2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder: A Tale of Two Roadsters
It's the essence of Porsche enthusiasm to be of two minds about the 2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder. While we have wonderful memories its predecessor, the 2011-2012 "987" model Boxster Spyder, which combined a modest power boost, lighter weight and sharply tuned suspension to create a truly great driver's car, the latest iteration boasts a larger engine, substantially more power and takes a slightly less hardcore approach. The 2016 Boxster Spyder is the fastest, most powerful, most formidable version of Porsche's mid-engined convertible yet. But is it good?
A beast of a Boxster
Power is provided by the 3.8-liter flat-six from the 911 Carrera S-that's right, Porsche's so serious about the Spyder that it finally dropped a 911 engine into a Boxster-rated at 375 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. As a result, the 2016 Spyder gets a massive 55-horsepower gain over the first Boxster Spyder, and 45 over the top-spec Boxster GTS. A 6-speed manual is the only transmission; no PDK dual-clutch automatic available. Porsche claims a 0-60 mph time of 4.3 seconds and a top speed of 180 mph.
The 2016 Boxster Spyder's design cues mesh quite well: the front and rear fascia, taken from the Cayman GT4, add 10mm of length while contributing to the 72 pounds the Spyder loses over the GTS. They also give the Spyder a more aggressive look. The Boxster is already a good-looking car; add the classic "streamliners," that run from the headrests and the result is flat-out gorgeous.
The manual top in the previous Spyder was fussy, but when down gave the car a pure roadster feel. For the 2016 Boxster Spyder, the top is more refined; think of it as a mostly manual version of the soft top available on standard models. After electrically unlatching the top, you manually fold and stow it in just a few steps. The roof is lighter than those on other Boxsters thanks to the loss of the mechanism, but still allows you to hit top speed with the roof up or take it through a car wash - two things you couldn't do in the previous Spyder.
More knife than scalpel
With peak torque at nearly 5,000 rpm and horsepower at just under 7,000 rpm, this is a car that begs to be revved hard. Thanks to the 3.8-liter, those revs produces a glorious noise; the 2016 Boxster Spyder sounds like it has an angry 911 spirit animal living amidships-one constantly demanding more from your right foot. Though the new Spyder hits peak horsepower 500 rpm sooner than the 987 (while providing nearly 40 more lb-ft of torque at the same rpm), it's happier high in the rev range. Mash the gas at lower speeds and it can feel like it's waiting to spool up to deliver the Spyder's considerable power.
Helping to wrangle that power is the Sport Chrono package from the GTS; optional on that car but standard here along with dynamic transmission mounts to aid cornering. Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) and a mechanical differential lock are also standard, providing "targeted brake interventions" to either rear wheel while inside of a curve to further aid steering performance. The variable power steering rack is the electric unit found in the 911 Turbo, and is not only quicker than the hydraulic one in the last Spyder, but the rest of the current Boxster line. Thanks to the steering and the 911-sourced brakes, this is an easy car to drive fast. And because of its softer suspension, it's more easy-going than the previous Spyder.
A matter of perspective
Still, we are of two minds; simultaneously appreciating the 2016 Boxster Spyder for the truly epic car that it is while longing for the vastly more engaging 987 Spyder. Where that car was basically a roofless Cayman R, the 2016 Boxster Spyder is distinctly different from the current and raw, Cayman GT4 track-day special. It's suited more to an enthusiast who wants something to take to Cars & Coffee on Saturday morning, then tear through some nice back roads on the way home. Starting at $82,000 and available this fall, it's hard to nail down the car's competition - perhaps the Jaguar F-Type S Convertible, which costs about the same and comes with a tick more horsepower, a more luxurious interior, optional all-wheel drive, and a top that you don't have to get out of the car to stow.
Porsche has built an awesome car in the 2016 Boxster Spyder-it's just different than the last one. The earlier model was a precision instrument; a dance partner with which you had a running conversation where you discovered and expanded your limits. The new car? It's better in every measurable way - quicker, faster, stickier, sexier, yet more comfortable and more useable. But it's lost a bit of edge. It may be a disservice to compare them - they share a name but not a mission. Buy a 2016 Boxster Spyder because you want a top of the line mid-engined convertible, with that excellent 3.8-liter from the 911 Carrera S. But keep your 2012 Spyder, too.
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