2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder Road Test Review

Arv Voss - CAP staff
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Porsche recently unveiled a new model in their Boxster lineup, the 2011 Boxster Spyder.  The Boxster Spyder tips the scales at a mere 1,275 kilos (2,811 pounds), making it the lightest vehicle available (80 kilos / 176 pounds lighter than the Boxster S) from the German auto manufacturer known for high performance, lightweight sports cars. 

This mid-engined, two-seat roadster represents the epitome of a purist, sports-oriented vehicle.  It is extremely agile and powerful, and becomes the third Boxster model -- joining the already popular Boxster and Boxster S. 

The Boxster Spyder stands apart from the other roadsters in the Boxster family with its unique, lightweight soft top.  It was developed primarily for open-air operation, and top removal and replacement is a completely manual and lengthy exercise.  

Power for the Spyder comes from a 3.4-litre, horizontally opposed six-cylinder with direct fuel injection and Vario Cam Plus.  The engine is mounted ahead of the rear axle, and delivers 320 horsepower (10 horsepower more than the Boxster S) while generating 273 pound-feet of torque (seven pound-feet more than the Boxster S).  The addition of 10 more horses and 80 kilos less weight than the Boxster S, along with an all-new sport suspension that drops the Boxster Spyder 20 mm (0.78 inches) for a lower centre of gravity, coupled with a standard limited slip differential, exclusive alloy wheels and a fixed rear spoiler, deliver driving dynamics that substantiate the Spyder's competitive appearance.  Aluminum door skins and lightweight interior door panels from the 911 GT3 RS contribute to the weight reduction along with lightweight carbon fibre sport seats and top windshield header. 

Two transmissions are available for metering power to the rear wheels – a six-speed manual gearbox or Porsche's Doppelkupplung (PDK) double clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters.  Mate the PDK transmission with the Sports Chrono Plus Package and the new Spyder, utilizing Porsche's Launch Control, is capable of accelerating from 0-100 km/h in 5.1 seconds. Top track speed is 267 km/h (166 mph) – with the top stowed. 

In spirit, the entire Boxster family is a successor to the legendary 550 Spyder and RS 60 models of the Fifties and Sixties; all sharing the same mid-engine roadster configuration and combining low weight and exceptional agility to provide exhilarating driving pleasure. 

Porsche produced limited editions of the Boxster that bore the additional Spyder designation in 2004 and 2008, honoring the 550 and RS 60. In contrast, the new Boxster Spyder is a specially developed and upgraded production model when compared to the Boxster and Boxster S. 

Differentiating itself from regular Boxster and Boxster S models, the Boxster Spyder sports a rear deck lid with twin fairings incorporated with aerodynamic convex curves that taper in height and width from behind the headrests, ending just ahead of the fixed spoiler lip.  The front fascia has also been revised with new daytime running lights and a classic Porsche graphic that appears just above the rockers in a contrasting colour to the body. 

The chassis is lower and stiffer, with revised camber settings fore and aft.  The mechanically locking rear differential is now standard fare and the centered twin tailpipes emit an especially melodic note when fitted with the Sport exhaust system – an option that seems well worth the extra cash. 

My test 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder came with the six-speed manual gearbox, wearing an exterior finish of Arctic Silver metallic and Black top and sported a Carrera Red leather interior (Carrera red is not shown as being available in Canada, with the colours Guards Red, Black and Carrera White making up the solids, Basalt Black, and Aqua Blue, Arctic Silver making up the metallic options, plus Cream White making up the sole "Special Colour" option).  The base price is set at $72,900, although the Spyder is not yet available so no options list or prices are available.  The US-spec car driven included metallic paint, interior colour floor mats, a full leather interior, embossed headrest crests, Park Assist, Sport Chrono Plus, Bose audio, GPS navigation, a short throw sport shifter, sport exhaust system, and wheel cap crests as options, but currently, at the time of writing, it's unknown whether these even be available in Canada or how much they're going to cost. There are a lot more options available south of the border, which kind of defeats the car's original intended mission of being a lightweight, barebones, performance tourer. 

Boxster Spyder horsepower output is awesome, and handling is spot on. The ride quality is exceptionally firm over rough road surfaces, but that firmness results in the car's outstanding stability when the pavement is smooth. 

Entering the Spyder is a chore with the two-piece manual top in place, as raised hard cushion sides necessitate tall individuals like me to place their posterior into the car first followed by swinging in your legs.  Once inside however, the seats are comfortable and highly supportive.  The seatback doesn't recline, but the steering wheel tilts and telescopes, allowing for a reasonable driving position, even for tall drivers. 

The top is typically Teutonic in its design and operation, consisting of roughly a dozen individual steps to remove and/or replace.  There is separate manual for the two-piece unlined top operation and storage.  My first attempt at removal took approximately 15 minutes, with the replacement taking about the same amount of time.  The top is unique in its appearance when in place, somewhat resembling an early Speedster, but the Spyder looks best with the top stowed.  I finally got the exercise down to about five minutes each way. 

Unlike dealing with the top, the Boxster Spyder is incredibly quick, and pushing the Sport Exhaust button allows for a mellifluous note to escape when the throttle is prodded in a spirited manner.  There's no question that the Spyder is the way to go in the Boxster lineup – simply stow the top and forever enjoy the wind in your face and through your hair.  Besides, operating the Spyder at extreme speeds with the top in place isn't recommended to ensure its longevity and it isn't guaranteed to be totally waterproof.  It's not a 550 Spyder or an RS 60, but it'll do, and it's considerably more affordable, not to mention more reliable and easier to maintain. 

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Roadster, Porsche, 2010, Boxster Spyder, $75,000 - $99,999,

Organizations: Porsche

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