What you must first know about the 2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder is that it sheds its top in six easy steps, compared with the outgoing model’s 15 cumbersome ones.
Once it’s down, you’re ready to cruise. In this case, it’s past the lava fields, waterfalls and expansive coastlines of Hawaii’s Big Island. Then the tokens of tropical paradise melt away in the side view mirror, and we find a lush, secluded stretch through the island’s interior. My partner for this delightful December drive downshifts into third gear. In milliseconds, we’re weaving through Saddle Road’s switchbacks at a thrilling speed, nimbly cornering turns with 375 horsepower.
Be warned: this two-door, two-seat convertible is not for everyone. Available only in a six-speed manual transmission, the Boxster Spyder is an enthusiast’s roadster. It won’t drive itself; you have to work for it. Its heavy clutch and tight gearshift gave me that post-CrossFit feeling the next morning. Porsche has also dropped amenities such as air conditioning and radio in the name of purism. But if you like your cars with such conveniences, Porsche will add them back at no additional charge.
The lack of an automatic transmission and power top make this the lightest model in the current Boxster lineup. It’s also fast: Porsche says it bested the Boxster GTS by eight seconds during test runs at Nürburgring. It can, allegedly, make the leap from 0 to 60 in 4.3 seconds and handle top speeds of 180 m.p.h., but we didn’t test it for ourselves. The Spyder (the word is a European designation for drop-top or convertible) borrows its engine – a mid-mounted 3.8-liter flat-six – from the punchy 911 Carrera S. Certainly, a spin around the Big Island doesn’t require such a machine, but will you have more fun? Yes.
Three-quarters of an inch lower to the ground than the previous generation, the new Spyder marks a steady improvement upon the tenets of speed, handling and aerodynamics while paying homage to its primogenitor: the 550 Spyder introduced at the 1953 Paris Auto Show, a Hollywood head turner that was to be James Dean’s final ride. Following the Cayman GT4 and 911 GT3 RS, which debuted earlier this year, the Spyder is the German automaker’s latest effort to return to its race car roots in an age of semi-autonomous driving and satellite radio.
The Spyder, which is on sale now, starts at $82,100 plus $995 destination charge.