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    Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    • RUMBLE SEAT
    • JULY 23, 2010

    Boxster's Top Scrapes the Bottom

    The nimble Porsche roadster saves weight but adds frustration with a new ragtop—and A/C is extra

    • By DAN NEIL

    Columnist's name
     
    [CAR]Dan Neil/The Wall Street Journal

    Porsche's Boxster Spyder

    I'd have bet almost anything that Porsche could not get this car wrong. No way. Es ist nicht möglich. Here you have some of the smartest engineers of the Holy Rolling Empire and their mission is to make a lighter, more powerful, more elemental Boxster, an already great little sports car. Is that an easy out, or what?

    And yet, to continue the baseball analogy, the Boxster Spyder has the Porsche players manfully sprinting to get under a lazy pop fly, only to collide in the outfield, their great oversized craniums coming together with an awful thwock! I got it! I got it! Damn it, Hans, I thought you had it!

    Porsche's Boxster Spyder -- a high-zoot, lightweight version of the Boxster S -- looks like a mini Carrera GT, which is not a bad thing. But deploying the low-slung top is an awkward, slow affair and, if it's raining, wet, as our Dan Neil found out.

    I won't tease you. It's the canvas top, um, apparatus that's to blame here, a covering which one disassembles and assembles—frantically, usually cursing, as rain gently fills the suede bucket seats—much as you would put together one of those lightweight backpacking tents. Never in the word "ragtop" has "rag" been more literal. This thing was designed by drunken kittens. The Spyder canvas makes me long for the leakproof design elegance of my old MG top.

    I'm sorry. I'm bitter.

    The object of the Spyder exercise was to improve the car's power-to-weight ratio and make it more of a weekend track car, which is a sacred cause, to be sure. The product planners turned up the wick on the feisty 3.4-liter direct-injection flat-six (to 320 horsepower, up from 310 in the Boxster S), lowered the suspension 20 millimeters, tightened the laces—springs, dampers, antiroll bars, wheels and tires. All God's work. Meanwhile, they set out to save weight—176 pounds altogether. Remember, more power plus less weight equals better adrenaline. And so, the Porsche guys installed the carbon-shelled suede racing seats. Wunderbar. They replaced the steel doors with aluminum units.Besser. They also crafted the car's sensational twin-hump aluminum rear decklid, as handsome a car component as ever resembled a dromedary. With the top stowed, this car looks like a bantamweight version of the Carrera GT.

    Inside the Porsche Boxster Spyder

    Dan Neil/The Wall Street Journal

    Porsche's Boxster Spyder

    Lovely, soulful, evocative, mission-specific, more nimble than Rimsky-Korsakov's bumblebee, the Boxster Spyder definitely has some game.

    But as the weight-saving enumerations continue, they get weirder and less happy. For instance, the Boxster Spyder package deletes the air-conditioning unit, and that can only be replaced at the buyer's cost. Got that? A/C is extra on a $61,200 car. Meanwhile, the Boxster Spyder presupposes a climate that is always dry and always cool, but really, how many cars does Porsche sell in Antarctica?

    The car's gas tank has been reduced in capacity by 2.6 gallons because, of course, too much range has always been Porsche's problem. With a max of 14.3 gallons of high-test on board, the Spyder might have less range than a Tesla Roadster.

    And speaking of lithium: Want to save 22 pounds? You may sub out the Spyder's lead-acid 12-volt battery with a chic lithium battery. Only problem is that battery costs $1,700. All things considered I think I'd rather cut off my leg.

    Here and there, in nibbles and bites, the product planners took as much weight as they could out of the car—which wasn't easy, I'm sure, since the Boxster is a fairly optimized piece of machinery to begin with. And sometimes the product guys were just showing off. The distinctive red nylon-web slings in place of the interior door handles are silly. Yes, those 8 grams are really going to make a difference in your lap times.

    Rumblings: 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder

    [CAR]Dan Neil/The Wall Street Journal

    Porsche's Boxster Spyder

    The Specs

    Base price: $61,200

    Price as tested: $67,000 (est.)

    Powertrain: Direct-injection 3.4-liter flat six engine with variable valve timing; six-speed manual transmission (optional dual-clutch manual); mechanical limited-slip differential; rear-wheel drive

    Horsepower/torque: 320 at 7,200 rpm/273 pound-feet at 4,750 rpm

    Length/weight: 172.1 inches/2,811 pounds (est.)

    Wheelbase: 95.1 inches

    EPA fuel economy: 19/27,
    city/highway

    Cargo capacity: 5.3 cubic feet (front), 4.6 cubic feet (rear)

    Diet Plate Special

    One hundred seventy-six pounds lighter and 10 hp more horsey than the Boxster S, the Boxster Spyder is intended for weekend-warrior duty at the track. With lowered suspension, mid-engine layout, racy tires, and springs and dampers than could teach a Neil Peart a thing or two about percussion, the Spyder has got some major asphalt game. But because the chassis is so ferocious, it tends to make the powertrain feel a little soft in the brisket.

    Off With Its Head

    The car's signature design flourish is the low-slung canvas top with the flying buttresses. It looks great on the car and great off (note the Carrera GT-like humps on the rear decklid). In between on and off, however, the top is an odyssey of aggravation, a fussy, overly complex nuisance of a mechanism that feels like folding a roadmap in a windstorm.

    But here we come to the real villain of the piece, the top, which looks exactly like Mrs. Shrek's garter belt. It's psychotic. To remove this item, first you open the twin-hump tonneau and put down the prop rod. This releases tension on the canvas buttresses that friction-fit into the red hoops on the decklid (and these look very cool, I admit). Rolling up the now-limp buttresses and Velcro-ing them in place on the top, you now reach down into the right side of the tonneau compartment and release a tensioning device on a cable that runs along the rear edge of the top. At this juncture, you wrestle the steel eye-loop off the hook of the tensioner and walk to the other side of the car and do the same at the other end.

    Then the whole thing collapses into the cockpit like a dead condor.

    Now you have to wriggle under the top and release the header latch, climb back out from under the canvas, and roll up the piece and stow it behind the headrests. However, the rod propping up the tonneau makes this exceedingly difficult. Would a gas strut to hold up the tonneau have been prohibitively hefty? Don't ask me. I studied literature in college.

    I suppose this apparatus is lightweight. Porsche estimates the Spyder top assembly represents a 46-pound weight savings over the conventional Boxster convertible mechanism. However, if aggravation were measured by the pound this thing would have the curb weight of the Chrysler Building.

    And, by the way, has Porsche ever heard of the Mazda MX-5? Now that's a manual top.

    As I said, all the dieting is in the cause of performance, but here's the truth. This car doesn't actually feel that fast in a straight line. I mean, it's fast enough to kill you, sure. The official 0-60 mph acceleration number from Porsche is 4.9 seconds with the six-speed manual transmission—which is how our test car was equipped—or 4.6 seconds with the dual-clutch, seven-speed PDK transmission. I didn't have a chance to do my own acceleration test but let's be generous and shave two-tenths off the factory figure for the six-speed manual. Four-point-seven seconds? Meh.

    Speed is primarily a perception and so I think I know what's going on here. First, the Porsches I've been driving lately have all had the dual-clutch gearbox, which is vastly superior to a manual transmission—more efficient, quicker, faster, more exhilarating. Those purists out there still clinging to your six-speed manuals, please go home. Your black-and-white TV is on the fritz.

    The PDK allows better and more fluent access to engine torque, which in the Spyder is mostly upstairs (273 pound-feet at 4,750 rpm). With the six-speed manual, the car tends to feel a little soft in the brisket.

    Second, the chassis of the Boxster Spyder is so exquisite—so vampiric in grip, so Swiss in neutrality—that it kind of shows up the powertrain. Yes, the car has a terrific mechanical rear limited-slip differential and, yes, it makes sounds that would curl Wagner's hair. In a tight sequence of eases, the Spyder wriggles like a greased eel down a drainpipe. But could I have some more power, please?

    No, never mind. I think I'd rather do my Salome impression. Find me the guy who designed the canvas top. Bring me his head on a platter.


    --

     


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

     ouch! That's biting.


    --
    Boxster 987S

    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    I love the line about stowing the top in the rear trunk like a dead condor - classic!  If Dan was still at the LA Times, he might've liked the car more since it almost never rains there (but the A/C would be missed).


    --

    73 Carrera RS 2.7 Carbon Fiber replica (1,890 lbs).  Former: 73 911S, Two 951S's, 996 C2, 993 C2, 98 Ferrari 550 Maranello


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    "This thing was designed by drunken kittens " "Dead condor" "I'd rather cut off my leg."

    Great writing!


    --

    "When you design a car around the customer's wishes, you get cup holders. When you design a car around innovative thinking, you get a Porsche."


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    America's home grown Jeremy Clarkson Smiley Last week my forthcoming Cayman + LSD gets slated by Tiff Needell, this week it's Rich C's turn with Dan Neill's review of the Boxster Spyder. Smiley


    --
     

    Porsche Cayman S PDK Aqua Blue / Ocean Blue  (November 10 delivery) : Little Japanese Econobox October 10


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    For those of you who haven't experienced the joy of the Spyder roof...

     


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    If I owned this car I would never put on the roof!...I wouldn't have the patience!1288089769744mad.gif


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    Spyderidol:

    If I owned this car I would never put on the roof!...I wouldn't have the patience!1288089769744mad.gif


    Trouble is here in the UK it tends to rain when you least expect it...Smiley But I do take Dan Neil's point  - in an MX-5 to close the roof you lean back, grab hold of the soft top leading edge , bring it forward and snap it shut. That's it, done in seconds. I can't believe that arrangement is any heavier or beyond the technical expertise of Porsche to have done something similar.Smiley 

    Don't get me wrong I love the Spyder, the ones I drove at Silverstone were fantastic - just a shame a more practical alternative wasn't done with the soft top.


    --
     

    Porsche Cayman S PDK Aqua Blue / Ocean Blue  (November 10 delivery) : Little Japanese Econobox


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    Got too say it is a faff - but you can do the top part in about 30secs with practice, and for a surprise shower that's all you need

     

    I suppose with the MX5 solution (my first convertible, still miss it) you'd then have to comprimise the styling of the speedster-esque humps


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    If I would get it in Switzerland for 67k USD - I would't care of the roof - however , for close to 120k which it costs here it's a different story....


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    BjoernB:

    If I would get it in Switzerland for 67k USD - I would't care of the roof - however , for close to 120k which it costs here it's a different story....


    Do what a fellow countryman of yours has done - buy one over here to euro-spec....Smiley


    --

    Porsche Cayman S PDK Aqua Blue / Ocean Blue  (November 10 delivery) : Little Japanese Econobox


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    Can you get a hard top for the UK Winter.... or the Spring, or the Autumn.. and most of the Summer...

     

     


    --

    "Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out."


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    sheer torture watching the up and down video. guess they eliminated the third step of  his attempting to sell the " spyder " , along with all the others whose " spyders " are available on various sales venues. I'd like to have seen how composed and delibrate this guy would have been in the colorado rockies where the weather can turn real bad real quick


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    dreamcar:

    America's home grown Jeremy Clarkson Smiley Last week my forthcoming Cayman + LSD gets slated by Tiff Needell, this week it's Rich C's turn with Dan Neill's review of the Boxster Spyder. Smiley

     

    What did Tiff say about the Cayman?
     

     


    --

    73 Carrera RS 2.7 Carbon Fiber replica (1,890 lbs).  Former: 73 911S, Two 951S's, 996 C2, 993 C2, 98 Ferrari 550 Maranello


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    Just for some after market hard top that will still have those sexy CGT bumps behind the window section and you're set. Tent for true emergencies and hardtop at home for rainy days/winter. I think it is still a really nice looking car. A true mini CGT! I enjoyed the write-up.


    --

    indeed shifting is ancient technology - so is a fuel burning engine..  I happen to like both :) 


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    What did Tiff say about the Cayman?

    See this: page1.html - a Cayman suffering from terminal understeer..


    --

    2007 987S, KW v3 1964 Type 1


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    What is interesting is that from those of us that own Spyders, well I have yet to hear a single complaint on the roof? Funny how reality and fantasy meet in the mind of a journalist. The majority of the review was good. Not sure why he felt the need to place his head deeply up his ass when it came to discussing the roof. Because this part of the write-up is just sensationalistic garbage.

    Ask me how I know...I actually own and drive one.

    If you want to find fault, lets get real and talk about the PCCB brakes that cannot stand up to track use, bevel wear the pads and cook the rotors. And the nasty, tire destroying understeer when driven 8/10's and over and requires GT3 lower control arms and a custom designed rear sway bar (Thank you Tarett), or coilovers with updated spring rates to fix.

    Spyder is a great car for what it was meant to be. But if you can't figure out the roof, you don't deserve to own the car...


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    DaveGordon:

    What did Tiff say about the Cayman?

    See this: page1.html - a Cayman suffering from terminal understeer..

     Thank you!


    --

    73 Carrera RS 2.7 Carbon Fiber replica (1,890 lbs).  Former: 73 911S, Two 951S's, 996 C2, 993 C2, 98 Ferrari 550 Maranello


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

     If you want to find fault, lets get real and talk about the PCCB brakes that cannot stand up to track use, bevel wear the pads and cook the rotors.

    Dave is suddenly racked with doubt about his order with PCCBs 


    --

    2007 987S, KW v3 1964 Type 1


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    Actually looks much faster and easier than the horror stories we read about...


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    roadtrip:

    sheer torture watching the up and down video. guess they eliminated the third step of  his attempting to sell the " spyder " , along with all the others whose " spyders " are available on various sales venues. I'd like to have seen how composed and delibrate this guy would have been in the colorado rockies where the weather can turn real bad real quick

     

    Agreed! Love the look and concept of the car, though would find living with the spyder difficult on a day-to-day basis ..even in California. Too much effort in the name of vanity?


    --
    2008 Boxster S

    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    dreamcar:
    Spyderidol:

    If I owned this car I would never put on the roof!...I wouldn't have the patience!1288089769744mad.gif


    Trouble is here in the UK it tends to rain when you least expect it...Smiley But I do take Dan Neil's point  - in an MX-5 to close the roof you lean back, grab hold of the soft top leading edge , bring it forward and snap it shut. That's it, done in seconds. I can't believe that arrangement is any heavier or beyond the technical expertise of Porsche to have done something similar.Smiley 

    Don't get me wrong I love the Spyder, the ones I drove at Silverstone were fantastic - just a shame a more practical alternative wasn't done with the soft top.

     

    I have to say, the girls demo-ing the Spyder roof at the Silverstone experience centre were a damn sight quicker at putting the roof away than the guy in the Porsche video! (And better looking to boot!)
     

    Smiley

     


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    wtsnet:
    dreamcar:
    Spyderidol:

    If I owned this car I would never put on the roof!...I wouldn't have the patience!1288089769744mad.gif


    Trouble is here in the UK it tends to rain when you least expect it...Smiley But I do take Dan Neil's point  - in an MX-5 to close the roof you lean back, grab hold of the soft top leading edge , bring it forward and snap it shut. That's it, done in seconds. I can't believe that arrangement is any heavier or beyond the technical expertise of Porsche to have done something similar.Smiley 

    Don't get me wrong I love the Spyder, the ones I drove at Silverstone were fantastic - just a shame a more practical alternative wasn't done with the soft top.

     

    I have to say, the girls demo-ing the Spyder roof at the Silverstone experience centre were a damn sight quicker at putting the roof away
     

    Smiley

     

    Don't remember looking at the roof!! Smiley


    --

    Porsche Cayman S PDK Aqua Blue / Ocean Blue  (19 November 10 delivered!!!) : Toyota Yaris D4D (Oct 10) 


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    dreamcar:
    wtsnet:
    I have to say, the girls demo-ing the Spyder roof at the Silverstone experience centre were a damn sight quicker at putting the roof away
     

    Smiley

     

    Don't remember looking at the roof!! Smiley


    But you asked them to do it three times.... I thought you were just very interested in the roof mechanism! Smiley


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    wtsnet:
    dreamcar:
    wtsnet:
    I have to say, the girls demo-ing the Spyder roof at the Silverstone experience centre were a damn sight quicker at putting the roof away

    Don't remember looking at the roof!!

    But you asked them to do it three times.... I thought you were just very interested in the roof mechanism!


    I would´ve been as well... I hope one of you caught it on video.

    Smiley


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    Ferdie:
    wtsnet:

     

    But you asked them to do it three times.... I thought you were just very interested in the roof mechanism!


    I would´ve been as well... I hope one of you caught it on video.

    Smiley


    It would be indescrete of me to expose my frend DCs enthusiasm for German engineering. Smiley

    Seriously, the preview event was very slickly organised, the girls were very friendly, obviously well drilled and practiced at doing the roof, and genuine enthusiasts too, one hankering after the lovely 550 Spyder they also had on display.

    I was very taken with the CGT rolling chasis there, beautifully clean and elegently engineered.

    I would recommend the trip up to Silverstone if anyone gets an invite. The staff there couldn't be more helpful, and at no time did it feel like a sales pitch.


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    dreamcar:

    But I do take Dan Neil's point  - in an MX-5 to close the roof you lean back, grab hold of the soft top leading edge , bring it forward and snap it shut. That's it, done in seconds. I can't believe that arrangement is any heavier or beyond the technical expertise of Porsche to have done something similar.Smiley 

    Thanks to whomever kicked this thread to the top again. Missed it the first time around, probably because I'd just started a vacation. 

    To get to my point, I once had 944 cab whose electro/hydraulic roof opening/closing actuator failed. Couldn't take it to the workshop immediately, so I used the emergency disabling measure provided for by Porsche which involved disconnecting the roof mechanism from the actuator units so that the roof could still be opened and closed manually.

    I was surprised to find that I could open and close the roof with one hand from the driver's seat, and much more quickly than was possible using the automated system.  
    It might have been a little heavy for some people's tastes, but I was seriously tempted to leave the actuators disconnected after the problem had been fixed. This suggested to me that the cabrio top was really only power-operated because the market expected it, not because it was technically essential. 

      

     


    --

    fritz


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    This porsche may be the right one for nick Smiley


    --

     

    http://i54.tinypic.com/34fcl7a.jpg


    Re: Dan Neil's review of the new BOxster Spyder. Hilarious

    Rich C (UK):

    For those of you who haven't experienced the joy of the Spyder roof...

     

     

    This is hilarious to watch....it looks like something designed by a drunk scientist. It makes the top on my first car (a 1959 Triumph TR3A) look like an engineering masterpiece of simplicity.


     
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