There’s more to life than a lap time. And the 2024 Porsche 718 Spyder RS emphatically proves the point. Porsche GT-division boss Andy Preuninger freely admits the new Spyder RS won’t be the quickest of the 718s developed at Porsche’s in-house hotshop around a racetrack. But after sampling this joyous little roadster on roads snaking through Germany’s scenic Schwäbische Alb, we’re here to say, so what? The 2024 Porsche 718 Spyder RS is the finest open-top street-legal car the company has ever built.
In fact, this might be the finest open-top street-legal car Porsche will ever build. That’s not merely because the Spyder RS is the last 718 to be launched with an internal combustion engine. It’s because that engine is the charismatic naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six from the spine-tingling 911 GT3 and the track-dedicated 911 GT3 Cup racer.
What Is It, Exactly?
The 2024 Porsche 718 Spyder RS is a fitting last hurrah for the internal combustion engine in the German automaker’s mid-engine sports car platform, Preuninger said with a smile on his face and sadness in his eyes. “Building light and powerful roadsters is what Porsche has done from day one,” he said, “and we chose the best engine we think we have for the ultimate roadster.”
Indeed, it did. Though the flat-six makes marginally less power and torque than it does in the 911 GT3, thanks to the different exhaust- and cooling-system layouts dictated by its mid-engine location in the chassis, the 718 Spyder RS engine, identical in spec to that of the 718 Cayman GT4 RS, is a Porsche powerplant for the ages. It makes 331 lb-ft of torque at a heady 6,250 rpm and 493 hp at a race-face 8,400 rpm as it zings to the same dizzying 9,000-rpm redline as in the 911 GT3. Yeah, it loves to rev.
And that’s one reason the new 718 Spyder RS comes only with a short-ratio version of Porsche’s seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission. The transmission’s lightning-quick upshifts and razor-sharp rev-matching on downshifts perfectly suit the engine’s hyper-alert demeanor. The other reason? The manual transmission used in regular 718s can’t handle the GT3 engine’s power and torque.
Brake and suspension specifications also mirror those of the 718 Cayman GT4 RS, with a couple of key exceptions: The Spyder’s spring rates are 55 percent and 43 percent softer front and rear, respectively, with damper and anti-roll-bar settings adjusted to suit, and the ride height is 1.2 inches lower compared with the regular Boxster, while the GT4 rolls 2.0 inches lower to the tarmac than a standard Cayman.
The softer suspension dictated minor changes to the steering setup, as well. “Steering is very much influenced by the stiffness of the springs,” said Preuninger, who explained the Spyder RS’ setup is meant to feel “less darty” than the GT4 RS’ the moment you pull the steering wheel off center. “We have tried to make it as linear as possible,” he said. “I want to feel the forces in the steering rods, I want to feel how much side load, how much lateral acceleration the tire can take before it gives up and goes into understeer.”
Something In the Air
The other big difference between the 2024 Porsche 718 Spyder RS and the Cayman GT4 RS is in the aerodynamic setup. For aesthetic reasons the roadster doesn’t get the towering, fixed rear wing that makes the coupe’s track day intentions crystal clear. Instead, there’s a large ducktail spoiler whose form echoes the original fitted to the iconic Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7. The ducktail produces less downforce than the GT4 RS’ wing, and so to preserve the aero balance, the Spyder RS’ front splitter is 2.0 inches shorter, and the downforce-inducing vanes under the front floor are removed.
Summing up the changes, Preuninger said the development engineers were very keen on making the 718 Spyder RS a drivable road car that can live with lumpy back roads as well as being fun to drive on smooth racetracks. They have succeeded, and did so brilliantly. The 718 Spyder RS may be tuned for the road but it’s scarcely compromised: There are few open-top cars this side of a Lamborghini Huracán Evo RWD Spyder that can match the intoxicating involvement this Porsche roadster delivers.
Drive It, Feel It
It’s not just that the 2024 Porsche 718 Spyder RS will zip to 60 mph in a scant 3.2 seconds and hit 191 mph. Similar to the Cayman GT4 RS, the Spyder RS’ air intakes are mounted outboard of the roll-over bars behind your head—making the 4.0-liter engine sound louder and angrier and edgier that it does in a 911 GT3, like the soundtrack of a classic air-cooled Porsche flat-six race engine played through a distortion pedal and a stack of Marshall amps at Spinal Tap volume.
Also like the Cayman GT4 RS, it’s almost too loud. You won’t want to schlep the 718 Spyder RS along the interstate all day. But that’s not what it was designed to do. No, the 718 Spyder RS is meant for short, roof-down sorties along quiet, winding two-lanes. It has the talent to enable you to drive it as hard as you dare when circumstances allow and the manners to allow you to enjoy the glorious responsiveness of the powertrain and chassis even when loafing along at little more than six-tenths. Either way, you’ll have a big smile on your face. It’s a car you can’t help but love to drive.
True, the GT3 engine, while tractable around town, can feel a little sleepy on the open road if you’re cruising with the PDK transmission in automatic mode and want to pass slower traffic, despite the short gearing that means it’s turning about 3,000 rpm at 70 mph in seventh gear. But nudge the shifter to the left to put the transmission into manual mode, select Sport mode (there is no Sport+), keep the engine spinning at 4,000 rpm or more, and the 718 Spyder RS comes alive.
The PDK gearbox’s rapidfire response means it’s easy to keep the engine in its happy place, and with that 9,000-rpm redline, this Porsche roadster has a vivid 5,000-rpm powerband to work with. “The PDK fits the car almost better than any manual,” Preuninger said, a telling comment from the man whose trend-defying 911R paved the way to keeping the stick shift alive in modern 911s.
The PDK allows you to plunge the Spyder RS deep into corners, left-foot braking to make the most of the abundant front-end grip, and it enables you to go to power much quicker than you can in a three-pedal car. The softer suspension means the Spyder RS feels a touch more composed than the GT4 RS on rough roads and has better traction out of bumpy corners. Yet there’s no noticeable roll, dive, or squat in reaction to inputs from the steering, brake, and throttle. Chassis rigidity is also impressive, especially given the fact the car’s body structure has no additional bracing over the Cayman GT4 RS.
The standard Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires—245/35 up front and 295/30 at the rear, on 20-inch wheels—deliver terrific grip, though when it’s raining you need to be watchful of white lines and standing water. And yes, if you must, you can drive the 718 Spyder RS in the rain. It just takes a little preparation.
Making the 718 Spyder RS’ cockpit weatherproof involves unpacking and unrolling a Bimini top that’s secured to the windshield-header rail with a single clip and to two location points hidden under the rear decklid. Then you clip on and secure a vertical element with an in-built rear window across the rear. Finally, you close the rear decklid and secure the Bimini top’s trailing elements to the locating points atop the air intakes.
It’s a bit like erecting a tent, and Porsche doesn’t recommend exceeding 120 mph with the roof in place, but once it’s all buttoned up, the Spyder RS’ cabin stays snug, dry, and noticeably quieter, too. On sunny days you can choose to put the top up without the rear element, allowing fresh air to stream through the cabin without getting sunburned.
The entire roof weighs just 40.3 pounds, which makes it 16.8 pounds lighter than the 718 Spyder’s soft top and 36.4 pounds lighter than the top on the regular 718 Boxster, which helps the RS tip the scales at just 3,214 pounds when equipped with the $12,570 Weissach package and the $15,640 forged magnesium wheels.
But the roof doesn’t owe its existence purely to weight saving—the greater height of the GT3 engine’s intake system means the 718 Spyder roof simply wouldn’t fit. Necessity was the mother of invention.
“We are always on the quest for the ultimate driver’s car,” Preuninger said of the GT engineering team’s role within Porsche’s R&D operation. “And we have two options: One is something for the track rats, for the enthusiasts that do track days, and the other is for guys like me that are maybe over chasing lap times and just enjoy GT technology in a road car.”
GT technology you can enjoy in a road car: The 2024 Porsche 718 Spyder RS, which can now be ordered from your local U.S. Porsche dealer with an MSRP that starts at $162,350, absolutely nails that mission statement. There truly is more to life than a lap time.
But what makes the 718 Spyder RS even more special is the bittersweet realization that it’s the last of the line, the last mid-engine Porsche roadster with an internal combustion powertrain. It’s a swan song that won’t be forgotten.
|2024 Porsche 718 Spyder RS Specifications
|Mid-engine, RWD, 2-door, 2-pass convertible
|4.0L/493-hp/331-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve flat-six
|7-speed twin-clutch automatic
|3,214 lb (mfr)
|L x W x H
|174.0 x 71.8 x 49.3 in
|3.2 sec (mfr)
|EPA City/HWY/Comb Fuel ECON
|EPA Range, Comb