In 1973, Porsche introduced its first road car with an RS badge. Five hundred examples of the 911 Carrera 2.7 RS were needed to homologate the car for FIA Group 4 racing, but Porsche sold more than three times that amount. An icon was born.
Every RS model since has followed broadly the same formula: more power, less weight, increased downforce and track-honed handling. But in 50 years, Porsche has never built a convertible Rennsport. Until now.
Ironically, the 718 Spyder RS also marks the end of an era, as the last mid-engined Porsche powered by an internal combustion engine. The next Boxster, due in 2025, will be fully electric. “With this project, the normal limits didn’t apply,” says Markus Atz, manager for Porsche GT cars. “We just went for it.”
Lean and roofless
The Spyder is essentially an open-air version of the Cayman GT4 RS, a car we awarded the full-house five stars in 2022. Its 4.0-litre naturally aspirated engine drives the rear wheels via a seven-speed PDK transmission.
You also get adjustable ball-jointed suspension, a mechanical differential and sticky Michelin Cup 2 tyres. Oh, and a ducktail spoiler – just like the original ’73 RS.
The key differentiator, of course, is what’s above your head. Or indeed, what isn’t. The Cayman has air scoops in place of rear side windows, but the Spyder shifts them onto its haunches, meaning it required a bespoke roof. This stows neatly beneath the Speedster-style humps and weighs 16.5kg less than a regular Boxster’s electric hood. But it does make going al fresco more complicated…
Bring the noise
Before I’m handed the key to a new 718 Spyder RS, the first item on the agenda is 30 minutes of ‘folding top training’. With a German engineer guiding my every move, I unpop the poppers and clips for the rear window, fold it inside a bag in the boot, release the cables tensioning the top cover, roll up the fabric and release it from the windscreen rail. Phew. Then it starts raining and I tackle the whole process in reverse.
With 500hp from its racing-derived engine and a modest 1,410kg to shift, the 718 Spyder RS is almost supercar-quick. Zero to 62mph takes 3.4 seconds and top speed is 191mph – achievable with the roof down, apparently. The dual-clutch PDK ’box is seamless when you’re cruising and brutally sharp when you raise your game. And the fun doesn’t stop until 9,000rpm.
The rain has stopped, thankfully, so I pull over to disassemble the Spyder’s roof (again) before heading into the Swabian hills. Now there is nothing between my ears and the carbon fibre intakes feeding the hungry flat-six. They snort, gasp and bellow like a caged animal inches from the nape of your neck, a metallic howl from the twin exhausts joining in as the revs soar. The onslaught of speed and sound feels dizzyingly intense.
Spyder that flies
Unlike some of its Rennsport relatives, though, the Spyder isn’t a set of stickers away from a starting grid. Its suspension is notably softer than a Cayman GT4 RS, remaining taut but composed over poor road surfaces (that will be most of the UK, then).
Push harder and its mid-engined balance comes to the fore, with lucid steering, rabid throttle response and superb carbon-ceramic brakes to flatter your every input.
Make no mistake, the Spyder isn’t a multitasking daily-driver like a Boxster 4.0 GTS. This is a car to savour on Sunday mornings, when everyone else is asleep (they soon won’t be). A price tag of £125,499 is close to 911 GT3 territory, but this mould-breaking RS has a character all its own.
Tim Pitt writes for Motoring Research
TOP SPEED: 191mph
FUEL ECONOMY: 21.7mpg
CO2 EMISSIONS: 294g/km