150 compared to the starting price of $58,950 of the Boxster S. That's a reasonable price in our opinion, but still Porsche recognizes that the Spyder's comfort and practicality compromises won't appeal to everyone. Spyder sales are expected to account for about ten percent of all Boxster sales. For the purist who's buying their Boxster for its true sporting capabilities, though, the Boxster Spyder is undoubtedly the best yet.

Porsche Boxster Spyder
Base price: $62,150

Engine: 3.4-liter DOHC 24-valve flat-6
Horsepower: 320 hp @ 7200 rpm
Torque: 273 lb-ft @ 4750 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Drive: Rear-wheel

L x W x H: 170.9 x 70.9 x 48.5 in
Cargo capacity (front/rear): 5.3/4.6 cu ft
Curb weight: 2811 lb
EPA rating: 19/26 (est.)

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