What Car? says...
Here at What Car? we tend not to comment on looks but, come on, in the case of the Porsche 718 Boxster Spyder — a car that's prettier than a new-born foal — they’re somewhat impossible to ignore. It’s an arresting thing, but before you start thinking “Yeah, style over substance” there is a proper sports car beneath its svelte skin.
That’s because the Spyder is mechanically identical to the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4, and that’s a proper bit of kit — built for the road but with track-day use in mind. It means that the Spyder inherits the GT4’s 414bhp 4.0-litre naturally aspirated flat-six engine, which removes in a fell swoop the biggest criticism of the regular 718 Boxster and Boxster S — their coarse, four-cylinder turbocharged motors.
Further enhancing the Spyder's pedigree (and the GT4's to boot) is its front suspension. This is closely related to the last 911 GT3's and, by default, gets Porsche's PASM adaptive dampers as standard, plus a squat stance – some 30mm lower than the standard Boxster. You also get bigger brakes than you do in a regular Boxster, with the option to upgrade them to lightweight carbon ceramic discs.
In fact, the only thing that marks it down as less of a purist’s performance machine is the loss of the GT4’s massive fixed rear wing. That’s to keep the Spyder’s flowing lines unsullied, and instead it makes do with a pop-up spoiler that rises above 74mph. It still gets other effective aerodynamic aids, though, including a front splitter and rear diffuser to help it Hoover itself to the ground, creating yet more grip from the specially developed, sticky Michelin tyres.
Right, that’s enough chit-chat. Is the Boxster Spyder the best convertible sports car you can buy for the money? You could of course be thinking about anything from a Jaguar F-Type Convertible or Audi TT RS Roadster, to a BMW Z4 M40i.
Keep reading to find out, and once you’ve made your decision, check out our New Car Buying pages to see what deals we can arrange for you without the need to haggle.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
It’s hard not to employ starry-eyed poetry for a car this good. Indeed, driving the Boxster Spyder on a crisp, summer’s morning, along a fabulous country road with the roof down, one phrase keeps recurring: ‘Ode to Joy’. That’s the title of Friedrich Schiller’s poem and his message is a simple one: that joy is needed for life, and heavenly in origin. Yet it turns out it’s from somewhere more tangible and a lot closer to home: Stuttgart.
Let’s start with the engine. Flick the starter and it fires off some poetry of its own — undoubtedly noise is one of the biggest reasons that, if you have the wherewithal, you should spend the extra money over the regular Boxster.
The occasionally inconsistent idle and rich murmur from the twin exhaust tailpipes hints at a motorsport bias, but to find the real joy, push the heavy clutch, snick first gear – with the mechanical, short-throw gearlever – and work your way up through the manual gearbox's six gears (a PDK dual-clutch auto is mooted, but won’t be on sale for a while).
While it certainly performs, as the 4.4sec 0-62mph testifies, the Spyder isn't so quick that it feels inappropriate for the road. There’s plenty of pull lower down in the rev range, but nothing like the low-end splurge of turbocharged rivals like the TT RS. And that's just dandy, because extracting the engine’s best efforts, which arrive between 4000rpm and the dizzying 8000rpm limiter, is where the Spyder’s true pleasure lies. Accompanying the plentiful pace is an ever-changing melody of rich and heavenly aural pleasures that even the TT RS’s distinctive five-cylinder motor struggles to match.
The next delight is its steering, which — and you won’t see this written often — is perfect. There’s no unnecessary heft just to create the impression of ‘sportiness’, it simply does exactly what you want, building in weight progressively as you sweep the wheel through a turn, without the inconsistency of a variable ratio rack, such as the one in the TT RS. In fact, it’s so good you never think about the steering, even on the narrowest and testiest road.
Grip is equally impressive, and yet somehow overshadowed by the sublime body control. Yep, the GT3’s roots are felt clearly as the Spyder manages to retain composure over peaks and troughs in the road that would have a Jaguar F-Type skipping and a BMW Z4 M40i bouncing into the undergrowth. And that’s just in its normal setting; switch it to Sport and any excess movements disappear almost completely.
Both the F-Type and Z4 are more comfortable, but the Spyder is firm over only the biggest and sharpest impacts. Somehow it manages to be supple enough the rest of the time that you could, if you're made of reasonably stern stuff, see yourself using it everyday.
There's one area where its rivals trounce it: its roof isn’t the easiest to use. It's part-manually operated, with clips to secure the rear corners, and – thankfully – you can leave it down for extended periods because it’s pretty much bluster free on motorways. Just make sure the windows are up and the wind deflector in place. With the roof up, road and wind noise are quite loud but, then again, most of the Spyder's rivals aren't that hushed, either.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Because the Spyder is derived from a regular Boxster, it shares many of its excellent qualities, including the driving position. It’s pretty much spot on, stretching your legs out to meet the perfectly placed pedals, and a steering wheel that's nicely in line with both. There’s an extensive range of reach and height adjustment, too.
Our test car had optional bucket seats. These are truly enveloping, holding you firmly through bends, but you cannot adjust the backrest angle. Fore and aft adjustment is achieved manually, and electric height adjustment is still provided, but those who enjoy a bit more flexibility should stick with the standard seats.
Visibility is good out the front but restricted rearwards with the roof up. Roof down, those restrictions disappear and you can see easily in every direction. In any case the usual array of parking sensors are available, and at night you get bright, bi-xenon headlights that can be upgraded to adaptive LEDs.
Infotainment is the standard Boxster’s 7.0in touchscreen with sat-nav, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and Apple CarPlay. It’s pretty good but outdone by the Z4’s system for both features and functionality. Of course, it's possible that won’t matter to you and you’ll choose Porsche’s weight-saving option of deleting the infotainment entirely, leaving you with a shelf instead — for a small map, perhaps?
It all feels very well bolted together and nicely finished with lashings of leather and Alcantara — the steering wheel is so trimmed and feels great to the touch.
For more general information about the regular Boxster, head to our main review.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
This isn't a miniscule sports car that's fit for jockeys only. You'll fit even if you're 6ft 3in tall and, along with your identical twin sat beside you, feel blessed with plenty of head and leg room.
Of course, being a two-seater means the Spyder has no room for anyone else, but it does have two boots: a deep one in the front and a shallower – but wider – one at the rear. Neither will take a set of golf clubs like the Z4’s boot can manage, but there’s way more space for soft weekend bags than a Jaguar F-Type provides.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Cylinder deactivation, which cuts out three of the six cylinders when you’re only lightly touching the accelerator pedal, helps reduce fuel consumption, but even so, the Spyder’s official economy is just 25.7mpg. From our experience that's about the best you can expect, but it's way more than some F-Type’s will achieve. CO2 emissions are 249g/km.
Equipment is pretty basic. Manual air conditioning is standard, for example, so if you want even fairly ordinary upgrades, such as climate control, get ready to dip into the options list – and deep into your pocket.