DRIVEN: 2021 Porsche 718 Spyder – the sound of speed in a compact sports car
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JOHANNESBURG: The 2021 Porsche 718 Spyder is arguably one of the best compact sports cars you can buy. This is because it shares its oily bits with the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 that we tested last year (but the best part is that you can fold the Spyder's lightweight roof away to truly enjoy the aural pleasure that its 4.0-litre naturally-aspirated flat-six engine provides).
WHAT'S A PORSCHE 718 SPYDER?
The Porsche 718 is available as a proper two-door sports coupé, the Cayman, as well as a traditional convertible, the Boxster. The Spyder joins the range as an alternative open-top experience, one that's been honed by the motorsport team at Porsche.
All 718 models are revered for its nimble and taut handling thanks to its mid-engine layout and near 50:50 weight distribution, as well as its compliant suspension and accurate steering.
The latest generation was, however, disappointing when it came to the four-cylinder engines that were used in the entry level models. The four-cylinder 718s had more than enough punch to get down the road, don't get me wrong, but it missed that flat-six character that we had become fond of in the vehicle.
The 718 Spyder changes all that with its meaty 4.0-litre flat-six that revs to 8 000rpm. It's not as frantic when revving out and it doesn't sound as heavily cammed as a 911 GT3 but you get this racing car edge to the way it fires up, idles and delivers its performance. The flat-six not only injects a whole lot of character back into the 718, it also provides a healthy dose of urgency, with maximum power rated at 309kW and maximum torque peaking at 430Nm. Porsche says it will sprint from 0 to 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds and on top a top speed of 300km/h.
Porsche's motorsport team has fettled with the car to ensure it handles as intuitively as you would imagine, using the electric power steering system from the GT4 as well as the suspension system. Our test car was fitted with the seven-speed PDK gearbox, which provided lightning fast shifts and slightly shorter gear ratios. This meant you could stretch the engines legs a bit further in the gears without hanging onto first and second gear all the time due to the log gearing of these cars to meet emissions standards. Where the GT4 cried for third gear at 134km/h in our previous test, the PDK Spyder version of the car required a shift into third at 118km/h.
IS IT STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE?
The 718 Spyder might be one of the best-looking sports cars you can buy. It offers a little bit of everything from the world or Porsche, but it all comes together exquisitely to ensure it doesn’t end up looking over the top. You get an aggressive front bumper that looks like it has been lifted straight of a GT racing car, and you get a flat underbody to ensure airflow and downforce is managed appropriately.
The cars 911 Speedster inspired humps that serve as the roof cover is also exquisite but it is a handful to get used to. You see, the roof is part manual, part automatic, so you have to first disengage the roof using the onboard electrical system and then you have to get out (and get your hands and designer clothes dirty) to heave the roof into the storage compartment. Porsche says that the Spyder’s roof mechanism is a weight-saving measure, and it probably is, but I would prefer a fully automated roof at this price point.
IS THE 2021 PORSCHE 718 SPYDER WORTH BUYING?
If you’re looking for a sporty car around the R2 million price point, I’d strongly suggest you get in touch with Porsche to arrange a test drive of the 718 Spyder. It’s one of those cars that we recently, regularly, bang on about that won’t exist in the fast-approaching future. Porsche's 718 range of sports cars is reaching the end of its life in its current form with an all-new electrified compact car platform on the way. The new Cayman and Boxster will return to four-cylinder engines and the sporty models will receive performance assistance in the form of electric motors.
I’m willing to overlook the Spyder’s quirks, such as its part-manual roof, and its dated multimedia infotainment system because it’s not a car that’s meant for posing, even though it might look that way. It’s a proper Porsche GT car that gets better and better the harder and faster you drive it. The handling of the car inspires confidence and the overall build quality is so solid that you’d think it was made from concrete.
On the whole, the 718 Spyder is worth buying and it’s worth driving – as often as possible, so that you can enjoy its pinpoint handling and its drive-me-hard character. Few cars enjoy being revved out again and again, and this car proved to take a pounding, launch after launch, it just kept on ticking. With so much performance, style and such an engaging experience, you won’t be disappointed adding the Spyder to your arsenal.
All Porsche 718 Spyders come with a three-year Driveplan that can be extended to five years if you plan on hanging onto the vehicle for a longer period.
MAKE and MODEL: 2021 Porsche 718 Spyder
ENGINE: 4.0-litre, naturally-aspirated, flat-six petrol
POWER: 309kW at 7 600rpm
TORQUE: 430Nm at 5 500rpm
GEARBOX: 7-speed PDK automatic
DRIVE: Rear-wheel drive
0-100km/h: 3.9 seconds
TOP SPEED: 300km/h
FUEL CONS: 10.2l/100km (claimed - combined cycle)
FUEL CONS: 15.2l/100km (on test - combined cycle)
FUEL CAPACITY: 64 litres
SUPPORT: Two-year warranty and three or five year Driveplan
PRICE: From R1 736 000