Home / Car Broker / Porsche 718 Spyder RS – Sheer Drivability

Porsche 718 Spyder RS – Sheer Drivability

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Things we like

  • A genuine 911 GT3 engine in a drop-top 718
  • Sensibly road-biased suspension tune
  • Still sounds utterly apocalyptic
  • Wider and lower stance gives real presence

Not so much

  • It doesn’t come cheap
  • No manual transmission availability
  • The manual hood won’t appeal to all
  • No carbon ceramic brakes or front lifter as standard

Sit Andreas Preuninger down and ask him to envisage his ideal sports car, and the constituents come together to form something extremely close to the Porsche 718 Spyder RS.

During a chat with Collecting Cars back in 2021, Porsche’s director of GT products was asked what would be the perfect recipe for fast road driving. “I think a sports car in a way that Porsche started its brand, a two-seater, open, lightweight, normally aspirated engine,” he muses.

“Not too big power, because big power means big brakes, big weight. A beautiful shape, a feast from every angle, and with a great sound would be something I would like to own myself. We’ve got a lot of ideas. There are some products coming in the near future.”

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It seems we’re looking at Preuninger’s passion project right here.

We’re in the tiny village of Odenwaldstetten in the Swabian Alb, south of Porsche’s home town of Stuttgart. More specifically, the Hotel Speidel’s BrauManufaktur, which is a bit of a home-from-home for the GT division. It launched the 991.1 GT3 from here, and the 4.0-litre version, and serves as an off-site for team meetings of Flacht’s finest.

The reason? The hills either side of the Danube valley make these some of the best and least-trafficked roads in southern Germany. Perfect for a summer’s day in an open-top car. Except today the weather isn’t playing ball. But more on that later. Let’s dig into the details of this fascinating roadster.

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How much is it and what do you get?

The elevator pitch for the 718 Spyder RS is simple.

Take the lightest mid-engined body available and plumb the incredible engine from the 911 GT3 into it. With 368kW propelling a mere 1410kg up the road, the results are predictably explosive.

Let’s be clear about one thing from the start. It’s not the 4.0-litre engine that we’d previously seen in the 718 Cayman GTS and GT4. That 309kW engine was derived from the 992’s 3.0-litre 9A2EVO unit, enlarged and shorn of its turbochargers, and while it sounded great at the top registers, it was saddled with gearing that was too long (especially when fitted with its ancient manual gearbox) and sounded like a sack of spanners off-cam.

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This 368kW powerplant is a far more exotic piece of engineering.

With rigid valve drives, individual throttle bodies and dry-sump lubrication, it develops a hefty 450Nm, taking it beyond the torque limitation of the old manual box, which is why, despite this being a car engineered primarily for road use, it is sold exclusively with a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch.

You sit low in a car that’s already 30mm lower than a Boxster, the standard Race-Tex trimmed bucket seats positioned so low that it’s almost impossible to prop an elbow onto the door roll top. Choose the optional Weissach Package and you’ll get the option of lightweight magnesium wheels that shave 10kg off the unsprung and rotational masses, titanium exhaust tailpipes and Race-Tex slathered across the top of the dash.

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Given the standard car retails for a heady $336,800 before on-road costs, it’s unlikely that many buyers will be deterred by the extra $22,610 asked for the Weissach Package.

Available exterior colours include four standard paint finishes: black, white, Guards Red and the colour you see here, Racing Yellow. Metallics like Vanadium Grey, GT Silver and Gentian Blue are part of a $6K Special Colour palette that also includes Arctic Grey, Shark Blue and the delicious Ruby Star Neo. There’s also a palette of 115 Paint to Sample hues on offer.

And that roof? We’ve already undergone a seminar on how to erect and dismantle the two-piece fabric roof and, after a little practice, we seem to have it down to a fairly slick 90-second or so operation.

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Slot the header rail into place, locate the rear pins, tension the roof and then ker-chunk the rear into place.

It’s all so satisfyingly ASMR in its mechanical solidity and weighs just 18.5kg compared to the 34.8kg of a 718 Boxster’s electric roof. Plus you have the option of leaving it at home if the weather looks fine and you want to go full lightweight.

There is a secondary piece, a rear weather deflector with a glass window inset, but just fit the Bimini top and you have adequate rain protection while still getting all of the sound effects from what Preuninger calls the Spyder’s “music boxes”, the dual air intakes sitting like ears on the car’s haunches.

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How do rivals compare on value?

Let’s line up all of those 300kW+ open-topped rivals in the $300K-$400K bracket featuring naturally aspirated engines that rev to the heavens and assess their suitability.

There is currently only one and it’s the mighty Corvette Z06, which fronts up with a 499kW powerplant, a detachable roof and a price tag of $336,000 before on-road costs; a mere $800 less than the Spyder RS.

In terms of bang for your buck, the Corvette gives the Porsche a resounding kerb-stomping. There are no two ways about that. It’ll do likewise at the drag strip and on the race track, and this underscores the difference between the two cars. The ‘Vette is a fierce creature, the Porsche one that’s a little more sensual and subtle. There won’t be a lot of cross-shopping between these two.

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What’s the Porsche 718 Spyder RS like inside?

Intimate might be the word. If you’ve become used to the relative spaciousness of, say, a 992 Cabriolet, the 718 Spyder RS feels a far cosier place.

Although there are no rear seats onto which you can fling a bag, there’s 120 litres of luggage space at the back and 125 litres in the front boot, so there is an element of practicality as long as you pack light.

The cabin is well finished, with 918 Spyder-style full carbon bucket seats fitted as standard. Should these prove a little too focused, you can option the Adaptive Sports Seats Plus, which are a little more generously cut and feature 18-way power adjustment.

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You grip a 360mm wide steering wheel trimmed in Race-Tex, with a yellow top band and there’s a decent amount of rake and reach adjustment.

Rather refreshingly there are precisely zero controls on the steering wheel, underscoring the appeal of this car which, in many regards, offers a high-tech take on an old-school formula. Even the gear lever mimics a manual stick.

“On road, I like to steer with one hand and shift gear with the other,” admits Preuninger, which is probably the reason why the Spyder dispenses with the 911’s tiny knurled gear shift tab in favour of something that looks a lot like a manual shift knob.

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If you’re really serious about weight reduction, you can tick a box to remove all of the infotainment

Its action is correct too, with downshifts effected by knocking it forward. “I have no idea why other manufacturers get that wrong,” he tuts in exasperation. “It makes no sense to me.”

Fitted as standard to the 718 Spyder RS is Porsche Communication Management (PCM) and a navigation system that includes Porsche Connect. Car Connect Services with Remote Services, Safety Services, Security Services and wireless Apple CarPlay are also present and correct.

Android users are not so lucky. If you’re really serious about weight reduction, you can tick a box to remove all of the infotainment, which will shave another 6kg off the kerb weight.

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What is it like to drive?

While we might all have our own idea of what the greatest-sounding road car engine is, there can be few to match the Spyder RS’s 4.0-litre for sheer multitimbrality.

Flick up and down the gears and it’s as if you’re unleashing the acoustics of an entirely different engine with every gearshift. At little more than tickover, you’ll hear the intakes behind you slurping away like a salaryman at a bowl of ramen.

The note hardens as you climb, overlaid with a light breathiness that’s reminiscent of an old-school Porsche air-cooled unit until you hit 4500rpm, whereupon a butterfly valve opens in the exhaust as if somebody just knocked the bass fader right up.

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Keep your foot planted and through to 8000rpm there’s a lifting, pure note of induction and valvetrain before everything coalesces into a crescendo between 8000 and 9000rpm.

If you can hit the redline without laughing out loud, you’re dead inside. The way the car shimmies subtly as it snicks home another gear reminds you that it’s alive and urgent, surprisingly analogue.

Porsche claims 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds and 0-200km/h in 10.9 seconds, which makes it a few tenths shy of a 911 GT3. It’s not achieving anything like that on the patchily wet roads of the Swabian Alb, but it is impressing with its sheer driveability. Porsche Active Suspension Management is fitted to the Spyder RS; an active dual-mode damping system. In Normal mode, the dampers feel relatively long-stroke, but automatically firm up when the car is being exercised.

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Alternatively, a press of a button on the centre console switches the dampers into Sport mode, whereupon the car tautens, like a flexed bicep.

In default mode, traction is strong, the ride never crashes on the few bumps we encounter and there’s a reassuringly measured feel to the steering and pedal maps.

The stability control calibration is about as good as it gets and off means off. A front axle lift system is available as a highly recommended $5K option, raising the nose by 30mm to help with negotiating crossovers, drop kerbs and parking ramps.

“The suspension and steering are different to that of the 718 Cayman GT4 RS,” explains Daniel Sprissler, project leader for suspension and driving dynamics.

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There are also some significant aero modifications that diverge from the GT4 RS.

“With that car, we’d optimised the springs and dampers to recover very quickly from being driven over kerbs on a race track,” he explains. “The Spyder RS is a road car, so the spring rates are around 50 per cent less front and rear.

We’ve left the anti-roll bars the same and the steering hardware is the same. We’ve made software changes to the steering map.” Should you wish to tinker, the ride height, camber, track and anti-roll bar can all be adjusted individually.

Some significant aero modifications diverge from the GT4 RS. Without the benefit of the big rear wing, the aero balance has changed. It means Porsche has had to bleed off some of the front aero to compensate.

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There’s a bespoke underbody at the front and the splitter is 5cm shorter so that the car doesn’t feel too pointy at speed, the revised front structures combining with the ducktail rear spoiler for neutral lift.

Gearing has also been shortened compared to the previous Spyder. Whereas with that car 8000rpm in second saw you travelling at 120km/h, this time round there’s a far more street-relevant set of ratios, with 9000rpm in second equating to 105km/h.

Where conditions allow, a top speed of 308km/h is attainable al fresco, although Porsche would prefer you don’t exceed 200km/h with the hood up.

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How is it on fuel?

Porsche claims a combined figure of 13.0L/100km for the Spyder RS, and that’s based on the tougher WLTP regimen.

On a mixed route that saw some spirited driving, we averaged 13.2L/100km, so the official estimate doesn’t seem too far off the mark.

The fuel tank is a relatively small 64 litres, so you’ll need to keep an eye on the fuel gauge if you’re taking the Spyder RS on track, as it will likely have an effective range of around 150km if you’re fully committed. On road, that range will stretch out to a comfortable 475km if you’re a little more measured with the loud pedal.

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How safe is it?

Porsche doesn’t submit its sports cars to ANCAP for testing. Nevertheless, it has built a reassuring measure of safety provision into the 718 Spyder RS.

While we often fixate on crash testing (passive crash protection), an oft-overlooked safety consideration is active crash avoidance – namely how well-equipped the car is to avoid an accident in the first place.

The heart of the driving assistance systems is the Porsche Stability Management (PSM), which marshals the anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC) and traction control (TC).

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The rear brakes on this car are beefier than the front brakes on many sports cars

Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) is also fitted, which nips the brakes of the inside rear wheel on corner entry, sending more power to the outside rear wheel to lend a steering impulse in the desired direction and boosting the feeling of agility. This is backed up by the more analogue appeal of a mechanical limited-slip differential with RS-specific locking values (traction 30 per cent/overrun 37 per cent).

Brakes are huge 408mm rotors up front with six-piston calipers. The rear brakes on this car are beefier than the front brakes on many sports cars – it gets 380mm rear discs with four-pot calipers. Should you wish to upgrade to carbon ceramic discs, well, that’s a $15K option.

The Spyder RS also features full-sized driver and passenger airbags as well as some beefy door protection plus head and thorax side airbags.

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How long is the warranty and what are the running costs like?

The warranty for the 718 Spyder RS is three years with unlimited kilometres.

While three years might seem a bit mean given that much of the new car market has moved to five-year warranties, there’s still a bit of lag at the top end of town. The likes of Aston MartinBentleyFerrariLamborghiniLotus, and Maserati all offer a similar three-year deal.

To keep your 718 in fine fettle, Porsche suggests a $695 annual oil service and an $1110 intermediate service for all 718 Boxster and Cayman variants.

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Would you recommend it?

The Porsche 718 Spyder is one of the most convincing sports cars to come out of Weissach in recent years. It’s a roadster that absolutely understands its remit and executes on it with genuine elan.

We are also witnessing something of a watershed in the company’s history, as this marks the very last mid-engined Porsche with an internal combustion engine.

It’s no great secret that the next generation of 718 will be powered by a pure electric drivetrain, of which the engineers assembled would say little officially, but there were enough nods, winks and nudges to assume that they think it’ll be something special.

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“It sounds like the [3.8-litre] engine of the 991.1 GT3,”

But we’re not here to talk batteries. This one’s all about celebrating one of the all-time great engines. It’s one that Preuninger can’t help but get excited about, his eyes widening as he goes into full salesman mode.

“Rev this engine from 8000 to 9000rpm and you get that metallic edge to it, a really exciting sound,” he chuckles. “It sounds like the [3.8-litre] engine of the 991.1 GT3,” he adds. He’s on record as noting that the 3.8 sounded fiercer than the later 4.0-litre in the GT3 and was keen to bring back that purer mechanical top note.

There’s no need for the hard sell. The car speaks for itself. It might well have been Preuninger’s pet project, and perhaps there is an element of indulgence about both the Spyder RS and the recently announced 911 S/T. You can forgive that when the results are so spectacular.

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He has every right to feel proud of the 718 Spyder RS.

For so long the company had hobbled its mid-engined cars in order to preserve the hierarchy. And with good reason.

But with the impending death of internal combustion in this body, Porsche has thrown everything it knows at this car in a supernova of corporate largesse.

There’s something almost unPorsche-like about the performative nature of the Spyder RS; a GT division product that knows how to let its hair down. There’s a time and a place for buttoned-down rectitude. This joyous demo party is most certainly not that time.

2023 Porsche 718 Spyder RS specifications
Body Body 2-door, 2-seat coupe
Engine Engine 3996cc flat 6cyl, 24v, DOHC, petrol
Power 368kW @ 8400rpm
Torque 450Nm @ 6750rpm
Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h 3.4 seconds (claimed)
L/W/H 4418/1822/1252mm
Wheelbase 2482mm
Track width 1545/1542mm (f/r)
Boot space 245L (125L front / 120L rear)
Weight 1410kg
Fuel / tank 98 RON / 64 litres
Fuel use L/100km 13.0L/100km (combined)
Suspension Struts, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (front) Multi-links, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
Steering Electric rack-and-pinion
Brakes 408mm ventilated/dimpled discs with six-piston calipers (f) 380mm ventilated/dimpled discs with four-piston calipers (r)
Wheels 8.5J x 20 (f) 11.0J x 20 (r)
Tyres Michelin Pilot Cup 2 245/35 ZR20 95Y (f) 295/30 ZR20 101Y (r)
Price $336,800 + on-road costs