The 'less is more equation' is going through a long stretch of unpopularity. Glance around any car park and it's the opposite that rings true; automotive waistlines have expanded to hitherto unknown proportions. Ultimately, ever stringent regulations will force the excesses to be shed so that lightness triumphs, but right now we're still in the last days of lardiness.
The new porsche.com/microsite/boxster-spyder/usa.aspx" target="_blank">Porsche Boxster Spyder is intended to emphatically buck this trend. A lightened and more powerful version of the acclaimed Boxster S, the Spyder harks back to the spirit and style of the earliest Porsche models, especially the iconic 550 Spyder of the early 50s, a racing special for the road that the Stuttgart-based company is keen to show alongside its latest car.
The Boxster Spyder is pitched at the enthusiast. It's key characteristic is minimalism, most notably in the removal of the electrically-operated canvas roof that comes as standard on the Boxster. In its place is a broad aluminium rear deck, its styling hinting at the great racing Porsches of the past, as well as the Carrera GT supercar of 2004.
Flip the deck open, and nestled above the mid-mounted six-cylinder engine is a complex arrangement of canvas and struts that has to be manoeuvred into place by hand to provide the weatherproofing - Porsche calls it a 'weather protection system,' rather than a hood. For those accustomed to flipping a switch - without even having to stop - the Spyder's system will seem rudimentary. However, Porsche has no fear of alienating anyone, believing that this 'purist, minimalist sports car' will be a track day special for its more dedicated customers, rather than a daily driver.
The Spyder's performance is best described as fizzing. On the track, the car dives into corners with precision, the beautifully weighted steering and low centre of gravity giving you supreme confidence that you'll exit neatly and at the right velocity. A few spins of the test track at Porsche's Experience Centre in Silverstone - a privilege proffered to all new customers - more than convinces one of the Spyder's surefootedness.
On skidpan and kick plate the electronics systems grind and judder as they cut in to prevent gravity and physics doing their worst; such predictable behaviour in extreme conditions bodes well for the car's road manners.
At 1,275 kg, the Spyder is Porsche's lightest model (twice the weight of the original 550 Spyder, yet half the weight of the current Cayenne Turbo). Admittedly, aside from the roof, many of these savings have been achieved by stripping out helpful things like the audio system and satnav, options that many drivers will pay to add straight back in, especially given the latter's efficiency and ease of use.
But there are other distinctive touches, like the red webbing door pulls, the 70s-style side graphics and an absence of fripperies like cupholders and chrome trim. The Spyder feels even more wieldy than its Boxster and Cayman siblings. Paired with Porsche's ultra-swift PDK gearbox, the car is a modern classic, a rare combination of function and entertainment that should, like its forebears, continue to give pleasure for generations to come.