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2020 Porsche 718 Spyder First Test: Ultimate Driver’s Delight

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 2019-10-10 Motor Trend Staff
a car parked on the side of a road: 2020-Porsche-718-Spyder-rear-three-quarter-in-motion.jpg

High-revving, naturally aspirated sports cars are a dying breed. The 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder (and its hardtop twin, the 718 Cayman GT4) is one of these relics, from the same tree as the more affordable Mazda MX-5 Miata and Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ duo, cars that prioritize driving enjoyment and creating a connection with the driver. Free-breathing sports cars like these provide a breath of fresh air in a time when nearly everything has some form of electrification or forced induction under the hood. Unlike lesser 718 Boxster models, the Spyder takes the fun up a couple notches by going back to basics: no turbos, minimal electronic adjustability, and a manual gearbox. The result? A glorious master class in driver engagement from a car that'll overload your senses and satisfy you on every drive.

Research the Porsche 718 on MSN Autos | Find a Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman near you

Track Star

With options like carbon-ceramic brakes and lightweight bucket seats reinforced with carbon fiber, the 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder looks ready for the track, which it is. On the dragstrip, the mid-engine roadster hit 60 mph in 4.0 seconds on the way to a 12.3-second quarter mile at 115.1 mph. Road test editor Chris Walton liked how easy the car is to launch and was able to get consistent numbers even when it bogged slightly. Stopping from 60 mph only took 99 feet, thanks to the massive carbon-ceramic brakes, which Walton called world class and lauded for the satisfying pedal feel. However, like most carbon-ceramic brakes, they need a bit of heat to get the best results, and they squeak a lot during normal driving.

a blue car parked in front of a mountain© Motor Trend Staff

At the limit, the 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder remains benign. Testing director Kim Reynolds enjoyed its controllability and strong brakes, both of which he thought contributed to the experience. "It's sensitive and wraps around you," Reynolds said. "It can understeer or oversteer. Which do you want?" The 718 Spyder finished the figure-eight course in 23.0 seconds with a 0.89 g average and generated 1.08 g of lateral acceleration on the skidpad. In the event that the rear end steps out on you, it's easy to catch and control, even when you're pushing the car hard.

On Road Dominance

The fun doesn't stop off the track; in fact, it's barely starting. Once you fold the complicated roof (and leave it down for good), make yourself comfortable and get ready for a great time. On winding roads, the 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder hardwires itself to the driver. The finely tuned suspension and telepathic steering give the car supremely engaging handling and keeps you connected to the road. When you need to slow down, the available carbon-ceramic brakes provide unyielding stopping power that's frankly overkill for street use.

a car parked on the side of a road: 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder front three quarter in motion© Motor Trend Staff 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder front three quarter in motion

A high-revving 414-hp 4.0-liter flat-six paired to one of the best six-speed manuals ever created completes the 718 Spyder formula. The shifter has satisfying short throws and a clutch that tells you exactly where it catches, giving the driver an extra layer of connection with the vehicle. When you combine that with the sonorous flat-six, which goes from baritone to full-on banshee wail, you get one of the most sophisticated powertrains combinations available.

Together, the chassis and powertrain make the 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder come alive in your hands. On Angeles Crest Highway, it cuts through corners like a scalpel. Instantaneous turn-ins, prodigious grip, and zero body roll cause your grin to grow as you carve through the road. Downshift and head straight into driving nirvana as the engine screams to its 8,000-rpm redline.

(Somewhat) Practical

Despite the 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder having a performance-focused chassis, it rides surprisingly well over broken pavement. Sure, it's stiff, and a big bump or two will bounce you around slightly, but that's a small price for the performance you get. Heck, you could daily drive the 718 Spyder if you wanted to, and your back won't make you pay for it in the long run. It even has a spacious interior with the roof up. Despite the non-reclining bucket seats, people of all sizes can easily get comfortable. Just make sure you're fine with the low seating position because it can hinder side- and rear visibility.

a car parked on the side of a road: 2020-Porsche-718-Spyder-side.jpg© Motor Trend Staff 2020-Porsche-718-Spyder-side.jpg

In case you need to carry gear, the 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder has two cargo areas, the front one being the deeper, more accommodating one for larger items. Small-item storage is limited to the door pockets, a glove box, and a center console, the latter two housing one USB port each. Porsche's PCM interface works well and doesn't have a major learning curve, especially if you tick the box for Apple CarPlay integration (no, it's not standard).

Honesty Remains the Best Policy

If forced to find something to complain about on the 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder, it's the six-speed manual's tall gearing. You can hit speeds that'll land you in jail in second and third gear, which, in a way, dampens the fun slightly. I suspect that the high redline requires it calibrated that way, but at the same time, it keeps you from working that sweet shifter. With the new 911's increased performance, there's room for the 718 twins to gain some potency, and reworked gearing may just be the solution.

Few cars give you the same euphoric experience you get driving the 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder. With many modern vehicles becoming more like computers with wheels, it's refreshing to pilot a vehicle so balanced and free from overwhelming electronic adjustability. As one of the last purist cars, the 2020 718 Spyder aims to preserve the art of driving in a world so focused on reaching full autonomy. Those with the means to acquire one will be in for a treat every time they get behind the wheel of this automotive masterpiece.

Research the Porsche 718 on MSN Autos | Find a Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman near you

2020 Porsche 718 Spyder
BASE PRICE $97,650
PRICE AS TESTED $120,530
VEHICLE LAYOUT Mid-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door convertible
ENGINE 4.0L/414-hp/309-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve flat-6
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,127 lb (44/56%)
WHEELBASE 97.8 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 174.5 x 71.0 x 49.6 in
0-60 MPH 4.0 sec
QUARTER MILE 12.3 sec @ 115.1 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 99 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 1.08 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 23.0 sec @ 0.89 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON Not yet tested
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY Not yet tested
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB Not yet tested

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