2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder new car reviews

Why the numbers? We ran our press car at the PCA Porsche Parade autocross. We finished second in class by a whisker.
The lightweight top looks cool. Lowering it is a bit involved, though.
Aggressive seats are part of the package.
The big brakes and big meats are standard, too.
The biggest option on our car was another $3420 for the seven-speed PDK transmission.

Better than: Porsche Boxster S
But not as good as: Porsche 911 GT3
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 78.84

Limited-production, hotted-up versions of the Porsche 911 have been with us for decades, but since its 1997 release the Boxster has only been offered in its two standard flavors. Grab the Tums, because a spicy Boxster is finally available. Meet the Boxster Spyder.

While this isn't a street homologation version of a GT3 race car, the Boxster Spyder offers the right tweaks for the hardcore enthusiast market. Compared to the regular Boxster S, power is up from 310 to 320. Torque has also been increased, going from 266 to 273.

Bigger footprint? Yep, that's also part of the package. Where the Boxster S comes with 18x8-inch front wheels paired with 18x8-inch rears, the Boxster Spyder receives 19s: 8.5 inches wider up front and 10 inches across out back.

Then there's lowered suspension plus a 176-pound weight savings, with 46 pounds of that sum courtesy of a very simple canvas top. Remember the crude, Erector Set tops our forefathers had to endure? Same thing. If there's any solace, remind yourself about the weight savings every time you debate whether or not it's worth the time to lower it.

The Boxster Spyder is only available in a handful of colors, but typical for Porsche there's a ton of possible options. Our car could be described as fully equipped--remember, it's configured for the press pool, not a PCA club race.

The biggies were $3110 for PCM (aka Porsche Communications Management, their GPS navigation and sound system setup), $1560 for bi-Xenon headlamps, $1760 for automatic climate control and $1320 for Sport Chrono Package Plus. Our test car also had Porsche's seven-speed PDK transmission, another $3420 option.

Other staff views

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

I admit, up until my stint with the Boxster Spyder I wasn't the world's biggest Boxster fan. Maybe I just didn't spend enough time with one. Okay, now I dig it. We took this one to the recent Porsche Parade since our own Porsche wasn't feeling so well.

We ran the Spyder in the three competitions at the event, too, making showings in the concours, autocross and TSD rally. The highlight was a second-place finish in the S09 class at the autocross. We got sniped by a quarter of a second on the last runs of the day. That stings, but we can take comfort that we showed well in a totally unfamiliar car still on the stock tires. Our prep was limited to a quick tire press tweak.

The Spyder excelled between the cones: excellent power plus wonderful handling. Sometime during the first run I became a Boxster fan. It's like a Miata but with more power. The car hunted for the turns and devoured the slaloms. The seats are awesome, the brakes confidence-inspiring.

The PDK was in its element here, too. I left it in the Sport Chrono Plus mode, and it banged second just before the course's second big turn, a sweeping left-hander. With a standard box, I probably would have short-shifted into second somewhere between the two turns--and at the same time lost a few ticks. The PDK simply worked with me, not against me.

We did well at the concours, too, but lost points since we couldn't show the engine. The Boxster Spyder's engine is really hidden. I was told that you needed to unbolt the rear deck lid, seats and more to access it. (Don't forget, the Boxster Spyder gets its own unique deck lid and is designed to be serviced from below.)

I took a pass on showing the engine, and that torpedoed my score as I got really strong marks for paint and interior. Hey, at least I didn't finish last.

What else to like? This car has awesome, awesome a/c. I know, who brags about a/c, right? Well, it was at least a zillion degrees during the Porsche Parade--so hot I burned my hand while opening the rear deck lid. The a/c never let us down, quickly turning the cockpit from sauna to ice box.

Some of its other around-town manners need some noting, though. The low nose, high-sided seats and restricted over-the-shoulder visibility mean this probably isn't the world's best daily driver. Around town and at very slow speeds, every now and then the PDK would hiccup as it just couldn't read our minds.

For the most part, though, the PDK was flawless. That begs a question: Is it time to accept this two-pedal arrangement? Faster times are faster times, right?

Scott Lear Scott Lear

I wasn't terribly crazy about the first Boxster I ever drove; it was a Tiptronic early model that seemed seriously underpowered for something with a Porsche badge on the nose. This pinnacle version was much more exciting, with good thrust, razor-sharp handling and pretty cool looks. I think there was more reward obstruction than there was actual rearward visibility, however, as the Spyder's trick top leaves just a tiny letterbox window out the back. And for $65-$75k, I think shopping a used 911 would be a much more savvy long-term decision. The Boxster's centrally-located engine still leaves me concerned about long-term maintenance prospects.

Alan Cesar Alan Cesar

I rode in this car only briefly. It looked and felt extremely well-built. The seats are excellent, though appropriately race car-like in that they're tough to get out of. The ride is incredibly stiff.

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