King of the Mountain is Back
Pure, simple goodness
by Bob Beck
Driving topless high above the clouds.
As I drive the venerable canyon roads behind Malibu the first thing that pops into my head as I pilot the amazing new Boxster Spyder is that the king of the mountain is back. Usually when we Porsche guys reminisce about a simpler time with pure driving machines we let our minds drift to the likes of Steve McQueen, James Dean, and their Porsches - the epitome of cool. My first exposure to road racing, however, was King Of The Mountain, a cheesy 1981 film starring Harry Hamlin and Dennis Hopper. (Google it.) A simple story of a mechanic and his canyon racer - a highly modified 356 Speedster - speeding around Mulholland Drive. Think of it as the first Fast and the Furious, the first film to capture the road racing culture of SoCal. The film was not high art but the images of the culture and cars were powerful to a young man about to get his drivers license. It was about purpose-built machines and men doing what they do. Twenty-nine years later I still covet that Speedster.
With the 356 etched in the past, enter Porsche’s Boxster Spyder the newest model in the Boxster family. The Spyder is a contemporary purpose-built
machine for purists only. If you carry dog in a purse or you’re a man carrying a purse (clutch) you need not apply. Your hair is going to get really messed up. The styling beckons you to a happy place somewhere between the past and the present. It is raw, like the great classic roadsters, yet refined and precise as the contemporary world demands.
Lower, lighter, faster, and brilliant!
RS-style door pulls
Porsche did a lot more than just pull out the radio and A/C (both of which can be added as options.) There is some serious tuning work here. The Spyder is 20mm lower with a new (very) sport suspension. It went on a nice alloy diet with special wheels, doors, and rear deck with lovely humps then added a drop-down rear windscreen, featherweight top, composite seats, and RS-style door pulls saving a bit under 180 lbs depending upon how you option it. It may not sound like a lot but much of the weight is saved up high and thereby lowering the center of gravity and character of the chassis. It is very sporty yet amazingly compliant. In fact the ride is more street-able than some of its forerunners such as the RS America. A good deal of this sublime handling is probably due to the special Spyder Sport wheels - lightest for their size in the Porsche line. The consequences of which are a reduction in unsprung masses, excellent responsiveness, and increased agility. For extra juice the Spyder adds 10hp through a little chip tuning. I wouldn't swear I can feel the extra power but it definitely feels like it has more throttle response. Blipping the throttle in the process of heel-toe downshifting in the 6-speed manual is old school food for the soul (7-speed PDK is also offered.) Between the sublime drivetrain and racer chassis this car is simply alive and as good as it gets with the wind in your hair.
Much like the rest of the car, the Spyder's top is hardcore. It is a minimalist approach, saving 46 lbs in the process, that makes one recall past roadsters or
speedsters. That is to say it isn’t all that easy to work with but it is lightweight and elegant looking. Leave it up or leave it down, just find a way to man up
and embrace it as an homage to the past. This clever top has a great architectural look that fits the car perfectly. In a practical sense it’s a light piece of canvas over your head and that’s all. Don't expect more. If you are worried about your hair or the elements, the standard Boxster or Boxster S are better options. Perhaps it’s not the most practical Porsche but we have the Panamera and Cayenne for that. The Spyder is about being at one with both the car and the elements. After all, the king of the mountain always ran with his top down.
Buy now and
know the stats:
3.4-liter horizontally-opposed 6-cylinder
320 hp @ 7,200 rpm
273 lb-ft @ 4,750 rpm
6-speed manual transmission
weight: 2,811 lbs
Traction: Porsche Stability Management; traction control
4.9 seconds or better
Highway: 27 mpg