Ah, summertime. With warmer temperatures and sunny skies, it's the perfect time of year for a new convertible like the 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder. Unless, of course, you're in Scotland, where rain and chilly temperatures constitute a typical summer. And as luck would have it, this gray, wet climate is exactly where I'll be testing Porsche's latest droptop.
Good thing it's a thrill even when the top is up.
It's got the look
With the hourly forecast calling for constant rain throughout the day, there will be no lowering of the Spyder's manual soft top. At least the 718 Spyder looks slick with the roof in place. But it's only when you go topless that you see the rear deck's dual, tapering humps, visually connecting it to the original Porsche 550 Spyder, as well as the two Boxster Spyders that came before it.
Outside of the weight-saving, do-it-yourself roof and streamliners, there are other functional visual alterations that you won't find on other Boxsters. Like the Porsche GT models, there's an outlet fore of the hood to evacuate air after it flows through the radiator. There are also special side bypasses that route air out ahead of the front wheels to improve downforce. In back, there's a rear spoiler that goes up automatically at 75 miles per hour, which, when paired with a functional rear diffuser, help the 2020 Spyder become the first Boxster family member to actively generate rear-axle downforce.
Head inside and you'll find a liberal helping of Alcantara on the steering wheel, seat inserts, door handles and armrests. The Spyder logo is embroidered into the seat headrests, embossed onto the scuff plates and printed on the center tachometer gauge cluster. In another nod to weight reduction, instead of traditional door handles, there are black fabric door-pull loops.
Tighter tech offerings
At the center of the Spyder's cabin is the Porsche Communication Management infotainment system running on a 7-inch touchscreen. Standard fixings include satellite radio, Bluetooth, a couple of USB ports and a six-speaker audio system. Navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, real-time traffic info, and can be had as options. Disappointingly, Android Auto remains absent.
Audiophiles can amp up the tunes in the Spyder with two upgrade options. A 10-speaker Bose surround sound setup is available for a reasonable $990. Or you can go all out and equip a $4,690 Burmester high-end surround sound setup with 12 speakers and 821 watts of power.
If having all the latest safety technology features is one of your main priorities, the 718 Spyder likely isn't going to be your cup of tea. A rear park assist system with a rearview camera will be installed on all US-bound Spyders, but that's it as far as driver-assistance tech is concerned.
The performance goods
Without a doubt, part of the Spyder's appeal is its design, but there are significant drivetrain and chassis improvements, too. For the first time, the Spyder receives legit GT-level hardware, sharing its running gear and suspension with the also-new-for-2020 Cayman GT4. A newly developed 4.0-liter boxer six-cylinder engine sits amidships producing 414 horsepower and 309 pound-feet of torque. It betters the 2016 Boxster Spyder's 3.8-liter unit by 39 horsepower and is mated exclusively to a six-speed manual transmission that will surely please three-pedal driving purists.
Porsche says the Spyder hits 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, covers the quarter-mile in 12.4, and reaches a top speed of 187 mph. In drizzly conditions on tight, winding roads that run through the Scottish countryside, opportunities to really put my right foot down are rare. Merging onto the expressway, however, finally lets me dance with the engine's 8,000-rpm redline -- fear not, this thing is a screamer.
The engine is lively, with immediate throttle response and linear power delivery, and it sounds pretty darn good at high revs -- though it isn't anywhere near as soul-stirring as the GT3's 9,000-rpm engine. The transmission's short-throw shifter fluidly slots into each gate, and the clutch pedal is perfectly tuned for smooth, solid operation.
Interestingly, this new drivetrain is also (allegedly) more efficient. Thanks to a new stop/start system and cylinder deactivation, the latter allowing the flat-six engine to run on just three cylinders at a time, Porsche says the 718 Spyder isn't a fuel-gulper. Of course, official EPA ratings aren't available just yet, but the 718 Spyder should have no trouble at least matching its predecessor's fuel economy ratings of 18 miles per gallon city and 24 mpg highway.
Sharpening the Spyder's reflexes are two-setting adaptive dampers, control arms, ball joints and subframes taken directly from the 911 GT3, giving it a 1.18-inch lower ride height compared to a standard Boxster. Tweaked stability controls, a limited-slip differential and torque-vectoring under braking also help matters further.
The Spyder crisply turns in at a flick of the nicely weighted steering wheel, and it's solid and surefooted in these damp conditions, riding on staggered 20-inch Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. With the dampers in Normal mode, the ride is extremely compliant, giving way to only a touch of roll through corners. The Sport setting is a smidge firmer, cutting down the car's tendency to lean, but is still totally livable from a ride comfort standpoint.
The standard-issue six-piston front and four-piston rear brake calipers clamp down on steel rotors. They deliver a strong initial bite, are easy to modulate and all you'll ever really need for street driving. Porsche does offer a beefier carbon-ceramic setup for an additional $8,000, but this really only seems worth it if you'll be tracking your Spyder on the regular.
It all comes at a price
If the most attractive, best-performing 718 Boxster is something you desire, the 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder is available for order now, with deliveries expected to begin next spring. It'll start at $96,300, not including $1,350 for destination. That's a substantial jump over the $82,800 718 Boxster GTS, but then again, the Spyder does pack a whole lot more, both in outright curb appeal and on-road performance.
Personally, I wouldn't blame anyone for throwing down on the Spyder -- it's a satisfying step up over the GTS. And if your summers aren't, well, Scottish, it's a lovely way to make the most of those sunny skies.
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