In thrust, this 3.4 doesn’t disappoint. Peak torque of 273 lb-ft arrives at 4750 rpm, with 200 lb-ft available by 2000 rpm. Second-gear grunt off turns is strong, the shove of torque giving way to the elastic pull of horsepower as the 3.4 hits 6000 rpm and sprints for its redline at 7500. After a shift to third, speed keeps piling on. This is a genuinely fast car, one that’s deeply satisfying to use on a back road with the six-speed manual.
The latter has you feeling connected in a car you want to be connected to. 176 pounds lighter? It feels like the engineers shaved even more. The weight saved, lower roll center, and sport suspension add up to a sharpness no factory Boxster can match. In fact, the clarity of this chassis’ signals are at least a match for the best we’ve experienced in any road-going Porsche. Everything feels connected. Small inputs to the steering wheel or pedals are noted and translated to the tires. Understeer has been all but eliminated. The car turns in quickly, its rear end feeling ready to rotate in a confidence-inspiring way rather than a scary one.
Soon, it’s one of those drives where car, driver, and road meld. Movements inside the cockpit are minute as pavement, pasture, and sky stream. As the Spyder decimates the sinuous blacktop, I wonder: Do you really need more sports car? That’s because the Spyder is serving up the best drive I’ve had in a new Porsche in years.
“Who needs a 911?!?” shouts my passenger suddenly, as if he hears me. While I know no mid-engined car can offer the experience of a rear-engined one, we’re clearly thinking along similar lines. As first tastes go, it’s as good as a Porsche press launch gets. After another hour or two, it’s time to return the Spyder. Reluctantly.
We’re feeling lucky as we head for home. All 13 Spyders must go back to Europe, but PCNA’s Dave Engelman has asked if we might make use of one for a few days. After all, the cars are in our neighborhood…
One of the silver Spyders that caused us to catch our breath in Carmel arrives not long after, this one with standard brakes. Under darkening skies, we hatch a plan: Weigh the car, drive it to a dinner two hours away, test it on track, and run it on our Secret Test Loop, where we have tested every new Porsche since 1997.
The Spyder rolls onto S Car Go Racing’s scales in nearby San Rafael with a full tank of gas. Loaded with A/C ($1,760), PCM ($3,110), Carrera Red full leather ($3,895), and the sport exhaust ($2,500), it weighs in at 2,958 pounds with its 12-pound top on board. That’s 147 higher than the 2,811 listed on the spec sheet, 29 less than the listed weight of a Boxster S. While we suspect options account for at least half of the difference, it’s the first new Porsche under 3,000 pounds since the 986 (the last one we weighed, a 1999 car, came in at 2,917 with half a tank).
Meanwhile, gray skies are shaping up nicely. As we roll off the scales, a cold December day turns rainy. More luck: It’s a perfect chance to test the two-piece top in real weather. Since Mrs. Stout has no idea she’s about to partake in the test, I decide to check things out in light rain before committing her to a 200-mile soaking. On the recon run, sealing at the windshield proves every bit as good as in a normal Boxster. More surprising is the way water streams along the side windows. Rather than spraying in where the top covers but doesn’t seal against each pane’s upper edge, the stream traces the upper arc but stays an inch below it and dribbles down the trailing edge. Clever.
In heavier rain that night, a few drops quiver on small plastic trim plates behind each door while pin-prick drops dust the roll-bar trims. But not one drop hits us in strong, steady rain at speeds of up to 90, or in Midwest-like rain hard enough to slow us to 45 mph. There are caveats. The top must be put on perfectly. During after-dinner demonstrations of this Erector Set — with practice, it takes us 1:35 to stow it, 2:30 to erect it — a friend wants to help. When we leave, rain gets in. On my better half. Nothing looks amiss, but redoing the top in a gas station fixes the problem.