2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder
2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Paul Williams

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2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder

There’s no mistaking the new-for-2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder. The big speedster humps at the rear, distinctive “Porsche” graphics at the side, unique wheels and striking convertible top quickly set this car apart from your everyday Boxster and Boxster S.

Billed as the “spiritual successor” to the 1953 Porsche 550 Spyder (Google “James Dean” for celebrity history), the lightweight Boxster Spyder is designed to maximize power, handling, and visual appeal by creating the essential Boxster production model. And at a base price of $72,900, it does so without a price premium over the Boxster S.

Granted, the weight of the ’53 550 Spyder was a mere 550 kilograms; but at 1,275 kg, the Boxster Spyder is the lightest Porsche in the brand’s line-up, blasting from 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds when fitted with Porsche’s optional seven-speed PDK double-clutch gearbox and Launch Control (a six-speed manual transmission is standard, which adds three-tenths to the 0-100km/h time).

2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder
2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder
2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder. Click image to enlarge

This essential lightness of being (if I can borrow the term) is what the Boxster Spyder is all about. No standard air conditioning, no standard radio, no instrument cluster shroud, a super-light carbon-fibre-framed removable convertible top, aluminum doors, sports seats with carbon-fibre shell, the lightest 19-inch wheels Porsche makes, no struts for the front hood, no interior door handles… As I say, it’s back to basics; the essential Boxster.

Under the hood — okay, not under the hood — under the car is a 3.4-litre, direct-injected flat-six cylinder engine making 320-horsepower (10 more than the Boxster S; 65 more than the Boxster). All Boxsters are mid-engined cars; the powerplant located behind the seats and in front of the rear axle. Top track speed with the roof open is 267 km/h.

According to Porsche, “The new member of the Boxster family was developed first and foremost for driving in the open air.” Not only is it a striking design with the top removed, but the experience of driving the Boxster Sypder top-down is really what this car is all about – more on that later.

Our test drive of the 2011 Boxster Spyder was somewhat unusual. Picking it up in Halifax, Nova Scotia with colleague Brian Harper of the National Post, we drove the $90,210 as-tested Arctic Silver Spyder from Halifax to Ottawa (via Edmunston, New Brunswick), whence Mr. Harper continued to Toronto.

2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder
2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder
2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder
2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder
2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder. Click image to enlarge

The extra $17,310 (over the base price) was accounted for by specifying Carrera Red leather interior, bi-xenon headlights, painted roll-bar, sport shifter, sport exhaust, automatic climate control and the Sport Chrono package. The audio system was a no-charge option, as was the cupholder, and for 2011, Bluetooth, USB interface and floor mats are (finally) standard equipment in Boxsters.

Now you might say that all this optional equipment defeats the purist purpose of the Boxster Spyder, and it remains to be seen how many people order this car in its essential state, compared with those who personalize it as they would any other Porsche. I’d suggest that for those who see the Spyder as more of a styling exercise, they’ll load it up without a thought.

Ours was mostly a highway drive, at prevailing highway speeds, on mostly smooth roads (except in Quebec). So no track time, and no extreme motoring, unless you count the weather.

When first introduced to the Boxster Spyder in Porsche of Halifax’s service area, the top was up and the car was ready to go. But with sunny skies and a pleasant temperature in the mid-teens, we took a short tutorial from the Porsche service manager on stowing the top in its receptacle under the spectacular rear trunk lid, with a view to communing with nature, Spyder-style.

The two-piece top, by the way, is referred to by Porsche as a “Sunsail,” and it weighs a mere seven kilograms (the frame is only five kilograms). To be clear, it’s not power-operated. You remove it completely from the car, roll it up in two sections and stow it away.

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