It’s a recipe with almost limitless appeal: just two seats, a modest kerb weight, rear-wheel drive and a naturally aspirated engine. Plus, of course, a manual gearbox.
Any one of these five ingredients is to be welcomed with open arms in the world of the driver’s cars but the truth is that, these days, seldom do we see even three of them together in the same machine. And four? Depressingly rare.
The subject of today’s road test has the full quintet. Porsche is the manufacturer to deliver it, although not long ago, with legislation demanding ever-lower emissions and market research showing most buyers wanted the convenience and rapidity of the firm’s dual-clutch automatic transmissions, such a car appeared to be destined for the marque’s back catalogue.
How unexpectedly things can change. In recent years, Porsche has reversed not only its decision to banish a clutch pedal from its most popular GT-division model – the excellent 911 GT3 – but also its decision to ditch flat-six engines for the 718 Cayman and Boxster in favour of comparatively dreary turbocharged flat fours.
For an organisation historically so committed to driving pleasure, these acts were met with bemusement, but following the reintroduction of the manual gearbox for the GT3, a new naturally aspirated flat six has now been developed for the 718 twins. Both the new 718 Spyder (there is no ‘Boxster’ any more) and Cayman GT4, revealed together last summer, are therefore ‘quintet’ cars.
Moving very much with the tide of popular opinion, Porsche has more recently made this 4.0-litre flat six available in the more attainable Boxster and Cayman GTS models, but it’s the third-generation (Boxster) Spyder tested here. With concept car styling, a mid-engined layout and a chassis that borrows heavily from the 911 GT3, it might just be the greatest road car Porsche currently makes.
The Porsche 718 line-up at a glance
As we’ve become accustomed to over the years, Porsche’s 718-series sports car is available in both hardtop Cayman and drop-top Boxster guises.
Encouragingly, the four-cylinder boxer engines that left many keen drivers a touch cold are now joined by 4.0-litre flat sixes in production-spec GTS models and the special-edition Spyder and GT4 cars.