Spyder Sense

Porsche hits a nerve with its lightest, most focused sports car in a decade.

February 24, 2010
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13. For the superstitious, it’s not a number that suggests good luck. Neither does “Porsche” plus “Spyder” plus “Central California.” Even so, thirteen 2011 Box­ster Spyders have been flown into the Golden State from Ger­many. We see the location of the press launch as lucky: It’s two hours from home and, even better, it offers superb sports-car roads we know intimately.

Twelve of the German-spec Spy­ders are in Carmel Valley, the other is at the L.A. Auto Show. That Porsche sees this as an important debut is clear, as Super­visory Board Member Klaus Bern­ing is present. Car people seem to agree; the Spyder gets a rousing reception in the City of Angels. Apparently, the world could use a little blue sky just now, and a back-to-basics Porsche less concerned with sheltering its occupants than opening the world to them is on target.

Even the hardcore approve. GT2 and GT3 web forums are raving about a Box­ster in 10+page threads. It’s not idle chatter: A friend of mine has sold his 997 GT3, trading it on a Spyder. Another, with 997 GT3 RS and 993 keepers, passed on his dealer’s first 2010 RS for its first Spyder.

Clearly, Porsche has a struck a nerve. In truth, says David Pryor, PCNA’s Vice President for Mar­keting, the Spyder’s timing is pure luck. It got its start in 2007, when U.S. product planning asked for a stripped-down Box­ster S and Cayman S. The former got the nod, and became the car you see here. Given the new Spy­der’s instant popularity in L.A., we suspect that a similar Cay­man is on the way. But it will be hard-pressed to match the soft-top Spy­der’s 176-pound weight savings.

Question is, can the Spyder be much better than the already superb Box­ster S it’s based on? Or is it a marketing ploy, a car to generate foot traffic in dealerships? First press photos had us thinking the latter. The tent-like top. The humpy decklid. No radio, no A/C, no foglights, and no cupholders — for more money, not less.

Then other, promising details came clear: aluminum doors and lids, limited-slip diff, ultralight 19-inch wheels, -20-mm sport suspension, and lightweight bucket seats, all standard. Best of all, 176 fewer pounds are pushed by 10 more horses, for a total of 320. But still. That top!

Then we see the car in Carmel. Silver Box­sters may be a bit boring these days, but the silver Spyder in front of Ben Pon’s Bernar­dus Lodge isn’t. Arctic Silver makes the Spyder look metal where white leaves it looking a bit plasticky. Standing next to it, viewing the car as you normally would, its trunklid is a stunner. The alloy humps tie things together, subtly mirroring the diffuser while giving the fussy lower curves of the 987-2’s dip-down taillights more to work with than fender tops alone.

The humps elevate the Boxster. Por­sche people see shades of Carrera GT. People on the street aren’t quite sure what they’re looking at, but they know it’s something special. Had the too-long trunk text been shortened to “Spy­der,” they’d probably still be guessing. There’s something exotic about this 987, moving it away from the mental slot marked “just another Boxster” and closer to the one reserved for “Spider, 360/F430.”

The distinction continues up front. The bumper is the same, but its outer intakes get titanium-colored surrounds and one vane instead of two. Cayman LED strips sit in plain housings. There are no foglights, and plain black spoiler lips harden the nose. Down the sides, 1960s Por­sche scripts lead the eye to plain mesh intakes with titanium-colored surrounds.

Also from Issue 182

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  • 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
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