It’s all about the roof.
The $72,900 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder, a lightweight “speedster” version of the Boxster S, is defined by a two-piece, manually-installed fabric top that is ... how shall I put this ... a complete pain in the butt to erect.
With more snaps, hooks and buckles than a goth boot shop, and an install time of about four minutes (after some practice), you, and the Spyder’s interior will be assured of a good soaking if caught in a downpour.
I mention this only because if you don’t “get” the roof, you won’t “get” the Spyder. This is a highly focused little sled that takes the Boxster’s divine balance, steering feel, and engine response, and ramps it up a few notches. Convenience be damned. Think of the Spyder as the Boxster experience in high definition — a fair weather ticket to some serious driving fun.
Along with the 21 kgs saved by ditching the powered top, another 59 kgs is liberated by the use of lightweight 19-inch alloys, lightweight manual (and heavily bolstered) carbon fibre seats, aluminum door skins and deck lid, deletion of the climate control (you get it back for $2,400), deletion of radio and cupholder (no cost options) and, as the ultimate reminder of the Spyder’s mandate, neat little fabric door pulls.
The car’s visual signature is that oh-so-sexy long rear deck with the twin fairings, a nod to the 1954 Spyder racer of James Dean infamy.
The mid-mounted dry-sump 3.4-litre flat-six puts out 320 hp and 273 lb.-ft. of torque (each up 10 units from the standard Boxster S) and the car sits 20mm lower on springs that are 10 per cent stiffer in front and 30 per cent in the rear.
Porsche Active Suspension Management system with its variable rate dampers is not offered.
And so I found myself touring the winding roads of the Niagara Wine Region on a perfect Spyder day – warm and sunny. Yes, this car is very quick, but even within the bounds of legality, the Spyder’s near telepathic reading of your intentions makes for a stirring drive.
While the ride is stiffer than the standard car, it is hardly punishing – better than a 911 without PASM. Rear visibility is limited, but as with all Boxsters, the front and rear trunks offer plenty of storage.
My tour concluded at Niagara Helicopters where owner, ace pilot and ex-Porsche racer Ruedi Hafen showed his enthusiasm for the Spyder by performing some astounding heli-aerobatics just metres above the car. Way cool.