What is it?
You’ll probably remember the previous Porsche Boxster Spyder. It was the particularly pretty one with an ugly, fiddly canvas roof that had to be raised and lowered by hand, the removal of its operating mechanism being part of a comprehensive weight loss programme that shaved around 80kg from the cooking model.
It received a new engine, too, in the shape of the 3.4-litre flat six from the Cayman S, so it revved a little more enthusiastically than the standard unit. Problem was, it was only slightly more powerful than the cheaper Boxster S, and as Porsche had gone to the trouble of stiffening the chassis, the car still felt like it might make good use of yet more power.
Five years later and the manufacturer has endeavoured not to repeat the same mistakes with this new version. Firstly, while there’s still a manual fabric roof to open and close, the hood is simpler and semi-automatic in its fastening - saving you from all the fuss of unfurling it like a newbie Caterham owner. Secondly, and most notably, Porsche has decided to drop the larger capacity 3.8-litre flat six from the current 911 Carrera S into the Spyer’s belly, a transplant already perfected in the Cayman GT4.
At 370bhp, it’s 45bhp more powerful than a 3.4-litre Boxster GTS and only 10bhp shy of the GT4. It’s the most powerful Boxster yet, and will be for the foreseeable future (a racier version was discussed but the idea was dropped). Almost as importantly, it shares the GT4’s proper six-speed manual gearbox and gets the same front and rear end.
What it doesn’t have are all the trick underbody elements that made that car a product of Porsche’s GT motorsport division. Instead, much as before, the Spyder is lowered by 20mm on the same firmed-up passive sports suspension that’s already available as an option on the GTS - only a tweaked rear anti-roll bar differentiates the two. Elsewhere, it gets the bigger brakes that were previously the preserve of the 911, and has a faster steering ratio to go with its marginally smaller steering wheel.
What's it like?
By default, the inside is as spartan as the outside is fabulously pretty. At 1315kg, the Spyder is not only lighter than a GTS but it’s also marginally skinnier than a GT4. Some of this weight loss is clearly accounted for by the stripped-back roof and the requirement for you to do the heavy lifting, folding and lid slamming yourself (a doddle - but a two minute, walk-around one). Some of it, though, is in the doctoring or deletion of kit.
When it comes to the marvelous slimline bucket seats and fabric door pulls, that’s a good thing, but when it means the removal of the infotainment and the air conditioning, it's less so. Returning them is a no-cost option (mercifully) although it does come with the guilt-laden acceptance of a 15kg weight penalty.
Nevertheless, doing so is recommended, especially as, initially, the Spyder makes little discernible virtue of its abstinence. Lighter on the scales it may well be, but as it requires more heft at the smaller wheel, a leg-press thrust to operate the clutch and dogged determination to engage a gear, it’s clear that Porsche’s idea of unfiltered driving pleasure doesn’t necessarily translate into an immediate ease of use.
Unexpectedly, this extends to the acceleration. Torquier the new motor may very well be - to the healthy tune of 45lb ft over the GTS - but the nature of the flat-six is unchanged, which means you won’t see the 310lb ft peak until nearly 5000rpm is showing on the tachometer. In and around town, and even on the tight Tuscan switchbacks of our test route, a shortage of space and the gearbox’s longish ratios mean you’ll be lucky to encounter the engine’s tastier sweet spot.
Consequently, just as the Spyder’s salacious body wants for a backdrop of unbroken blue, so its underside hankers for the sweep and surge of wide open spaces. Here, starting on the autoroute, the 3.8 begins to roll out its charm. The standard Boxster knee-jerk shift into fifth for outside lane overtaking is all but redundant, the sixth cog now producing a steady stream of energy on request.
It gets better. Pitched onto the Italian equivalent of a B-road, the Spyder bites down like no Boxster before it. Here the steering reveals its additional meatiness to not be meatiness at all, but rather a honed and carefully hewn rack that allows bends to be skewered with tiny, ego-flattering wrist movements. The ride, inevitably a little pinched around town, settles where it is permitted into a wonderfully controlled ebb and flow, seamlessly connected to the road, yet resistant to anything that might unsettle its stellar body control.
Then there’s the power. Yes, it makes the Spyder fast. Fast in that cheek-puffing way that no Boxster has ever managed. Fast in hugely loud, high-rev moreish doses. Fast enough, in fact, to make the mere seven-second difference between the open-top’s Nordschleife time and the Cayman GT4’s seem entirely reasonable. But the real boon is the enriching effect it has on the Boxster's chassis, where a suddenly biddable and gung-ho back-end is helped no end by it wearing 265-section tyres in place of the GT4’s 295s.
Should I buy one?
That this is the best Boxster you can buy is hardly in question; whether it’s the best Boxster for you may be the more pertinent one.
The Spyder is harder to live with than the GTS, thirstier and, of course, more expensive. The GTS can be had with PASM adaptive dampers, is nearly as fast in everyday driving, and doesn’t require you to get out to put the roof back on. It is unarguably a more usable car.
But the meaner, leaner, faster and much, much prettier Spyder is worth the strife in our book. A Cayman GT4 without a roof? Not quite. Although being as close as it gets is more than good enough.
Porsche Boxster Spyder
Location Tuscany; On sale Now; Price From £60,459; Engine 6 cyls horizontally opposed, 3800cc, petrol; Power 375bhp at 6700rpm; Torque 310lb ft at 4750-6000rpm; Kerb weight 1315kg; Gearbox 6-spd manual; 0-62mph 4.5sec; Top speed 180mph; Economy 28.5mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 230g/km, 37%