Driven: 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder

Whether you're a car or a human, the different paths to a thinner waist are more plentiful than the number of ingredients in a Twinkie. Cars can use special metals, downsized engines with turbos, and carbon fiber. People have Weight Watchers, bariatric surgery, and fiber. But the obvious, and perhaps oldest, strategy is to simply live without the indulgences. Porsche has done just that with its new Boxster Spyder, ditching luxuries such as air-conditioning and a radio to save more than 175 pounds over the Boxster S.

Standing on the scale at a claimed 2811 pounds, the Spyder is now Porsche's lightest model. Much of the mass was trimmed by replacing the power soft top with a manual, two-piece affair and using an aluminum deck lid. Those elements also create the Spyder's defining aesthetics: the fairings behind the seats and the stretched rear buttresses of the removable roof. There are also subtle changes to the front fascia, a larger rear spoiler, and a graphic treatment along the bottom of the doors.

On the coarse, winding roads rising out of Carmel Valley, the Porsche's additional 10 hp and 7 lb-ft, unleashed with engine-tuning tweaks, are barely decipherable. The weight drop is also largely lost on us, but the Spyder exhibits the same Boxster poise and confidence that we love, so we're hardly disappointed. Porsche says that the changes are good for a 0.1-second drop in 0-to-60-mph sprints; the quickest Spyders, equipped with a PDK dual-clutch transmission and the Sport Chrono Plus package, stop the clock at 4.6 seconds. Cars with the standard six-speed manual are a few tenths slower.

Grip is exceptionally prodigious, with the wider and larger - yet lighter - nineteen-inch wheels and tires providing sure footing even where the gravelly shoulder has spilled onto the road. The stiffer, lower suspension collaborates with the weight reduction to bring down the center of gravity nearly an inch, according to Porsche. Neither the firmer ride nor the lightweight sport seats punish passengers, but both contribute to an overall erosion of the regular Boxster's practicality that makes it such a standout among sports cars. The effortless handling, neutral balance, and superb steering are still intact, of course.

The Spyder starts at $3200 more than a Boxster S - only Porsche could get away with charging extra to remove equipment. Determining if you should park a Spyder in your garage is really quite simple. Can you do without a radio and air-conditioning? If so, you'll have no problem living with the slightly cumbersome top and the stiffer ride. But if you're the type who will take advantage of Porsche's offer to add the niceties back in, just stick with the already excellent Boxster S.

Excising the excess

Manual roof; aluminum deck 46.3 lb
Aluminum doors 33.1 lb
Delete air-conditioning 28.7 lb
Sport seats 26.5 lb
Smaller fuel tank 15.4 lb
Delete radio; smaller battery 13.2 lb
Lighter wheels 11.0 lb
Interior door panels with fabric-loop handles, no storage pockets 2.2 lb
176.4 pounds total

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