Thought the world had enough coupe SUVs? Welcome to Porsche's X6 rival...
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The thermometer at Florence airport is nudging 43ºC, parts of the superstrada are literally dissolving and the air is so thick with heat you can almost see it. It’s so hot, in fact, that we briefly consider keeping the roof up on the Boxster Spyder and turning on the aircon. But that would be a criminal waste of this car’s USP. Not to mention that aircon is a (no-cost) option on the Spyder, it adds 9kg to its overall weight, and it’s a pointless hypothesis because our car doesn’t have it anyway. Roof off it is for the full Tuscan hairdryer. Lowering the Spyder’s top is a refreshing bit of manual labour in a lazy-arsed world of instant gratification. The previous Spyder’s roof was more of an umbrella than a hood but, Porsche being Porsche, v2.0’s roof is almost as ingenious as the one on the latest 911 Targa. A button on the centre console releases it by the windscreen header, you get out – sorry about that, traffic-light extroverts – detach the end ‘fins’ on the rear lid and clip them into little apertures, open the rear deck, stow hood, close cover flaps… It’s a lot easier and faster than it sounds, and shaves 11kg off the regular Boxster’s set-up.
This latest Porsche is a thing of uncommon beauty
It’s also the best way to appreciate the Spyder’s form. Like the city we’ve just arrived in, this latest Porsche is a thing of uncommon beauty. If you were being wilfully judgemental, it’d be tempting to write the Boxster Spyder off as the poser’s Porsche. Purists – of which there are many in Porscheworld – would steer clear of a rag-top in favour of the Cayman GT4, a structurally superior ‘proper’ Porsche infused with motorsport magic. On the other hand, rifle through your history books, and the debate about what constitutes a proper Porsche can send you up an interesting strasse. The Boxster Spyder references 1953’s minimalist masterpiece, the 550 Spyder, while the double bubble – streamliners, in Porsche parlance – behind the headrests is a nod to the Sixties 718 Spyder. And when you stop scratching your classic car beard for a moment and squint a bit, there are shades of 918 Spyder to it. This is probably the prettiest car Porsche currently makes. It may also be the sweetest all-rounder to drive. For some reason, the Spyder instantly feels more special than the regular Boxster. It’s also only available with a six-speed manual gearbox, so it’s a bit like plonking the needle down on a vinyl record as opposed to streaming or wrapping your ears around some horribly compressed MP3 file. Porsche reckons that, following the Cayman GT4 and 911 GT3 RS, 2015 is the year of the ‘rigorous’ Porsche. Analogue might be another way of putting it. About bloody time is a third. The Spyder has certainly got the tools to do the job, though it’s worth pointing out that Porsche’s Motorsport arm has had nothing to do with it, and it contains none of their otherworldly unobtanium. Porsche has become adept at mixing and matching different bits from its vast armoury so, like the Cayman GT4, the Spyder uses the 3.8-litre direct injection six-cylinder from the 911 Carrera S. In this guise, it produces 370bhp at 6,700rpm, 45 more than the Boxster GTS, and there are 44 more torques at 310lb ft overall. It’ll do 180mph – with the roof up – and accelerate to 62mph in 4.5 seconds. The combined fuel consumption figure is an impressive 28.5mpg, although use it like you mean it, and you can subtract at least 10 from that figure.
The Spyder weighs 1,390kg, 30kg less than the GTS, and if you want aircon or an audio system, you have to raid the options list, as we’ve already noted. There’s rigour there, too, you see. There’s no PASM (Porsche’s electronic damping control), which saves another 5kg, and some of the sound-deadening has gone, saving the same again. That swooping rear lid is made of aluminium, and the hood has an unheated polymer rear window. The seats are skinny carbon-shelled bucket jobs, and you open the doors using fabric straps rather than pointlessly over-engineered doorhandles. Why don’t all cars feel this good? It’s equally dazzling to drive. The Spyder gets Porsche’s Sport Chrono package as standard, and has dynamic transmission mounts for extra stability as you fang through a corner. The rear wheels are wider (at 10.5in), it sits 20mm lower, and there’s a mechanical diff and torque-vectoring. The fully electric steering is borrowed from the 911 Turbo, and the Spyder turns in with more intensity than lesser Boxsters. It also brakes with more ferocity: there are 340mm diameter front discs, and the overall set-up is borrowed from the 911 Carrera S. While all the control weights are sublime, the brakes are astonishingly well calibrated. This is one of those cars that ‘thinks’ its way down the road, all the more keenly in Sport Plus mode. Yet again, that thought crosses your mind: what do these guys know that the others don’t?
The Boxster Spyder creates its own distinctive musicThe Spyder obviously majors on sensation. Nothing sounds like a Porsche, and while it doesn’t have the induction roar of a 911, the Boxster Spyder creates its own distinctive music. There’s a fantastic burble and crackle on the overrun from the exhaust, and the engine piles on the revs in a sonorous, addictive flow. You might want to cut that short by changing gear every now and then, because the (shorter) shift action is about as good as it gets. It even rides beautifully, too, 20in rims or not. Turn all the electronics off and push really hard, and you can unstick it, but it’s so well balanced that any impending slidiness is well flagged up. Mid-engined cars always demand respect, but this one suffers fools more gladly than most. Anyway, there’s more fun to be had nibbling up close to the limit than overstepping it. All in all, you’d need a mighty powerful microscope to detect any faults, but we’re not above nitpicking, so here goes. Depending on your interpretation of the classic Porsche Clubsport idiom, the Spyder could maybe use a little more rawness in the mix. Our route through some spectacular scenery – as bakingly steamy as the Amazon rainforest – took in some cratered, unpredictably cambered roads, which it soaked up with impressive, passively damped nonchalance. So it’ll work on our rubbishy UK surfaces, but even so, it could be a bit less… polite. Those same roads exposed just about the only other flaw: its gearing is too tall. On tight up- and downhill Italian mountain roads, we spent an awfully long time in second. At least with the PDK you can flick quickly and accurately up and down the ’box. Do that in the manual, and it seems like wasted effort. But that’s enough whingeing. The Boxster Spyder is, by all the measures that matter most, magnificent. At £60,459, before options, it’s also a used low-mileage Golf GTI more than an entry-level Boxster. Sheesh. You’d have to really want one. Yet if its predecessor is any guide, the Spyder is likely to be a rewarding investment, and not just an emotional one. Porsche only made 2,000 of those, and they’re appreciating assets. There’s no word on the production run this time out, but although this isn’t a limited-series car, it’ll remain a rare sight. Besides, when everyone’s tooling about in autonomous EVs in 30 years’ time and downloading Taylor Swift’s 35th ‘song cycle’ directly to their cerebrum, it will also be a reminder of what a truly brilliant driver’s car really feels like.