Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder

The Porsche Boxster is easily one of the best sports cars on the market today, and by all means I love the car. The coming together of a mid-engine sports car with excellent fuel efficiency and impressive cargo capacity for this segment is truly impressive. However, it still feels a little watered down for a Porsche. Brought in as an entry level Porsche, the car just feels like it’s lacking the zest for life compared to other Porches. The Boxster S, gave the model a performance shot in the arm, waking it up a little. However, while as good as the S is, there still seems to be something missing.

Problem is, with the increasing availability and ease of use of Porsche vehicles today, the high performance brand is now being bought by not just performance enthusiasts, but by those eager to display their wealth. This means Porsche need to design the Boxster to be attractive to everyone, and not just immature boy racers like me.

However, there is now a third version of the Boxster, and I’m happy to say, it’s an angry one. Yes, the engineers back in Zuffenhausen where let out of their cages, told to go take in a couple track days, have a couple pints afterwards and come up with a Boxster that’s full of energy and life. The result is this, the Boxster Spyder.
First thing first, the whole point of this car is to be a lighter more nimble version of the Boxster S designed to give the driver a more exciting driving experience, and let me tell you, they have most certainly succeeded. Short of building a GT3 version of a Boxster, the Spyder ticks off just about every box of modifications that I would do to the car. Make the car 80 kg lighter - check. Give the engine a slight boost in power - check with 10 extra horses. Make it look meaner, with a speedster double hump on the rear deck – check. Give me carbon fibre seats that hold you like full competition seats but are still comfortable enough to go on a 500 km road trip – most definitely check!

So on paper it’s meaner, it looks meaner, but how is it to drive. Well, let me tell you, the Spyder is a breath of fresh air to anyone that is getting tired of today’s cars being packed full of luxury and safety conveniences, spoiling the cars fun-to-drive drive nature. The Spyder is a Boxster on speed, shivering and shacking, wanting to go faster and faster. It is as close as you can get to a Lotus Elise, in terms of driver communication with the car, without all the storage and seating issues that hamper anyone over the age of 16. The steering is surgical, the chassis is near telepathic in its predictability, and the driver can feel a surge of life exude from sitting in the drivers seat. This truly is a driver’s car.

However, that’s not to say there aren’t any complaints about the Spyder. Lets start with the top. The butt of the majority of the complaints about this car comes from its unique top. One of the largest weight savings areas was the top, so this lighter and much more complicated version was created to keep the weight down first, and the weather out second. Jeremy Clarkson even went so far as to call it nothing more than an umbrella. While the operations do take a while to get used to, and in Vancouver it’s not exactly water tight, I actually think its pretty cool, and the immature boy racer in me would much rather have this than the regular Boxster top.

The fabric loops that act like door handles are case in point number two. Most people will not take kindly to these and many of my own passengers were dumbfounded as to how to open the door, but again, the immature boy racer in me loved them. They’re different, basic, like a racecar. Mind you, if I were paying $70,500 for a sports car, I’d rather not have Porsche put a big ugly screw right in the middle of it, at least try to hide it. Along with the minimalist interior you don’t get a radio, or A/C, so posers, turn around and go back to your Escalades and Hummers.

Now many journalists are complaining that with the Spyder, Porsche are tying to sell you Boxster that is missing a whole whack of parts and are charging a premium for the pleasure of being bent over. However, I like to look at it another way. Just look at it. This Boxster is what a regular Boxster is not, exciting, over the top and a true drivers car. Lets not beat around the bush, a regular Boxster is mostly purchased by wealthy parents to give to their daughters for their sweet sixteen, or maybe the wife keeps it for herself for getting to and from Pilates, the spa and a bit of shopping. A true Porschephile would never really want one because it just doesn’t quite offer the excitement and character of a 911. Lets not forget that all those lightweight and unique bits of bodywork, seats and engine modifications come at only a $3,100 premium over the Boxster S. I challenge anyone to buy a Boxster S and equal the Spyder’s power, weight and aesthetic advantages with the aftermarket for such a price. So really, the Spyder driver is getting a great deal. However, start to tick off the options boxes when you make your purchase; well that’s another story, as this test car came in at a whopping $90,425.

So am I angry with Porsche for bringing a car to market with fewer parts, a feeble leaky roof and a higher price tag. No, I applaud Porsche for building a Boxster that stirs the inner driver in us all, a car that is more about the joy of driving than about the badge one wears on the hood. If you are one that wants a Porsche for the badge, go ahead and buy a Boxster and option it out with all the goodies. I you are a driver, and want a car that becomes an extension of your limbs and will always keep a smile on your face, even with no access to satellite comedy, the Spyder truly is the driving mans Boxster.

Base Price (MSRP): $70,500
Price as Tested: $90,425
Type: 2-passenger Sports Car
Layout: Mid-Engine Rear Wheel Drive
Engine: 3.4L Horizontally opposed 6-cylinder
Horsepower: 320 combined
Torque: 273 combined
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual – Optional PDK
Brakes: Four-wheel discs
Fuel Economy (L/100km): 14.2L city, 7.1L highway

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