Stopping the Porsche Boxster Spyder at the bottom of Saddle Road on the big island of Hawaii, I stared up towards the rolling hills and my right hand instinctively pressed the sport button. One clutch dump and two gear shifts later, I was whizzing up those hills, fighting the sane part of my brain that wanted to lift at each crest.
Getting a first look at the 2016 Boxster Spyder in Hawaii is a dream gig, but not for the faint of heart. Sure, it’s not the most powerful Porsche in the line-up, but the mid-mounted 3.8-liter flat six-cylinder engine makes for exceptional handling in this stripped-down little roadster.
The Boxster is Porsche’s mid-engine, two-seat roadster. It’s never been a car about brute strength, but its excellent handling makes it a corner carver’s dream. Those in the know will recognize the Boxster Spyder as the descendent of the 550 Spyder, first introduced in 1953.
All in the family
Porsche lifts the front of the Spyder directly from its Cayman GT4. Three large air ducts dominate the front fascia, with the center one used not only for cooling, but also to reduce front lift. The rear is also swiped from the GT4 and together they make the Spyder less than a half an inch longer and lower than the next in line Boxster GTS.
What really sets the Spyder apart from other Boxsters are the two streamliners that extend from the roll bars down into the deck lid. They are not just for looks, but also improve the aerodynamics of the roadster. The cloth top features an anchor on either side to the rear quarter panel. It’s a neat look, but with Hawaii’s beautiful weather, I didn’t have much use for it.
And it’s a good thing, too. The manually opening top is responsible for a whopping 22 pounds of weight lost off the Spyder. And while it’s got a much simpler design than the previous generation, it still takes six steps to raise or lower, and you must get out of the car to do both. It doesn’t take long, maybe 30 seconds if you’re quick, but it’s not something you can do at a stop light on a whim.
And speaking of losing weight, Porsche cut a total of 66 pounds by the aforementioned top redesign, by nixing the air conditioning and stereo as well as by using fabric door pulls. Those who still want tunes and cool air can add them both in at no cost.
Back to Saddle Road
After the rolling hills, where I may or may not have caught a tiny bit of air, the road descended down the volcano in a series of twisties. Taking a deep breath, I dug into the throttle, gripped the suede-covered steering wheel and attacked the turns.
The Boxster Spyder has a torque vectoring system that applies just a touch of braking to the inside wheel, forcing what automakers call a yaw moment to help the car rotate through the turn. Add to that a mechanical differential lock that helps you accelerate out of those turns and you have a vehicle that lets you be a faster driver than you probably are.
I found this out soon enough. I entered a turn at a reasonable speed, but was surprised by a decreasing radius. The last thing I wanted to do was hit the brakes or lift, but the 20-inch P-Zeros stayed snug to the road and the car whipped around with nary a wiggle in her rear.
No drag strip diva
Like many smaller, tossable cars, what the Boxster gains in handling it suffers for in straight-line acceleration. At 4.3 seconds it’s still pretty darn quick to 60 mph, but after spending some time sailing over a winding road, a zero to 60 run was vaguely disappointing.
Those lucky enough to get a Spyder on the track will find a top speed of 180 mph. Our time on public roads netted a few brief moments at about half that.
The 2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder starts at $82,100. It’s a remarkable car and one that promises excellent days of driving for anyone lucky enough to own one.
However, with the Boxster GTS so close in performance and price, I wish Porsche had gone further. A little more torque and a fewer pounds could go a long way in establishing the Spyder as the ultimate Boxster. As it stands, it’s just mildly ahead.