Extra grunt, reduced sophistication
This Boxster might have been accorded more space had I been able to drive it for longer. But with only an hour or two in the passenger seat on the public road, followed by several laps driving at Porsche’s small but well formed Silverstone test track, I am wary of jumping to not quite entirely formed conclusions.
Even so, its essential proposition is not difficult to see. Here is a Boxster made both more beautiful and less practical by the deletion of the standard electric hood and its replacement by a gorgeous double bubble engine cover and weather protection that is erected and stowed entirely by hand. In this regard it follows the lead of the original 2009 Boxster Spyder, except that the new roof mechanism, while long-winded, is eminently manageable and won’t blow clean off the car if you do more than 124mph with the hood up.
How it is rather different from its forebear is under the bonnet where, for the first time, a Boxster receives the full fat ‘S’ specification engine from the 911, in this case a 3.8-litre motor pushing out 375bhp, a sizeable slice more than the 320bhp of the previous Spyder. Unfortunately, the new Spyder is also a whole heap heavier than the old – by 115kg, to be precise – so while it does still have the better power to weight ratio, its performance advantage is nothing like as strong as the initial figures suggest. And it’s only 15kg lighter than a Boxster GTS that has a roof you can raise and lower for no more effort than that required to press a button.
Even so, that new motor does transform the entire Boxster experience. For the first time in its near 20-year history, it feels like a proper high-performance sports car, rather than an engaging but ultimately undemanding toy. The additional power is welcome but it’s the torque you notice more. Presumably in some confounded attempt to make its fuel consumption figures look less awful, Porsche has recently been in the habit of dramatically overgearing its cars and until now the Boxster has lacked the mid-range punch to carry it off. No longer: now you swap ratios to savour each action of the gearshift, not because the car won’t get out of its own way if you don’t.
It’s also further brought to life a chassis that’s never felt taxed by the power it’s had to handle. And it still doesn’t, but at least at track speed you can really use the grunt to exploit its fine inherent traction and even indulge in some gentle opposite lock thanks to the standard limited slip differential.
What it can’t quite provide is the sublime driving experience of the Cayman GT4, its coupé brother that comes with essentially the same engine. For while the Cayman has been given the full Porsche Motorsport treatment and bespoke suspension at both ends, the Spyder has to make do with lowered but otherwise standard sports chassis settings.
Is it worth the additional £6587 Porsche asks over the price of a Cayman GTS? It depends. Unquestionably so, as a pure driving machine, but that roof makes it more recreational. As a daily driver I’d probably stick with the more user-friendly GTS.