The Porsche 718 Boxster Spyder RS is the latest – and the last – version of Porsche’s mid-engine sports car before going fully electric for the next generation. What we have here is a curtain call, and what a curtain call it is.
In simple terms, the Spyder RS – that’s Spyder with a “y”, because that’s how the Germans do it—is the drop-top version of the Cayman GT4 RS
, but it’s a little more complicated than that.
“A roadster has to have maximum lightness, maximum power, purity, and speed,” said Andreas Preuninger, head of Porsche GT vehicles.
Basically, the GT4 is a track car and Preuninger vehemently states that the Spyder RS is not. “It was not developed to be quick on the track,” he said. “We set the car up to use it on the road.” Never mind the fact it has a racecar engine and the last time we saw the words “RS” and “Spyder” on a Porsche, it was attached to a Le Mans class-winning racer.
With all that in mind, Porsche has softened the Spyder’s springs a little and modified the electronic power steering.
Don’t think that means anyone should be levelling the “grand touring” title at this particular Boxster, however. The dampers are firm and there are ultra-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires and ultra-aggressive sports seats (softer items are a no-charge option), and that’s before we even get to the powertrain, which is absolutely ballistic. As in: revving to 9,000 RPM ballistic. If that sounds race car-like, that’s because it uses the same 4.0-litre naturally-aspirated flat-6 used by the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Car.
In this form, it makes 493 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, sent to the rear wheels – obviously – via a 7-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission with a paddle-activated manual mode. That’s the only transmission choice; Porsche doesn’t make a manual gearbox that can handle the torque of that high-revving engine in a mid-engine configuration. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles, but it doesn’t take long behind the wheel of the Spyder RS to forget the cookie completely.
Actually, just looking at it makes you forget the cookie completely. The double-bubble rear canopy and roll hoops should be the most eye-catching features, but then you see the wheels and the aero fins ahead of those, as well as the extended ducktail rear spoiler. There’s too much to look at to name one single highlight. Even the front splitter – which has been reduced over that of the GT4 – still looks the business. The RS Spyder is hunkered down and purposeful and it very well may be the best-looking car you can get on the market today, anywhere.
The Weissach package costs an additional $14,350 (one of the only major options, along with ceramic brakes) and for that, you get carbon fibre wing mirrors, air intake blades and seatbacks, a partially exposed carbon fibre hood, and the option to select lightweight wheels and exhaust tips from the 911 GT2 RS-based 935 track special. Most of that makes for some good additions, but the exposed carbon fibre hood is a little much for my taste, looking a little too aftermarket considering the rest of the styling package. Not to mention that even without all that, the Spyder RS weighs in at just 1,410 kg, which is 40 kg less than a PDK-equipped Spyder and less even than the GT4. You can thank the aforementioned body panels for that, as well as other weight-saving measures such as nylon door pulls and a single-layer soft top.
Let's just get this out of the way now: the soft top is a pain to install. It takes in and around 10 separate steps to deploy or stow, and comes in two pieces: the “hood” (read: roof) and the rear wind protector. You can leave the latter off, however, and get similar protection from the elements but still; it is quite the task and Porsche knows this, which is why they went so far as to suggest how much more weight you’d be saving – about 10 kilos – if you just left it behind. It’s called “Spyder”, after all, and should be driven as such. Who says the Germans don’t have a sense of humour?
Speaking of the Germans; they may be best known for their de-restricted autobahnen
, but to forget that there’s a dizzying network of fantastic b-roads winding their way through the country that, as a driver, should not be missed. We spent our time in the Swabian Alps region outside of the Porsche mothership in Stuttgart, and to experience a car like this on roads like these is to experience a driving revelation that tattoos itself on one’s memory.
The roads wind their way around switchbacks, through valleys, and through towns along glassy-surfaced roads that are technically two lanes, but you wouldn’t know it because there’s no centre line.
Indeed, the Spyder RS was born for roads like these. The chassis is so perfectly balanced and the steering so direct, corners can be entered with a furiousness few cars can match and then exited quickly thanks to the zero-inertia power delivery of the flat-6. “Addictive” doesn’t even begin to describe it; “ethereal” is probably more apt.
You knew the handing was going to be top drawer, though. The lightweighting, the sticky tires, the adaptive suspension all point to that. Which is why the most surprising part of the drive was actually its performance on straights. The PDK is whip-snap quick and the motor revs so freely that the noise – you haven’t lived until you’ve revved an open-top sports car to 9,000 ear-splitting RPM—coupled with the wind in your hair and the blurring of the scenery makes that aspect of the drive nearly as surreal as the handling, if not more so.
Which, in the end, means that the whole experience is surreal. Cars like this are one in a million, really, and they should be celebrated because they are the pinnacles of automotive engineering and design. The numbers are spectacular, but to focus too heavily there and to use your mind’s bandwidth for that would be to miss the very essence of what they represent: that thrill of tackling an open road in a car destined for greatness.
Greatness does come at a cost, of course; it’s $188,800 to start, or a clear 78 grand over a GTS 4.0, which can
be had with a manual. But this is the last gas-powered 718, and to get a chance to own one is worth its weight in gold.
2024 Porsche 718 Boxster Spyder RS
Two-door performance convertible
4.0-litre flat six-cylinder, 493 hp, 332 lb-ft of torque
FUEL ECONOMY CITY/HIGHWAY/COMBINED:
7-speed dual-clutch automatic
125 litres (front), 120 L (rear)
WEBSITE: Porsche 718 Boxster Spyder RS