Test Drive: 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder

??Along comes a Spyder (again)?

Porsche recently unveiled a new model in their Boxster lineup at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The 2011 Boxster Spyder made its world debut at the show. The new Boxster Spyder tips the scales at a mere 2,811 pounds, making it the lightest Porsche available (176 pounds lighter than the Boxster S) ? from the German auto manufacturer known for high performance, lightweight, proficient sports cars. The mid-engined, two seat roadster represents the epitome of a true purist, sports oriented vehicle ? it is extremely agile and powerful, yet efficient, and, perhaps best of all, it is an open car ? a roadster with a unique top. It becomes the third Boxster model, joining the already popular Boxster and Boxster S models.

The new Boxster Spyder stands apart from the other roadsters in the mid-engined Boxster family with its unique, low and light, extended soft top that protects driver and passenger from the sun?s rays, wind and inclement weather. The Spyder was developed primarily for open-air operation, and the top removal and replacement is a completely manual exercise.?

Power for the Spyder comes from a 3.4-liter flat opposed six-cylinder with Direct Fuel Injection and Vario Cam Plus mounted ahead of the rear axle, that delivers 320 horsepower (10 hp more than the Boxster S at 950 higher rpms) while generating 273 pound feet of torque for a plus of 7 ft./ lbs over the Boxster S. The addition of 10 more hp and 176 pounds less weight than the award-winning Boxster S, along with an all-new sport suspension that drops the Boxster Spyder 20 mm for a lower center of gravity, coupled with a standard limited slip differential, exclusive alloy wheels and a fixed rear spoiler deliver driving dynamics that substantiate the competitive appearance. Aluminum door skins and lightweight interior door panels from the 911 GT3 RS contribute to the weight reduction along with lightweight carbon fiber 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) automatic double clutch transmission with paddle shifters. Mate the PDK transmission with the Sports Chrono Plus Package, and the new Spyder, utilizing Launch Control, is capable of accelerating from 0 – 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. Top track speed is 166 mph ? with the top stowed.?

In essence, the entire Boxster family is successor to the legendary 550 Spyder?and RS 60 models of the Fifties and Sixties, all sharing the same mid-engine?roadster configuration and consisting of low weight and exceptional agility combining 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 regular, but specially developed and upgraded production model when compared to the Boxster and Boxster S.

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

The chassis is lower and stiffer and there are revised camber settings fore and aft, with wider front wheels and lower tire pressures front and rear. 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 ? a $2,500 option that seems well worth it.

Interior differences include: GT3 inspired door panels with fabric loop pulls and no storage pockets; Sport bucket seats with Alcantara centers; rear center console in exterior color; black gauge faces without a hood like the RS 60 Boxster Edition; red gearshift pattern for manual shift knob; a standard windstop and cupholders. In the electronics and convenience categories, a CDR 30 radio is offered at no cost, as are the cupholders, and air conditioning is an available option.

My test 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder came with the 6-speed manual gearbox, wearing an exterior finish of Arctic Silver metallic and Black top and sported a Carrera Red leather interior. The Ala Carte or base Spartan price was set at $61,200. The final count and amount came to $76,720 after factoring in the options (with Porsche, it seems that everything is an option) which included: the metallic paint; interior color floor mats; Carrera Red natural leather interior; embossed headrest crests; Park Assist; Sport Chrono Plus; Bose surround sound system, GPS navigation system; short throw sport shifter; Sport Exhaust system; wheel cap crests; auto climate control with MP3; and Destination and Handling fees. There are lots more options in the event one wishes to spend more, which kind f defeats the car?s original intended mission.?

SUMMARY: The Boxster Spyder is an incredible machine that begins as a basically stripped two-seat roadster, sans radio, nav system, inside door handles, etc. The horsepower output is awesome for such a light car, 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.

Entering the Spyder is a chore with the two-piece manual top in place ? raised hard cushion sides necessitate ectomorphic individuals like myself to place their posterior into the car first followed by then swinging in legs and feet. Once inside however, the seats are actually comfortable and highly supportive. The seat back doesn?t recline, but the steering wheel is both tilt and telescopic, 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 in its intended mode ? top stowed. I finally got the exercise down to about 5 minutes each way.?

Available in four standard colors (Black, Carrera White, Guards Red and Speed Yellow) at no additional cost, with eight stock metallic hues available at $710. Five special colors are available for an additional $3,140, with custom paint jobs by request running an extra $5,500.

The Spyder is incredibly quick, and pushing the Sport Exhaust button allows for an almost orgasmic 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 leave it there to 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 Spyder, but it?ll do, and it?s considerably more affordable, not to mention more reliable and easier to maintain.

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