Spyder Sense

Also from Issue 182

  • Porsche Cayman Interseries recalls 917 days
  • 2L8: The Professor’s straight-eight racer
  • $1500 356 Continental cabriolet barn find
  • 1972 911T with full Kremer S-T treatment
  • Porsches for $8k: 944, 928, 914-4
  • 964 Clubsport: A Singapore one-off
  • Daytona 2010: Cayenne V8 wins overall
  • 928 Pikes Peak racer
  • Intermeccanica Speedster replica
  • Market Update: 1965-73 911s
  • Cashmere Cliff, Part 1: Upgrades
  • Tech Forum: Porsche ignition locks
Buy Excellence-182-cover
Spyder Sense 1
Spyder Sense 2
Spyder Sense 3
Spyder Sense 4
Spyder Sense 5
Spyder Sense 6
Spyder Sense 7
Spyder Sense 8

With the top installed correctly, there’s a bit more wind-noise than in a standard Box­ster — but you can still hold a normal conversation. The only draft comes if you reach a hand up to the top of the Spyder’s squat side windows. Solu­tion: Don’t.

Four other notes: 1) To avoid stretching the top, a maximum of 125 mph with it up is suggested — and it isn’t pleasant past 100; 2) Top down, with windblocker in place, airflow management is superb; 3) That small rear window is just fine; 4) Overall, the top is good enough that we’d consider a Spyder as a daily car. Yes, its single layer is vulnerable to slashers and you can stick a finger in above the side windows if you try — but we suspect few passersby will spot these vulnerabilities.

Enough with the top, though. A one-day break in the rain happens to coincide with a Hooked on Driving track day at Laguna Seca. I buy a lottery ticket, then load up the Spyder and Project Cayman S. While I’ll leave all-out lap times to local SCCA champ David Ray (see sidebar), I spend a couple of sessions in each 987.

My takeaways? The Cay­man S feels more appropriate, more focused on track, mostly due to its closed cockpit. That and its dual-clutch PDK gearbox encourage me to drive it harder. Even so, the Spyder is the sharper car, with noticeably less understeer and purer responses from its lower, non-PASM suspension.

As for differences in torsional rigidity, they simply don’t stand out on track. But, on rougher sections of our Secret Test Loop, they do. Moving between Spyder and Cayman S, the latter has a noticeably stiffer frame. That said, any lack of rigidity is only brought to light by the Cayman; on its own, the Spyder’s platform feels fine. More importantly, its suspension works better here. While the Cayman’s 18s and PASM filter out more, the Spyder is supple enough while delivering superior feedback, predictability, and turn-in.

Along the Loop’s endless switchbacks, the open 987 comes into its own. Its transient re­sponses are quicker than any I’ve experienced in a factory street car. It has a directness every sports car aspires to but few achieve. For trackwork, the Cay­man S is still the 987 to have. On the Loop, we prefer the Spy­der. For $300 less, you get more desirable pieces in a car that, as a sum, feels noticeably more special.

Is it a match for the latest greats, GT2 and GT3? As an experience, yes. While its 3.4-liter 9A1 six doesn’t feel or sound exotic enough to justify a GT badge, the rest of this 987 is cut from the same cloth. Yet it is different: Where price alone renders the six-figure GT3 and GT2 rare, the Spy­der is and always will be separated by that which defines it: its minimalist top.

In time, that top won us over. For the interaction in using it. For making you feel like you’re getting away with something in the rain. For the way it looks when it’s up. And for the way it will discourage those with a lesser commitment to the one thing that makes a sports car truly great: purity.

Is the Spyder perfect? Not quite. We’d like a lustier flat six — and the car is so sharp it left us wishing for things to further sharpen the experience, like more in­take noise, a light flywheel, shorter shift throws, and ceramic-composite brakes. The latter can be had for $8,150, but don’t order them to save weight; the much-larger-in-this-case PCCBs shave just 6.6 pounds.

Fortunately, the standard car is superb and recalls the greatest Porsche in more than merely visual terms. Like the Carrera GT, it manages that rare feat of being an open car without feeling like a soft choice. Like the C-GT, its handling defines just how good a mid-engine road car can be — but this time at a far more affordable, far more approachable level.

It’s a Por­sche for drivers, big skies, and the senses. But for its merely great flat six, it’s a full display of Weis­sach’s genius. Yes, the Spyder is insanely good, but the fact that it is Porsche’s best new car on the Loop in years isn’t dumb luck.

Connect with Excellence:   Facebook Twitter