Along Came Two Spyders
The name “Spyder” comes from horse drawn carriages in the 1800s. Smaller, lightweight carriages with smaller frames, made for moving people (rather than cargo) were so-named because they resembled a spider when viewed from above.
These days, in Stuttgart-speak, Spyder means a lightened, more driver-oriented Porsche Boxster with a minimalist, manual convertible top.
The 981 Boxster Spyder came in 2016, just at the end of the 981 generation’s life cycle, while the 2021 718 Boxster Spyder arrived this year. When both cars came to Modern Aircooled for some mild upgrades and maintenance, the owners were eager to see them side by side.
2021 718 Spyder
Enthusiasts were thrilled when Porsche announced a naturally-aspirated six cylinder was returning to the Boxster/Cayman, and it’s worth the wait. The 4.0 liter flat-six revs to 8000 rpm, channeled through a six-speed manual gearbox (it’s also available in PDK). Unlike the previous Boxster Spyder, the 718 Spyder one shares its suspension with the Cayman GT4, making it an even more potent performance weapon.
2016 981 Boxster Spyder
Porsche’s send-off for the 981-generation Boxster was, at the time, the most powerful Boxster ever, making 375hp from a 3.8 liter mill borrowed from the 911 Carrera S. Although it was a thoroughly capable Boxster, Porsche stopped short of making it an open-topped Cayman GT4: its suspension is the X73 passive damper sport setup that came as an option on the 981 Boxster/Cayman GTS, rather than the GT3-derived setup found on the GT4. Regardless, the dramatic body styling still melts our hearts.
Differences on the Road
The 718 Spyder delivers otherworldly bite from the PCCB brakes, accompanied by gentle sound on application — it’s more of a whir than a squeal. Not loud enough to be annoying, but just noticeable enough to remind you you’re in something special, with serious chops. The chassis has more advanced chassis calibration, like a true GT-series car, and the suspension strikes a commendable balance of sharpness and ride compliance.
The 981 Spyder is the softer, tamer car on paper. But there’s something about that 3.8 liter motor that feels alive. It sings at a higher octave and just feels more eager to play, with less baritone bark than the 718 Spyder’s 4.0 liter. On a race track, the 718 would surely shine most, but on the road, the verdict comes down to preference.
When choosing between two of the best driver’s cars from the last decade, there are no losers.
“The wheel shape on the 718 Spyder is the best homage to the classic Fuchs design that Porsche has ever done.” – Jordan