This summer I fell in love with a redhead in the Highlands of Scotland. Dressed in a fetching shade known as GT Silver she swept me off my feet and we danced across hill and dale at a great rate of knots, sharing moves that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Seriously, the new 718 Spyder - no longer with the Boxster prefix - is an incredibly engaging car for fresh air fanatics. Because of this it needs to distance itself from lesser 718 models with the turbocharged flat four, and that is why the new Spyder once again comes with flat-six power.
Unlike its predecessor however, this flat six is not of a mere 3.4 litres or even the 3.8 litre Carrera unit that powered the old Cayman GT4. This time, in tandem with the new 718 Cayman GT4, the Spyder is powered by the bespoke 420hp, 4.0-litre naturally-aspirated flat six specially developed for this stand alone duo.
This hardware share goes far deeper than the engine, and both cars were developed by the GT department to use the same powertrain and suspension, the latter being the GT3 front axle and GT4 rear end with their semi-solid bushings. But where the track day focused GT4 suspension is fully adjustable the Spyder’s is not. Either way both sit 30mm closer to the tarmac than the basic Boxster and Cayman.
With its lower twin nacelles behind the seats the 718 Spyder has a sleeker, better-proportioned profile than the 911 Speedster, its side air intakes giving it mid-engine supercar eye appeal. On that basis onlookers find it hard to believe that the 718 Spyder carries a price tag less than half that of the 911 Speedster.
Fine handling always starts with a stiff structure, and here the basic Boxster provides an exemplary platform. As with Porsche’s current production models, its hybrid steel and aluminium structure uses high-strength steel with the right thickness and profiles in the right places for an optimum strength-to-weight mix.
As before the A-pillars and front windscreen are not shortened over the Boxster so rollover protection is the same, as is the torsional stiffness of just over 17,000 Nm/degree.
Shorn of the Boxster’s electro-hydraulic powered roof, the Spyder’s manually operated mechanism saves 30kg. However, due to the new engine there is now no direct overall weight comparison. Suffice to say handling immediately benefits since this 30kg is removed from the highest point of the car.
Hunkered down low on 8.5J and 11.0J x 20-inch wheels wrapped in 245/30ZR20 and 295/30ZR20 Cup 2 rubber the new Spyder looks low and purposeful, especially when viewed from the rear where its deep diffuser stands out as a bold functional design element.
The new aero aids are not just for show. They are responsible for a 50% reduction in lift compared to the 718 Boxster GTS even if the Spyder loses out to the GT4 in sheer downforce.
Where the GT4 has significant positive downforce over both axles, the Spyder’s smaller front splitter and electrically operated rear spoiler only generates 4.0 kg of downforce over the rear axle, while the front has 30kg of lift. As the Spyder is a fun road car and the GT4 a hard-core track day machine this was the relative balance chosen by the engineers.
In terms of overall strategy it is very apparent that Porsche has started to fill the gaps between its Carrera and 718 ranges and the hard-core GT and RS models with bespoke open versions like the 911 Speedster and now the 718 Spyder, using GT3 and GT4 engine and suspension components respectively.
With its GT3 engine and suspension the 911 Speedster is effectively an open top GT3, while the 718 Spyder with a combination of GT3 front and GT4 rear axles is the equivalent in the 718 Boxster range.
Dr. Wolfgang Mayer, Manager for the 911/718 models explained that this is the third Boxster Spyder, the original being the 987 model of 2010 followed by the 982 model of 2015 with the Carrera S 3.8 litre motor. “Previous Spyder models were simply based on the most potent Boxster model on sale at the time,” he explained.
“This time round we decided to make the 911 Speedster and the 718 Spyder more hard-core and more special. As every new major component like the engine is very expensive to develop, and we have to make a convincing business case to the Board, the economies of scale from making more units came into its own.”
“GT models are always naturally aspirated and high revving, and since the old 3.8 litre Carrera 9A1 motor used in the previous GT4 had been discontinued we decided to develop a 4.0 litre naturally-aspirated version of the 992 Carrera's 3.0 litre 9A2 Evo engine,” he continued. “Since it made no sense to develop this just for the 718 Cayman GT4, the business case for the 718 Spyder to use the same engine and underpinnings practically wrote itself.”
This happy conjunction of purpose has turned what could have been a good car into a great one, and having been stunned by the overall capabilities of the 718 Cayman GT4 on the first day of the launch event, I was anticipating great things from the 718 Spyder.
Despite the predilection for it to rain in Scotland the weather gods smiled on us for the second day in a row. The morning started off dry and reasonably bright, and as I set off on what turned out to be a scenic and fast cross-country route the clouds receded even more with temperatures climbing all the time.
Comparisons with the previous Boxster Spyder are inevitable, and I would say straight away that they have much in common and much different at the same time.
The common factors are the sheer driving fun you get on an open road with hardly any traffic. With the top down the intensified sensations and closer proximity to the outside world tell you that you do not need excessive raw speed to feel you are going fast.
That was certainly the case with the old Boxster Spyder, which had 375hp at 6,700rpm and 420Nm of torque between 4,750 and 6,000rpm. Giving away 10hp to the contemporary Cayman GT4 it was a little softer in tune to suit its open fun car character.
No such concession has been made this time and the 718 Spyder motor is identical to the one in the 718 Cayman GT4. That means 420hp at 7,600rpm with 420Nm of torque between 5000-6,800rpm from an engine with motorsport DNA that provides strong, snappy and high revving answers to the right pedal.
The way the beefy torque curve allows you to finesse how you set the car up in a bend tells you that this engine and chassis are a fine pairing. At the same time, the sheer, unadulterated satisfaction delivered to your fingertips through the fluid and tactile steering, and every ratio change via the short shift gear lever mark this out as a pure drivers’ car.
With the windows rolled down, the Cayman GT4 sounds great, but with its roof down the Boxster Spyder takes the same throaty soundtrack to a whole new level.
No thanks to busybody pen pushers who devised the new EU drive by noise regulations the exhaust note of the 718 Spyder is not as sharp as before and lacks the backfire on the over-run in Sport mode so loved by enthusiasts. That said, in Sport mode its particulate filter equipped exhaust is more basso profundo than before and has its own brand of ear candy appeal.
As I blasted along one of the best near empty driving routes I have encountered for a long time I mentally made a note to thank Porsche for choosing these wonderful open roads.
With the normal sports seats rather than the optional 918 style buckets the Spyder remains easy to get in and out of and there is sufficient lateral support to hold you well in fast cornering on public roads.
The combination of the Boxster style air deflector between the headrests and the small wing between the nacelles effectively keeps the cabin relatively draft free when the side windows are up and this made my long drive very cosy. In fact, as the outside temperatures climbed towards mid-day I progressively turned the air conditioning from its heating to cooling function.
As the GT4 and Spyder share an identical DIN kerb weight of 1,420kg it is no surprise that acceleration through the gears is well night identical. They both reach 100km/h in 4.4 sec, with 160km/h in 9.0 sec, although the Spyder has a 3.0 km/h lower Vmax of 301 km/h with its manually operated top in place. That said it is unlikely that anyone would really want to go this fast in an open car.
Had it rained, as it did for one of the earlier groups, my Scottish Spyder adventure would have ended in tears, but with the sun shining above there was nothing to stop me falling in love with this al fresco version of the 718 Cayman GT4. In fact, I have a very strong feeling that my affair with a redhead in GT Silver has only just begun.