There is no question that the 2016 Boxster Spyder is an incredibly attractive car, both top and top down. Porsche bragged about saving 24 lbs by removing the motors and glass rear window of the standard Boxster top and the Spyder is the lightest member of the Boxster family, despite having the larger 3.8l engine. In today's post, Dudestuff takes a look at just what compromises were made to make the worst convertible top sold on the market today.
Convertibles used to be pretty bad, even 20 years ago. The original Mazda Miata was one of the first convertible tops on the market that didn't leak water. Glass rear window that didn't fog over and had actual defoggers improved things quite a bit, as did more advanced insulation. Porsche's have gotten particularly good with the 991 - it is practically a hard top convertible since much of the top is actually a piece of solid magnesium, extremely solid, insulated and a pleasure to be under. The tops are strong enough to raise with a simple push of a button at speeds up to 30 MPH, without leaving the driver's seat, or even lifting a single limb.
So, why did Porsche take the top of the line Boxster Spyder, that they finally put the 911 S motor in, and give it a manual top? Worse than a manual top, it is not a simple design like the Mazda Miata, you have to pull over, stop, and get out of the car to put it up or down. This is especially egregious given that the 981 Boxster has a fantastic fully automatic top - you do exactly as you do the 911, and push a button anywhere below 30 MPH and voila, the top retracts, stores itself in a nice spot over the engine and leaves you full access to both trunks.
First of all - weight savings. The Boxster Spyder had to be the lightest Boxster in it's range and the 3.8l Flat-6 motor that gives it it's motivation comes out of the larger and heavier 911. The lack of top motors help offset some of this weight.
Second, looks. The flying buttresses at the end of the Boxster Spyder top give the car a very sleek look with the top up, longer and leaner and meaner than the rest of the range. Making those fully automatic would have been difficult and expensive, not to mention heavy (see first)
Third, simplicity. The Boxster Spyder was supposed to be a nod to the simpler times, and is only available with a manual transmission and doesn't come with a radio or air conditioning by default. While most of the US delivered cars will have these, they must be added on the order to get them. A power top would have contrasted with the lack of them, certainly.
So, how bad is the top, really? Porsche's press release makes it sound pretty simple:
Putting the top up is a cinch: you simply open the rear trunk lid and fold out the roadster top. The driver inserts the fins on the trunk lid and simply pushes a button to pull the top tight to the windshield frame. To take the top down, these steps are performed in reverse order.
In reality, not quite that simple. Here are the actual steps to putting the top down:
First, stop the car, put the emergency brake on, and press the top release button. Looks like nothing happened, but the latch holding the top to the windshield header releases, the windows come down and the rear hatch/trunk opens up. (note that the rear trunk will NOT operated while the top is up, you must disconnect the rear buttresses before it can be fully opened.)
Next, push down on the end of the buttress latch, and remove it straight up from the anchor point. You have to feel for the latch and can only connect/disconnect while the trunk is at least popped and the windshield header latch is disconnected, so there is less tension on the fabric.
Once you've disconnected the buttresses, you stick the latches into holes in the actual top. There are small arrows near the holes and on the pegs to show you which way they orient - make sure the pegs click all the way into the holes and latch on. This is somewhat tricky as the material has to bunch up a bit.
Now, go back to the trunk lid and lift it fully. It goes up quite high so watch for vertical clearance, especially if your garage door is above it. Luckily it is made of some beautifully shaped aluminum and is quite light, just a bit awkward. Gas struts help lift it, so once you get it part way up, it lifts up on it's own.
Now, you can start to fold the top. Stand beside the car and reach out to the middle of the car, and fold the top up and back. Make sure the rear window is clean, it's made it clear flexible plastic and will scratch if you put it down while dirty.
Finish folding the top down. It should rest on these two small levers that come out from beneath the roll hoops.
Now, you can close the trunk lid. Be careful as it's made it aluminum and you don't want to dent it, although it feels pretty solid. I do hate closing it as you get handprints and fingerprints on the trunk since there is no letter or badges to grab to close it, and you have to push pretty solidly to latch it into place. Make sure it closes without resistance - the first time I fold the top, I didn't quite get the material folded right and wouldn't close. This hasn't occurred since, but definitely something to watch out for. Whew, almost done.
Last thing to do is to manually fold these little covers down. They just plog down over the opening and finish them off.
Spyder is now ready to be enjoyed properly. Total time elapsed is 1-2 minutes, not bad really, but a far cry from the fully automatic top most modern convertibles enjoy. Start the car, push the Sport Exhaust button and enjoy!
Porsche may have made some compromises for the 981 Boxster Spyder, but it is still a fantastic car, that less than 1000 people will get to own. The top is far better than the 2 piece affair on the last generation 987 Spyder, which leaked, and was extremely fussy to attach to the car - more like pitching a tent than the 981. Compared to that, the 981 is a breeze, although still the worst top available on the market today. I parked the car next to an ND Miata and the Miata was a joy of engineering and really simple to operate - you can do the top operation entirely from the driver's seat, if your arms are long enough. 981 Boxster Spyder owners will get a little wetter when the top in a sudden downpour, that's for sure. But, the car is cozy and warm inside with the top up and reasonably quiet. Definitely leak free now too.
The power of the 911 S motor combined with Porsche's best manual transmission and the direct reflexes of the lightweight Spyder make for an incredible back road experience. It is quite a contrast to sporty cars, analogue and pure, with very little between the driver and the road. It is accessible and feels alive in your hands with limits that won't send you directly to jail for exploiting. Hopefully Porsche takes the message to heart and makes more cars with this level of refreshing purity.
Silicon Valley Dad, who loves cars, cooking, clothes and cameras