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2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder – Review

This 2011 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2012.
By Kirk Bell of MSN Autos
Rating: 8.0

Bottom Line:

The Porsche Boxster Spyder is a purpose-built purist’s sports car. It is meant for sunny weather use only, offering little protection from wind and wet stuff. As the lightest Porsche, however, it is quicker and more nimble than the already engaging Boxster, making it one of the best sports cars on the market.
Pros:
  • A model of handling prowess
  • Smooth, powerful engine
  • Open air fun
Cons:
  • Lots of wind noise, top up or down
  • Ride can be busy
  • Little protection from elements

View Pictures:  Porsche Boxster Spyder

In the sports-car world, creating a balanced, lightweight machine is essential. A car with a perfect weight balance front and rear will respond predictably, allowing drivers to put it exactly where they want it in turns. Lighter weight means quicker reactions, higher speeds and better handling.

With its mid-engine design, the Porsche Boxster is one of the best-balanced cars on the road today.

For 2011, Porsche is offering the Boxster Spyder, a lighter-weight, more intense version of the German convertible. And we're glad to say it is one of the best ways to spend a sunny day.

Model Lineup
The 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder is more than just a limited-edition offering. It's the third machine in the Boxster lineup, joining the base and S versions. It features a manual soft-top and a host of changes to improve the Boxster's already impressive performance. But when it comes to creature comforts, the Spyder is a bit spare. In the name of weight savings, there is no radio or air conditioning, the door pulls are nylon instead of aluminum, and cupholders have been eliminated. However, leather-and-Alcantara sport bucket seats, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, bi-xenon headlights, cruise control, electronic brake differential, locking rear differential and lightweight 19-inch wheels are all included in the sticker price.

The Boxster Spyder, like the Boxster S, can be optioned out the wazoo. For starters, the missing radio, cupholders and power sport seats are all available to the buyer at no cost. A lithium-ion battery can be had and shaves about 22 pounds off the weight of the car compared with the standard battery. Porsche Active Suspension Management is also available, which offers an adjustable suspension. The Sport Chrono Plus package comes with an analog and digital chronometer and, when the automated manual transmission is ordered, a sport mode that adjusts throttle response and stability control limits, as well as transmission shift points. Other options include Porsche Communication Management with a navigation system, carbon ceramic brakes, a Bose surround-sound system, XM Satellite Radio, full leather upholstery, heated seats, Bluetooth hands-free cell phone connectivity, rear park assist, adaptive headlights and a host of Porsche Exclusive choices that allow owners to customize numerous interior surfaces.

Standard safety features consist of dual front airbags, torso-protecting side airbags, head-protecting side airbags, fixed roll bars, a tire-pressure monitor, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, traction control and electronic stability control.

Under the Hood
The 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder comes with only one engine and two transmissions. The engine is the same direct-injected 3.4-liter flat six as other Boxsters. However, it has been tuned to make 320 horsepower at 7200 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque at 4750 rpm. Maximum output comes at 950 rpm higher than in the Boxster S. That's the same tuning as in the Cayman S and is 10 more horsepower and 7 more lb-ft of torque than in the Boxster S.

The standard transmission is a 6-speed manual. A 7-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) automated manual transmission is optional. EPA fuel-economy ratings haven't been announced, but they should be the same as or slightly better than the Boxster S's 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway with the manual transmission and 20/29 mpg with the PDK.

Inner Space
The Boxster Spyder's top is like a bra. It barely covers what it's supposed to and is a bit awkward to remove (it takes two to three minutes to take it off or put it on). But once it's off, you see what all the fuss was for: The Boxster Spyder is meant to be driven with the top down.

The biggest concerns are security and wind noise. The top doesn't fully seal, and you can slip your arm between it and the side windows. On the road this leads to quite a bit of wind noise inside the cabin. In a parking lot it means the Spyder isn't exactly secure.

Other than that, the Spyder's interior is mostly like that of other Boxsters. As we said earlier, air conditioning, a radio and cupholders are not standard. Removing the AC alone saves about 29 pounds. Also saving weight, about 26 pounds over those with a standard metal frame, are a pair of manual sport bucket seats with carbon-fiber frames. We found the seats to be supportive, but they may be too skinny for some larger individuals.

Like other Porsches, the Spyder features the tachometer front and center, which helps drivers monitor rpm — and therefore shift points — during performance driving (a shift light is also provided). The speedometer is offset to the left and is hard to read due to sparse markings, but a digital speed readout in the center of the instrument cluster negates that problem. While Porsche has opted to eliminate the hood that shields the instruments in other Boxsters, we didn't find that direct sunshine causes any visibility problems.

Aside from fabric door pulls, the materials are the same as in other Boxsters. Leather trim is standard, and the dashboard and door panels use quality soft-touch materials. Small-items storage is limited to the glove box, since Porsche also eliminated the door pockets and center console bin. Storage for larger items is more generous, though, because the Boxster Spyder has two trunks — one up front and one in the rear. Between the two there is plenty of space for two people and their luggage on a weekend getaway.

On the Road
When developing the Boxster Spyder, Porsche engineers had a great starting point. That's because the Boxster's mid-engine design gives it better balance and even sharper handling than Porsche's flagship sports car, the 911. By removing weight and firming up the suspension, Porsche was able to make the already joyous Boxster even more fun to drive.

The suspension features shorter springs that are 10 percent stiffer up front and 30 percent stiffer in the rear. The anti-roll bars and shocks are also stiffer. Those changes translate into a faster-acting, quicker car. The Spyder dives more readily into turns, reacts a bit quicker in fast changes of direction and stops shorter than other Boxsters. It has the same excellent steering feel that responds immediately and provides lots of feedback. The brakes are easy to modulate and they inspire confidence, especially the optional carbon ceramics, which never fade during performance driving.

However, the Spyder is also stiffer and the ride is busier than in other Boxsters. Where the base and S versions might smooth out small bumps, the Spyder's suspension rebounds more quickly, creating some bouncing motions that drivers may find annoying. Surprisingly, however, the Spyder doesn't pound over sharper bumps. Instead, it reacts with that same type of jounce.

The engine is also more responsive in the Spyder. With less weight to move and 10 more horsepower on tap, the Boxster Spyder can sprint to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds with the manual transmission. The optional PKD transmission holds one gear while readying the next, so power delivery is never interrupted. That allows the zero-to-60-mph time to drop to 4.8 seconds with the PDK and 4.6 seconds with the optional launch-control feature (offered only with the PDK in the Sport Chrono Plus package). Those numbers make the Spyder the fastest Boxster ever.

Right for You?
If you're looking for an engaging convertible to drive during the summer months as a second car, you'd be hard-pressed to find a choice more fun than the Boxster Spyder. With its tossable lightweight feel, responsive steering and tractable engine, the Spyder is a pure joy to drive. However, the top and passenger space are limiting factors. If you live in a cold climate or need room for more than just one passenger, the Boxster Spyder is tougher to justify — but you can still try.

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BB02 - 7/28/2014 3:44:42 AM