by Karl Furlong
The return of a large-capacity, naturally aspirated Porsche flat-six to the 718 Cayman GT4 seemed to be a recipe that could hardly be bettered, but with its roof chopped off to hear that engine sing even more loudly, the new 718 Spyder might just be even more desirable. Like the Cayman GT4, the 718 Spyder uses a 4.0-liter six-pot developing 414 horsepower and, with its six-speed manual gearbox, it has exactly the same 0-60 mph sprint time of 4.2 seconds - no doubt due to the fact that Porsche has managed to limit the Spyder's weight penalty to a mere seven pounds. Like the Cayman GT4, handling is phenomenal, with a purity to the Spyder's responses that can't be matched by the likes of the Audi TT RS. Plus, the Spyder's rear streamliners give it an entirely different persona that is reminiscent of last year's 911 Speedster, and that can only be a good thing. Add in the fact that the 718 Spyder is cheaper than the Cayman GT4, and it becomes an irresistible package. If you never drive any other car for the rest of your life but this one, you'll be happy.
The Porsche 718 Spyder is a new model for 2020. Essentially a drop-top version of the Porsche Cayman GT4, the 718 Spyder inherits that car's fabulous 4.0-liter flat-six engine and six-speed manual gearbox. The Spyder's unique design features a manually operated lightweight roof with distinctive fins and an electric locking feature. The roof is stowed beneath two prominent streamliners that set apart the 718 Spyder from other Porsche convertibles. The driver-focused cabin has been kept simplistic, with Alcantara sport seats, air conditioning, a traditional analog tachometer, and the familiar Porsche Communication Management infotainment system.
See trim levels and configurations:
4.0L Flat 6 Gas
Is this the most attractive model within the 718 family? It definitely makes a strong case for itself. Sharing the tight dimensions and squat proportions with other 718s, the Spyder differentiates itself by virtue of its lightweight roof with those noticeable fins. The two streamliners stand out even more and completely transform the Spyder's rear aspect. Standard features include 20-inch wheels, brake calipers painted in red, an electric locking function for the roof, and twin exhaust outlets. Bi-xenon headlights are standard, as are integrated LED daytime running lights and LED taillights.
The 718 Spyder shares the Cayman GT4's wheelbase and width, but is an inch shorter. Length works out to 174.5 inches, width including the mirrors is 78.6 inches, height is a low 49.6 inches, and the wheelbase measures 97.8 inches. With a curb weight of 3,206 pounds, the Spyder is just seven pounds heavier than the Cayman GT4.
The Spyder's color palette extends to nine shades, starting with four standard options: White, Black, Guards Red, and Racing Yellow. Three metallic colors are available for $650 each and these are Carrara White, Gentian Blue, and GT Silver. Finally, two special colors - Chalk and Miami Blue - carry a price tag of $2,580. Of these, the Racing Yellow seems to scream the loudest and best complements the Spyder's persona. The default roof color is black, but it can be had in red/black too, although this option also requires a leather interior upgrade for a total cost of $2,800.
The 718 Spyder is a purist's dream. A six-speed manual gearbox is paired with a naturally aspirated, high-revving 4.0-liter flat-six engine that generates 414 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque. Better yet, all of that power goes to the rear axle. The benchmark 0-60 mph sprint takes 4.2 seconds and the 718 Spyder will go on to a top speed of 187 mph, just marginally down on the Cayman GT4's maximum speed of 188 mph. Are there faster convertibles out there? Yes. The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible takes just 3.5 seconds to get to 60 mph, despite being a lot cheaper. Even BMW's Z4 M40i (at nearly $40,000 less) gets to 60 in under four seconds. But it is abundantly clear from the start that the 718 Spyder is less about what the numbers say and more about how it feels - working through the gears and allowing the flat-six to meet the red line is an experience that'll linger in the memory long after you've done it.
The 4.0-liter flat-six engine in the 718 Spyder is based on the turbocharged engines powering the 911 range, despite doing without a turbocharger itself. A high-strength forged crankshaft is among the unique design features of this powerful motor, which produces peak outputs of 414 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque. It's mated to a six-speed manual gearbox with an Auto Blip function.
Throttle response is instant and ramming into the 8,000-rpm redline never gets tiring, with a typically linear build-up of power that makes a naturally aspirated unit so enjoyable. The engine doesn't feel remotely strained by such antics and has clearly been designed to operate in maximum attack mode without breaking a sweat. Using the crisp gearbox is just as pleasurable, and the weighting of the clutch is perfect. The engine has enough power and flexibility to negate excessive gear changes, but you'll probably want to use the gearbox as often as you can anyway. There is ample passing power and acceleration off the mark is thrilling.
Porsche being Porsche, there are zero dynamic sacrifices to make if you choose the 718 Spyder over the hard-top Cayman GT4. The Spyder is just as talented and one of, if not the best, drop-top to drive. The electric steering is a brilliant piece of engineering, combining ideal weighting with plenty of feedback, and being sharp without ever feeling twitchy. The mechanically locking rear differential aids overall stability, and together with abundant grip, the 718 Spyder can be driven at extremely high speeds, the only deterrents to even faster progress being your nerve and the law. Of course, with the roof down, the scream from the six-pot is amplified and it's an intoxicating sound that renders the audio system almost pointless. The absence of a million driving modes only adds to the enjoyment of the Spyder; there is a Sport mode for the chassis but unless you're on a track, it's not necessary as it unsettles the ride quality, which in default mode is compliant enough to live with every day. Along with an effective braking system, Porsche has ticked every box and has ended up with a car that is the antithesis of most modern sports cars, which are overly sanitized. By contrast, the electronics that are in place in the Spyder seem to have only been added once the chassis was tuned to perfection. It's a breathtaking achievement.
At the time of writing, official EPA figures were not yet available for the new 718 Spyder. However, the previous Boxster Spyder (with a 3.8-liter six-cylinder engine) achieved estimates of 18/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined, which provides an indication of what could be expected from the newer car. If the 718 Spyder matches these numbers, expect a combined cruising range of around 338 miles when the 16.9-gallon gas tank is full.
While the 718 model line has always had a well-built cabin, it can't be described as luxurious. Clearly, the design has been set up to provide the most distraction-free environment for the driver, and we have no qualms with that. Most of it is pure Boxster, although the Spyder gets fabric door pulls and leather/Alcantara sport seats with partial electric adjustment. The central tachometer is familiar Porsche fare, while a few Spyder logos are scattered about. Standard equipment includes a six-speaker sound system, cruise control, a rearview camera, six airbags, and basic air conditioning. Essentially, everything you need and nothing you don't. However, buyers with more meticulous tastes can add an upgraded sound system, a full leather interior, and dual-zone climate control as options if the Spyder feels a bit too basic.
Three is a crowd inside the 718 Spyder, with seating for the driver and one extremely fortunate passenger. Although the cabin feels snug, there is enough space for taller passengers to get comfortable. The standard sport seats have partial electric adjustment (of the backrest), along with elevated side bolsters that hold you in place effectively. Being low to the ground, ingress and egress are a bit awkward for taller occupants, but you'll soon forgive the Spyder for this once you start driving it.
By default, the 718 Spyder's sport seats are upholstered in a mix of leather and Alcantara, with the Spyder script embroidered into the headrests. The steering wheel rim is also covered in racy Alcantara. The standard black environment is relieved by dashboard and console trim that is finished in the same color as the exterior, while the steering wheel has silver trim. A leather upgrade costs $2,160, while yellow, red, or silver stitching can be added to the steering wheel, seats, and door panels. The red or yellow stitching option adds a further $1,500 to the base price. The Spyder Classic Interior Package goes for $2,800 and livens up the cabin with a Bordeaux Red/Black color scheme, with the red extending to the dashboard and upper door panels. Full bucket seats or 18-way adaptive sport seats are further options, while leather can be added to the inner door-sill guards and even the steering column casing.
For what it is, the 718 Spyder can accommodate a reasonable amount of cargo. Of course, larger suitcases and the like will be an issue, but between the front luggage compartment (5.2 cubic feet) and the rear one (4.2 cubes) there is enough space for a typical run to the grocery store. The front trunk is narrower but deeper than the rear cargo compartment, so depending on the shape of what you're loading, one will be better than the other. In-cabin storage space isn't anything special, with the usual glovebox, shallow door pockets, and a center console. Two cupholders pop out from behind a trim strip ahead of the passenger, so these are a bit of a reach for the driver to access.
The frill-free approach to the 718 Spyder extends to the standard specification, which in the context of a nearly $100,000 sports car, isn't that generous. But with the 718 Spyder's focus on weight-saving, it's more understandable. In the place of a dual-zone climate control system, more basic air conditioning is fitted, although the former is optional. And while the seat backrest can be adjusted electrically, fore/aft adjustment is manual. Other inclusions are cruise control, a rearview camera with rear ParkAssist, a 4.6-inch color display within the instrument cluster, a programmable garage door opener, and six airbags. Automatically activating headlights are also included, while the roof has an electric locking/unlocking function. As this is a convertible, it's disappointing that heated seats cost $530 extra. Other extras that can be equipped are a heated steering wheel, 18-way adaptive sport seats, and power-folding exterior mirrors.
The 718 Spyder gets the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system with a seven-inch high-resolution touchscreen display in the center of the dashboard. It comes equipped with SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radio, two USB inputs, two SD card slots, Bluetooth connectivity, and a universal audio interface with iPod/auxiliary inputs. Porsche still charges for Apple CarPlay, whereas Android Auto isn't available at all. The base sound system is a six-speaker unit with an output of 110 watts, but there are two available audio system upgrades: a ten-speaker Bose system for $990 and a 12-speaker Burmester high-end surround sound system for $4,690. Navigation with Porsche Connect (including a 4G LTE module) goes for $2,320.
As an all-new model, it's too early to assess the 718 Spyder's reliability, but all the signs are there that it will be a dependable sports car. Besides Porsche's legendary quality, last year's 718 Boxster/Cayman was rated at 93 out of 100 by J.D. Power, a superb result and one of the highest ratings for any vehicle on the market.
Should the 718 Spyder falter, it's covered by a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty (with 24-hour roadside assistance for the same period/mileage), a four-year/50,000-mile limited paint warranty, and 12-year corrosion coverage regardless of miles traveled.
Currently, crash ratings are unavailable for the Porsche 718 Spyder as the sports car has yet to be evaluated by the NHTSA or the IIHS.
Porsche has equipped the 718 Spyder with six airbags; these are made up of dual front airbags, thorax airbags in the bolster of each seat, and head airbags for both occupants. A fixed roll-over bar is fitted, too. Other essentials like ABS braking and electronic stability control make it onto the list as well, but the 718 Spyder is light on driver aids - these are limited to cruise control, a rearview camera, and rear park assist. Increasingly common technologies like blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control aren't available at all.
The 718 Spyder feels like Porsche at its best. While models like the Cayenne SUV and Panamera full-size luxury sedan are hugely accomplished vehicles, this is still first and foremost a maker of enjoyable sports cars, and the 718 Spyder is the perfect embodiment of that. Every aspect that matters to the driver - the engine, the handling, the gearbox, and even the driving position - has been beautifully engineered and thought out. With the roof down, the fun factor is elevated by another few notches over the Cayman GT4. It's not only via the oily bits that the 718 Spyder excites, though, because it is a prettier and more distinctive design than every other member of the 718 family. For far less money, the Audi TT RS and BMW Z4 are even quicker in a straight line and are equipped with more comforts than the Porsche. But as special as these two cars are, a five-minute drive is all it takes to establish the Spyder as the most exhilarating of the bunch.
The 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder carries an MSRP of $96,300, a price that is exclusive of taxes, licensing, registration, and a delivery/processing fee of $1,350. Although this represents a saving of $2,900 over the Cayman GT4, the 718 Spyder's price can balloon just as quickly once a few options get added. By adding just a few extras, the price can surpass $120,000.
Within the 718 family, the 718 Spyder is the most powerful convertible in the lineup. It features a 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six engine with 414 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque. Power is transferred to the rear axle via a six-speed manual gearbox with an Auto Blip function.
Outside, the 718 Spyder gets a manual-folding roof with an electronic lock/unlock function, along with 20-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, red-painted brake calipers, and LED daytime running lights. The interior has partially electronically adjustable leather/Alcantara sport seats with optional heating elements. The instrument cluster pairs traditional analog dials with a 4.6-inch color screen, while infotainment is controlled via a seven-inch color touchscreen. Six airbags, cruise control, and a rearview camera are among the 718 Spyder's safety features.
While other Porsche models have access to comprehensive package upgrades, the 718 Spyder can only be customized via an array of standalone options. In terms of seating, 18-way adaptive sport seats cost $2,640, while full bucket seats made from carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) go for $5,900. The most expensive option is Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) at $8,000. More palatable are LED headlights at $2,140. Likely to prove popular with buyers are heated seats ($530), a heated steering wheel ($470), and dual-zone climate control ($770), whereas an owner's manual wallet in carbon fiber seems like a pointless option at $1,040. Apple CarPlay adds $360 to the base price, the Bose sound system is $990, and the Burmester high-end sound system costs $4,690.
Porsche purposefully kept the 718 Spyder simple in the interests of weight-saving, so it seems counterproductive to overload it with optional extras. We would, however, equip ours with heated seats, Apple CarPlay, and the heated steering wheel, features that make this convertible more satisfying on a daily basis.
Also a new addition to the 718 range, the Cayman GT4 is essentially the hard-top version of the 718 Spyder. A negligible seven-pound difference in weight between the two, along with the same 414-hp engine, means that there is no difference in terms of acceleration off the mark. With its lightweight roof, the 718 Spyder is an even more arresting looker than the GT4, although that also means that the GT4 is a bit quieter at higher speeds. Another advantage in the GT4's favor is a larger rear luggage area. Both are a riot to drive, with the responsive flat-six blending perfectly with the precise steering and the crisp manual gearbox. They're also similarly specified. With its lower price and more seductive styling, we'd choose the 718 Spyder, but you can't make a bad decision between these two exemplary sports cars.
The all-new, 992-generation of the iconic 911 is finally here. As it always has, the latest version further moves the goalposts forward in its uncanny ability to combine an immersive driving experience with day-to-day livability. For nearly the same price as the 718 Spider, the base 911 Carrera will get you a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine with 379 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque, enabling a 0-60 mph sprint of 3.8 seconds, making it quicker than the lighter 718 Spyder. Inside, the new 911 is a lot more modern than the 718 Spyder, with better materials and a slicker infotainment system. It also has access to more technologies, like lane keep assist, a surround-view camera system, and adaptive cruise control. If you want the best all-round sports car, the Porsche 911 has more bases covered, but if you want a second car that is reserved as a weekend toy, the 718 Spyder takes it.
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