On public roads, the power-plenty sports cars of today have become mechanical malapropisms—the right word in the wrong sentence. Capable of speeds that reach well beyond the boundaries of the law, or most drivers’ abilities, it’s like carving your holiday roast with a chainsaw when a simple, well-honed blade would do (not to mention provide more palatable results). And yet the appreciation for the balanced grace and tactile elegance of the mid-engine roadster, a car meant to harmonize with, not despoil, the road beneath, has largely fallen by the wayside.
Porsche’s new 2016 Boxster Spyder bypasses the either/or. The car offers a top speed of 180 mph and an ability to go from 0 to 60 in 4.3 seconds, but it also provides a purist roadster experience that combines the best of Porsche’s origins, as in the 1953 550 Spyder, with a wholly contemporary less-is-more, live-in-the-moment ethos. Gripping the short throw shifter is like reaching deep up inside the six-speed manual transmission (automatic not available) and flicking through the gears with your fingertips. The suspension is tuning-fork taut and the handling is quick—meant not to mute the asphalt’s imperfections, but instead to link the driver to the road in such a way that the mechanics become invisible. What results is an intimacy and immediacy of driving that may have you feeling guilty for not having bought the car dinner first.
It’s a different take on “connected driving,” the automotive marketing phrase of the moment, as it has nothing to do with syncing your address book or playlists to your car. Porsche also omits a radio unit and air conditioning in the base configuration for weight reasons, although it’s likely more of a symbolic delete, a statement of purpose. You can add them back at no additional charge, but don’t be surprised by the “but…why?” side-eyed look from across the desk. After all, if your primary concern while cruising with the top down is to fiddle with tunes or climate control, then this probably isn’t the car for you.