“A driver’s car” is a word that continues to be bandied about quite loosely in some quarters, unabated at that, but in essence, very few truly live up to the essence of the word. Confused? Bear with me as I attempt to dissect things into bite-size morsels.
Many performance cars today are offered with an automatic transmission. This is borne out by the fact that buyers still want the high adrenaline threshold that comes with a well-sorted performance car, but also the convenience of a self-shifting gearbox. And, to be honest, many of these transmissions are pretty good, but there remains a handful of enthusiasts who still prefer a manual transmission. Indeed, the involvement of rowing a well-judged manual ‘box is something to behold. Grabbing the car by the scruff of the neck, wringing out every iota of performance and shifting gears at the right time and with a positive shift action is what matters most to those individuals.
That said, very few manufacturers, including Porsche, still offer a manual gearbox - purists rejoice! Our recent encounter was with the latest Cayman GT4 - replete with an atmospheric 4.0-litre flat-six engine that revs to a lofty 8,000 r/min limiter with an intoxicating howl, was a boon. Sadly, on the day that I got behind the wheel, the heavens opened and the experience of the vehicle was slightly marred by the inclement weather. Nevertheless, what I managed to glean from that drive was the sneaky shift action of the manual gearbox.
However, what happens when you take a similar recipe, chop the roof off and replace the manual with a PDK? Surely that should be a recipe for disaster, a case of spoiling the broth to no end. Thankfully, there’s a way of salvaging that dish. Enter the 718 Spyder - essentially an open-top variant of the delectable GT4, only serving up things in Al Fresco style to absorb the elements but, more importantly, drink up that glorious engine howl.
Cabin appointments and architecture are very driver centric in their layout, with analogue instrumentation, a three-spoke GT steering wheel and form hugging seats. There's very little in the way of buttons, keeping the cabin minimalist in execution and bereft of unnecessary frills. That PCM infotainment with its touchscreen facility is a simple, logical and highly legible system to use, even while on the move. Tactile feel is of the lofty type in quality with nary a rattle or squeak to mention of, testament of the marque's build integrity.
This thing looks the part with those rear decklid buttresses, but it also goes down the road with the verve that reminds me a lot of its bigger brother, the 911 Speedster. Under that unassuming cloak of a hairdresser's car lies a thorough, rigidly hewn sportscar that relishes being acquainted with coiling tarmac. Being mid-engined, the handling is nothing short of astonishing, making the 718 Spyder a boon to pilot and flick into corners with enthusiasm.
That 4.0-litre atmospheric, boxer laid out engine thrives on revs and begs you to unwind it to its 8,000 r/min redline to truly relish its performance repertoire. That ritual is accompanied by an intoxicating howl that is addictive and doesn't ever get old. Even paired with the PDK transmission in the instance of our tester, it remains an engaging driving experience with the self-shifting box adding a hint of convenience in just enough quotas.
Having driven a bevvy of sports cars from this Stuttgart brand, the 718 Spyder is unarguably one of the best yet. Not in the outright, all-out ballsy affair that comes with cars from the stable with the 911 prefix and GT RS suffix, but underneath this junior sportscar is a thorough GT car, that so happens to have an open top.
Torsional rigidity is noteworthy and carving through a snaking road brings that fact to the foreground as the 718 Spyder remains ever so scalpel-sharp, while the mechanical grip is of the lofty variety, egging you on to explore its limits of adhesion to little avail. Don’t get me wrong, if you giddily try and upset the vehicle’s balance, then you will spectacularly find yourself rear-end first into a ditch - not advisable.
At R1 804 000 there are very few open-top sportscar with this type of pedigree and prestige, not to mention with the purist approach of a normally-aspirated engine and manual transmission should you be that way inclined. Being a GT based Porsche you can be assured that its residual values will eclipse anything else playing in this segment, making a strong case as both a logical and emotional purchase.
In essence, the Porsche 718 Spyder presents a distilled driving experience that we have experienced in the 911 Speedster, making this one of the best driver’s cars at the price. Yes, you can opt for the manual if you so wish, and we’re huge advocates of this ‘box, but the PDK does add a layer of convenience and usability that begs to be lapped up to be truly appreciated. A delicious recipe with all the right ingredients is the 718 Spyder. Dessert? That is unequivocally part of the package!