EXPLOREMY LIBRARY
Car and Driver

THE SOUND OF VIOLENCE

Rev the 718 Spyder’s flat-six to 8000 rpm and the blast from the exhaust seems loud enough to trigger a rock slide.

An expert look at the newest and most important vehicles this month.

Some cars are for winning races. Some are for winning attention. Porsche’s 718 Spyder is for winning souls.

It’s not the quickest car in the 718 Boxster/Cayman family. Or the most structurally stiff. But what it lacks on the spec sheet, it returns in deep and meaningful allure. We spent two days firing through the Spyder’s six-speed gearbox, kissing 8000 rpm with its flat-six until our ears rang, and bending Southern California’s Sierra Nevada roads to our will. No turbos, just a manual trans and a 414-hp 4.0-liter boxer with enough character to merit a documentary. What more could we ask for?

Central to its appeal, and at the core of what it once meant to be a mid-engine Porsche, is the Spyder’s sound. Its intake note—especially in the meaty zone above 5000 rpm—is a slice of internal-combustion magic usually reserved for Porsche’s immediately sold-out models. It begins as a hollow bellow then builds to a screaming rage by redline. Hello, sharpness, our old friend. We’re glad to talk with you again.

Now, to fully grasp this most refreshing Porsche, imagine standing on one of the many switchbacks on Sherman Pass Road, 8000 feet above sea level in California’s Sierra Nevada. A low bawl builds in the distance. The sound of 8000 rpm. Once in view, the roadster brakes sharply, bangs off an instant downshift, and rotates, casting a net of gravel across the aging tarmac. And then it’s gone. The noise slipping away, bouncing off the valley, eventually a warm memory.

The color is called Gentian Blue Metallic, costs $650, and looks stunning against the colored rocks of the Sierras.

The 718 Spyder wants your car-loving soul. If the engine’s sound doesn’t get you, the car certainly will with its weighty, precise variable-ratio steering that feeds cornering forces and available grip into a stream of information pulsing through the Alcantara-wrapped rim. Carbon-ceramic brake rotors cost as much as a decent used Civic, but paired with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, they can stop this 3136-pound convertible into yesterday.

You’re conscious of the mass in the middle of the car as you move through a corner, but it never feels as if something tragic and telephone-pole-related is about to happen. Brake late and aggressively and the Spyder won’t scrape its chin on the road. It is stiff, but the adaptive dampers are so well matched to its springs that there’s not a corresponding penalty in ride quality, despite it being 1.2 inches lower than a base Boxster.

Even in a place where grip is inconsistent and the surface far from perfect, we find confidence. Sherman Pass Road—with its off-camber twists, broken seams, pointy rocks disguised as pine cones, and crumbling road edges—isn’t for novices, and the Spyder isn’t a starter sports car. Without turbos to provide low-end thrust, the 718 requires real work to go fast here. You need to hold gears to redline, commit to the throttle over crests, and trust that those brakes were worth raiding your child’s college fund. The higher we climb, the more we miss the earth’s oxygen. Effortless acceleration at 4000 feet becomes more of a chore at 8000. But hearing the engine work harder and longer is no burden.

SHERMAN PASS ROAD

A mountain trek between the Kern River Canyon to the west and the Mojave Desert to the east, Sherman Pass Road crosses the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada. It offers everything you’d expect from a high-altitude road—broken pavement, debris, switchbacks, wildly technical (read: scary) sections, ample relief, and the occasional long straight.

The Spyder makes the sprint to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, which is a few ticks behind a Boxster GTS powered by a 365-hp turbocharged flat-four and equipped with the launch-control enabled dual-clutch automatic transmission. But we’re okay with trading stopwatch ticks for experience.

It’s not all glory, though. The Spyder’s pairing of a softtop with huge, sticky Michelins creates some major tire noise. It’s loud enough to drown out Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55” at modern freeway speeds. And the multistep, mostly manual top operation is slow and laborious for a car catering to this income bracket, even if it looks completely stunning. Those are the downsides of the Spyder. Possibly you’ll be willing to bear its vices. And maybe even its sticker.

Spyders start at $97,650. Outfitted with $8000 carbon-ceramic brakes, $5900 carbon-fiber seats, a $2320 nav system, and more, our test car is a $120,530 ask. If that seems like a lot of money for a Boxster, that’s because it is. But we’ve spent time in many Porsches, and this one has the rewards of the rare ones that cost even more. The rewards of open-air freedom, mid-engine balance, and a flat-six that you’ll hear long after the drive.

THE NUMBERS

Vehicle Type: mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door convertible

Base/As Tested $97,650/$120,530

Engine: DOHC 24-valve flat-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection

Displacement ………….. 244 cu in, 3996 cc

Power ……………………… 414 hp @ 7600 rpm

Torque ………………… 309 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Dimensions

Wheelbase ………………………………… 97.8 in

L/W/H ………………………. 174.5/71.0/49.6 in

Curb Weight ……………………………… 3136 lb

TEST RESULTS

Zero to 60 mph ………………………….. 3.9 sec

Zero to 100 mph ……………………….. 8.8 sec

Zero to 130 mph ……………………….. 14.8 sec

Zero to 150 mph ……………………….. 21.7 sec

Rolling Start, 5–60 mph …………. 4.6 sec

1/4-Mile ……………………. 12.1 sec @ 118 mph

Top Speed ………….. 187 mph (mfr’s claim)

Braking, 70–0 mph ……………………… 150 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad …… 1.06 g Fuel Economy

EPA Comb/City/Hwy …… 22/19/26 mpg (C/D est)

C/D Observed ………………………….. 19 mpg