Back in the February issue (#234) we discussed our first drive of the 2016 981 Boxster Spyder (“Basic Instinct”). European Editor Ian Kuah concluded that the Spyder was “the best and most reasonably priced sports car I have driven in a long time.” Fresh off of running the Cayman GT4 at Road Atlanta, we wanted more seat time in the Spyder to experience just how similar and dissimilar the two Carrera S-powered mid-engined offerings feel. We also wanted to have one last go in the Spyder before the flat-four-powered 982 Boxsters arrive in the coming months.
Today, our drive of the Boxster Spyder will take us from Puako, Hawaii, located on the northwestern coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, to Hilo, which is located approximately 70 miles away on the eastern coast of the island. While this drive would normally take about an hour and a half of highway cruising, today we’re taking the scenic route.
Top of the Line
Since the 981-generation Boxster debuted in 2012, it has proven itself to be a fine balance of daily-driving comfort and track-capable performance. Both the Boxster S and Boxster GTS impressed us on previous drives at the race track, feeling more eager and capable than even some newer 911s. Packing a 375-hp 3.8-liter flat six and a mandatory six-speed manual transmission, the Boxster Spyder was designed to be the fastest and most unfiltered mid-engined convertible sports car that Porsche makes.
The Spyder gets its speed and performance edge over its S and GTS siblings from its 2016 911 (991.1) Carrera S-sourced engine and a lower overall curb weight. The 2,899-lb Spyder has a 60-hp and 11-lb weight advantage over the 315-hp/2,910-lb Boxster S, and a 45-hp and 66-lb advantage over the 330-hp/2,965-lb Boxster GTS. While this may not sound like a big difference, you’d be surprised by how an additional 45 horsepower and a 66-lb decrease in weight can change the character of a car.
Although the 385-hp Cayman GT4 is generally perceived to be a better performer than the Spyder, it only has a 10-hp advantage over its convertible sibling. And the Spyder is actually 56-lbs lighter than the 2,955-lb GT4. While the Spyder shares its engine with the GT4, it doesn’t get the GT4’s 911 GT3 front and unique rear suspension. Instead, the Spyder gets its suspension from the Boxster GTS.
Visually, the Boxster Spyder is most obviously set apart from the other Boxster models by its model-specific soft top and aluminum deck lid, and the front and rear bumpers that are the same ones seen on the Cayman GT4. It’s certainly the most extroverted-looking Boxster we’ve ever seen from the factory, and that includes the previous generation 2011-2012 987 Boxster Spyder.