If you know the new Porsche 718 Cayman GT4, you know the new Porsche 718 Boxster Spyder. One may get top billing as the track-day star while the other plays second fiddle as its road-ready counterpart, but in mechanical terms they are the same, even down to the suspension tuning.
That’s exciting, because never in two previous iterations has the Spyder been engineered by Porsche’s GT division in Weissach. This is a marriage of style and substance the likes of which we don’t often see at this price, and you might even think of it as a junior 911 Speedster.
The Cayman GT4 and Boxster Spyder, which arrives here is early 2020, weigh the same 1420kg. That’s some 105kg more than the old Spyder, but is overcome by the same upsized 4.0-litre flat-six as the Cayman GT4. It’s a big engine in a small car – shorter than a Golf and only millimetres wider – and powers the Spyder to 100km/h in 4.4sec with the six-speed manual. A seven-speed PDK is at least a year away.
The Boxster Spyder is remarkably good, even by Porsche standards. With the roof down, there’s a different vibe to the GT4, but it’s still 95 per cent as capable. And the fact this engine isn’t the equal of a supremely well-balanced and stable chassis with masses of lateral grip doesn’t matter so much. This car does the basics so well you can have the time of your life without ever engaging your risk-assessing frontal lobe.
Celebrating the manual gearbox: 981 Boxster Spyder
Steering is lighter than you might expect and only moderately geared – among electromechanical racks, this is surely the current benchmark for feel – it handles with stunning neutrality, and the standard steel brakes are so good (both in pedal feel and power) that understeer can only come about by gross negligence. So sharp is the throttle response that you can quickly tease the rear axle out of line – or more than tease if you like – and you’ll certainly have the confidence to try.
Ride is very good, even though the Spyder sits 30mm lower than the standard Boxster. Its two damper modes are quite close, and on our Scottish test route there was no need to move out of the softer default setting, even at great speed, so controlled are the body movements. The damping force is beautifully progressive and just feeds into the overwhelming sensation of balance, composure and flow.
The new 309kW engine takes the Spyder to a top speed of 300km/h, with or without the canvas roof in place, and for some reason appeals more here than in the GT4. It doesn’t make the superb racket of the previous 3.8-litre unit, but is fabulously smooth and full and suits the Spyder’s nature.
It happily strokes the car along at around 3000rpm, at which point it’s still superbly responsive, and only gets better as you stretch it out. Second gear takes care of everything from 60-120km/h, but the gearshift is so good you’ll itch to slide across the gates and into third. There’s a very good autoblip function, though you don’t need it.
Images don’t do the looks justice. The arrival of GT3 hardware coincides with an injection of visual brawn. With a jutting front splitter, ducktail spoiler, beefy rear diffuser, huge front air intakes those buttresses on the rear deck, it’s not classically beautiful but plays the junior supercar card well.
You can’t access the rear boot unless the manual roof is folded away, and you have to get out to open it, but if these are deal-breakers buy a Boxster GTS. Whether you could subsequently live with yourself for prioritising a small degree of convenience over a big-capacity engine and such a fabulous chassis is another matter.
The 718 Spyder is such a distinctive car both in look and feel that it could well be most broadly desirable car Porsche now makes. Character, dynamism, usability and price; there’s barely a chink in its armour. It might not be the car you need, but it is one you should covet deeply.
The Greatest Hits on MOTOR 5 star cars
2019 PORSCHE 718 SPYDER SPECS
Engine: 3995cc flat-six, DOHC, 24v
Power: 309kW @ 7600rpm
Torque: 420Nm @ 5000-6800rpm
0-100km/h: 4.4sec (claimed)
Like: Chassis balance and grip; big-engine grunt; brawny looks; ride and composure
Dislike: Reserved engine sound; manual folding roof; boot access
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars