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First drive: Porsche 718 Spyder. Image by Porsche UK.

First drive: Porsche 718 Spyder
A six-cylinder engine! A six-cylinder engine! My sports car for a oh. It has one. Marvellous.


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Porsche 718 Spyder

5 5 5 5 5

Now this might look like an admission of guilt on Porsche's part - that the ruckus about the use of turbocharged boxers in other 718s was merited. But let's not be curmudgeons about the rights and the wrongs of the four-pot motors in the rest of the Boxster range; let's instead celebrate the fact that the 718 Spyder is absolutely, completely, inherently chuffing amazing.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Porsche 718 Spyder
Pricing: 718 Boxster range from 46,651, 718 Spyder from 73,405, car as tested 85,588
Engine: 4.0-litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive with PTV and mechanical limited-slip diff, six-speed manual
Body style: two-door mid-engined roadster
CO2 emissions: 249g/km (VED Band 226-255: 1,815 first 12 months, then 465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 25.7mpg
Top speed: 187mph
0-62mph: 4.4 seconds
Power: 420hp at 7,600rpm
Torque: 420Nm at 5,000-6,800rpm
Boot space: 150 litres

What's this?

The ultimate 718 Boxster. It's the Spyder, a name used on Porsches since the 356 and one that has appeared on each of the four generations of Boxster (986, 987, 981 and the current 982) since 2004. That first example was little more than a colour-and-trim special edition, called the 550 Spyder 50th Anniversary (to celebrate, um, 50 years of the 550 Spyder, the car in which James Dean met his maker...), but by the 987 Boxster Mk2, the Spyder started getting serious. And it has been getting ever more venomous since then, through the 375hp 981 take, until we're at the point now where it's a proper, bona fide Porsche Motorsport/GT creation.

The 718 Spyder (you don't even mention Boxster when referring to it, apparently, and - tellingly - the B-word has been dropped from this particular Porsche's rump-badging) is no longer a slightly watered-down version of the equivalent Cayman GT4, instead having exactly the same chassis hardware and drivetrain as its hardcore, tin-topped sibling.

That means a 420hp/420Nm, 4.0-litre normally aspirated flat-six petrol, derived from a 992 Carrera's 3.0-litre twin-turbo lump that has been bored out (the stroke's the same) and stripped of its pair of blowers. That means a six-speed manual gearbox with an Auto Blip downshift function. That means 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 187mph. That means we're incredibly excited about driving it.

Despite its oh-so-serious leanings and evocative name, the Spyder is not a limited-production special. Porsche will make as many of them as it can sell, so good news: you're not about to be told that there are only 500 available and they've all gone already. Even better, at a starting price of 73,405, it seems to be terrific value. Come on, seriously?! An open-top sports car, with genuine Porsche Motorsport input? That's only 20 grand more than the 300hp Boxster T at the other end of the roadster's spectrum? That's a positive bargain to us.

Especially as you'll enjoy Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) with a mechanical limited-slip differential, a 30mm-lower Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) set-up complete with ball-joint suspension links, ultra-high-performance tyres (a first for the Spyder, on our test car they were Dunlop Sport Maxx items) and high-spec brakes, with Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) an option. About the only things different between the 718 Cayman GT4 and 718 Spyder are the obvious loss of a fixed roof, the Spyder still having a somewhat fiddly part-manual affair - which can nevertheless withstand the rigours of being in place at the Porsche's V-Max, apparently - and different aerodynamics. The Spyder has a smaller front splitter than a GT4, while it also employs a moveable rear spoiler which automatically raises and lowers at 74mph ('no, officer, I was definitely only doing 70mph...'), instead of the colossal fixed item on the GT4. Nevertheless, with a beautiful rear diffuser beneath, the 718 Spyder is the first car in the Boxster family that can generate downforce on its rear axle, according to Porsche. Excellent.

How does it drive?

Oh goodness. Oh, goody gumdrops goodness. And various other, far harsher expletives. Look, as an outlet, while we've not exactly been apologists for the 718s' shift to four-cylinder power, we've also never been as foaming-at-the-mouth apoplectic about Porsche's decision to downsize and turbocharge its mid-engined pairing. True, we sampled the 981 Cayman S and pretty much fell totally in love with it, so we know that the old flat-sixes were far better to listen to than the boxer fours in the 718s. But you can still get a lot of joy out of driving a Boxster T or GTS hard, because they have incredible chassis talents.

Right, so now imagine said glittering chassis as a basis, only sharpened in precisely the right areas. Imagine the four-cylinder engine junked and replaced with a howling banshee of a 4.0-litre motor. Imagine two-seater sports car perfection. That's the 718 Spyder. In fact, if it didn't happen to be on an event where the three-times-as-much and impossible-to-get-hold-of 991 Speedster was also present, we'd be declaring the Spyder as the greatest open-topped car we've ever driven.

Still, second place on such a lengthy list can't be too bad. So let's start with the very minor negatives. Compared to said Speedster, the Spyder felt more of a handful on colder roads, slightly less comfortable to ride in at all times and didn't quite (and we're talking minuscule fractions here) have the same exultant voice from its heavily modified 9A2 motor as the ultimate 911's rear-mounted six-pot jewel. In low-grip and sometimes icy conditions, the Spyder felt more inclined to strain at its electronic traction control leash, on a couple of occasions snapping into quite lurid oversteer, even with all the driver aids firmly switched on. You therefore need to have your wits about you if you're going to drive it briskly in anything other than 20-degree sunshine, because it feels like it could punish the unwary and the ignorant. Its damping also doesn't quite have the grace and fluidity of the Speedster's when it's in Normal mode, so there feels like there are less benefits to switching between the two settings the 718 Spyder has at its disposal.

And the noise? Now, let's be clear, the 718 Spyder sounds terrific. Utterly superb, indeed. But there's just a slight bit more gravel about it at lower revs, maybe a touch less nape-prickling fervour to the tune as the needle swings past 5,000rpm, not quite the same preposterous yowl as it hits peak power at 7,600rpm and then crashes into a rev limiter at 8,000rpm - which is just about when the Speedster starts to sing its most gob-smacking song on the way to 9,000rpm. But, of course, all of this will only matter to or grate with you if you get to drive a Speedster and Spyder back-to-back. And as we've already said the Speedster is a garage-queen unicorn that has been squirrelled away behind locked doors by 'enthusiasts' and investors, you're very unlikely to run into the 510hp 991 any time soon.

Also, we come back to the price of the Spyder. We're absolutely not saying 73,000 is an inconsequential sum of money, and nor is the 85,588 of our test car - its list price bulging with some eyebrow-raising options like 539 on dual-zone climate control, and 825 on rear parking sensors with a reversing camera, and 345 on auto-dimming mirrors with a rain sensor. But for this outstanding level of chassis talent, for this sort of glorious performance and noise, for a sports car that feels both daily useable and outrageously special in equal measure, it's a bloody snip.

You sit low and perfectly sited in a cockpit where the architecture is now ageing, but is nevertheless enlivened by Guards Red for the stitching, the seatbelts, the dials in the instrument cluster and the face of the Sport Chrono stopwatch atop the dashboard, as well as lashings of Alcantara (it's on the wheel and the six-speed gearbox's stubby manual lever... mmmmmmm!) and some sublime bucket seats (3,788) with 'Spyder' emblems. That you have to pay 2,026 for all the red and Alcantara is neither here nor there. You fire up that wondrous flat-six, listen to it chuntering away with delight, snick the taut-of-throw lever into first and pull away. You drive the Spyder at low and regular road speeds like you would every 718, revelling in a superbly judged suite of controls that makes placing the car a cinch and driving smoothly a doddle.

And then you let circumspection give way to a bit more bravery, and you'll delight in turn-in which is laser-accurate, you'll thrill about some genuine feedback coming through the rim of that stunning steering wheel, you'll be elated about the magical weighting and consistency of the steering set-up, you'll be astonished by the remarkable body control and lack of flex in the 718's structure. That, on top of all of this, you have THAT engine singing away behind your ears, unfettered by much in the way of sound-deadening between and punching the 1,495kg forward with an intensity that speaks of 281hp/tonne, and you have brakes which are marvellous (unless you're regularly, and we do mean regularly, going to track your Spyder, you won't need the PCCB, trust us), and you have a rear axle that is (mostly) blessed with impeccable traction (treat the Spyder with all due respect in sub-optimal conditions, though), is just sweet confirmation that this is a thoroughly, thoroughly splendid car. OK, sure, like all 718s, its gearing is way too long for our roads, so you'll need second and a big, open road just to legally listen to it screaming away at 7,600rpm, but other than that, this is a near-faultless report card. And, finally, proof that, yes, the four-cylinder engine really does let the 718 package down... it just needed a zinging six to round everything off sublimely.


There's an argument to say that, of Porsche's most desirable roadsters, the 718 Spyder actually beats the 911 Speedster by virtue of being much better value, much more readily available and also of the mid-engined variety. And, do you know what? We wouldn't argue too much with you if you put that standpoint to us. There are a few tiny, critical observations of the Spyder, such as its strangely eco-friendly gearing, its lairy nature in less-than-perfect surface conditions and the fact it doesn't quite sound the same as a 991.2 GT3 at full chat, but they're just that: near-infinitesimal concerns. In truth, the Porsche 718 Spyder is a mind-blowingly sensational sports car from the very highest of echelons. And probably one of the best performance machines you could ever wish to try, irrespective of its open-roof format.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 27 Nov 2019    - Porsche road tests
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- 718 Boxster images

2019 Porsche 718 Spyder UK test. Image by Porsche UK.2019 Porsche 718 Spyder UK test. Image by Porsche UK.2019 Porsche 718 Spyder UK test. Image by Porsche UK.2019 Porsche 718 Spyder UK test. Image by Porsche UK.2019 Porsche 718 Spyder UK test. Image by Porsche UK.

2019 Porsche 718 Spyder UK test. Image by Porsche UK.2019 Porsche 718 Spyder UK test. Image by Porsche UK.2019 Porsche 718 Spyder UK test. Image by Porsche UK.2019 Porsche 718 Spyder UK test. Image by Porsche UK.2019 Porsche 718 Spyder UK test. Image by Porsche UK.


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