• Jul 30

    The first time I ever saw a MINI in person was in the late '60s, after I graduated from high school. I visited an import showroom to look at MGs and Triumphs, one of which I had hoped to be my first new car. The MINI was red, with the Union Jack flag painted on the top of it. It looked “veddy, veddy British Invasion,” what with the Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc. being at the height of their powers, and all things British being very cool.

    FAST FACTS
    1. The Cooper S Convertible comes with a turbocharged 1.6L, 4-cyl engine with 172hp, and 177 ft-lbs of torque.

    2. Standard Cooper and high-performance JCW versions are also available with 118hp and 208hp respectively.

    3. The front of the soft-top slides open as well.

    4. The Cooper S Convertible is priced from $27,450 ($36,350 CAD).

    Despite the fact that the Triumphs and MGs were small, this little coupe, with its tiny tires, looked like a bumper car you’d see at the amusement park. When the salesman opened the door, I fully expected to see 10 clowns bouncing out of it. My Dad asked the guy where you inserted the key to wind it up. I’m sure the salesman got a lot of that.

    As we left the showroom (without any of the British models I was drooling over), and got into my father’s huge, slab sided Buick Electra 225, he joked that we could have slipped any one of those “little pieces of crap” into the trunk and carried it home. Now you get the idea why none of those sports cars wound up in my driveway.

    But this past August, MINI celebrated its 50th birthday, a testament to the little car’s appeal worldwide, if never in the U.S., as a basic, fuel efficient mode of transportation. And while the Classic MINI car faded away in Europe in 1999, since BMW resurrected the brand in 2001, they have sold over 1.5 million copies, with the United States being their largest market. I had a chance to spend a week, and a few hundred miles with the MINI Cooper S Convertible, and I have to report, it was a jolly good time.

    TURBOCHARGED ENGINE MAKES 4-CYLINDER A POTENT PERFORMER WITH 172-HP

    The S model comes equipped with a turbocharged 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder motor, which puts out a respectable 172hp, and 177 ft-lbs of torque at a mere 1600 rpm. That contrasts with the standard non-turbo motor, which puts out a more modest 118 horsepower, and by comparison, feels a bit anemic.

    Fuel economy is 26 mpg in the city and 34 highway. I don’t doubt those estimates for normal driving, but it’s hard to drive this car normally. It begs to be driven hard.

    The Mini Cooper S, weighing in at a mere 2,855 lbs., accelerates smartly from a standing start, and the 6-speed Getrag manual transmission lets you take advantage of the all the available grunt the engine has to offer. The clutch pedal is light, and the gearbox is precise, and while I probably wouldn’t choose a manual for my everyday car, I wouldn’t be disappointed if I had this one to deal with. This MINI will reach 60 mph in just over 7 seconds, but it feels even quicker, due to the small size of the car, and how low it sits to the ground. You’ll feel a fair amount of torque steer pulling away form a stop, and powering out of turns, but wrestling with the steering wheel a little bit is part of the charm of the car.

    SPORTY SUSPENSION IS ALSO STIFF

    There is a lot of go-kart feel to the driving experience because of a combination of the short 97.1-inch wheelbase, coupled with the MacPherson struts in front, and the multi-link rear suspension with lightweight aluminum rear trailing arms. And don’t forget the Sport Suspension package that fits more aggressive springs and dampers. The result, however, is that ride quality is quite firm, and can be jarring over sharp bumps and expansion joints. The reinforced convertible chassis is actually 10% stiffer than the coupe, which is the reverse of what you normally get with a convertible. You don’t need to wear a kidney belt, but the Cooper S model isn’t a boulevard cruiser, either.

    The result of all this stiffness and sportiness is that this MINI is a blast to drive in the twisty bits. Outside of that go-kart mentioned above, I can’t recall another car (with a suspension) that corners as flat as this one, except maybe a Lotus Elise.

    The steering is quick and responsive and you can just dart into a corner, even if a bit too hot, and rail your way around it, without ever feeling out of control. And if you should push it past the limit, the car’s Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control, a Limited Slip Differential, will combine to save your bacon.

    In addition, there is a Sport button on the console that, when activated, will provide more rapid acceleration, and tighter steering, and on the automatic transmission equipped cars, will adjust the shift points. I must admit that I couldn’t discern any difference with the button activated or not.

    UNIQUE INTERIOR BEST FOR JUST TWO

    The interior is a comfortable place for the two front passengers to spend time. Head room is generous and the heated leather seats are wide, yet bolstered, and you don’t get that cramped feeling that you do with some of BMW’s sport seats. If you want to include back seat passengers, they better be young children, because even with the front seats positioned for short people, there is very little leg room left for those in back.

    The layout of the controls and gauges is – (oh how can I put this nicely) unique. The speedometer is located in a round, wall-clock sized dial, right smack in the middle of the dashboard, above the center stack, just as it was in the classic MINIs of old. It also houses the radio controls, warning lights, fuel gauge and odometer. Beneath the speedometer are the easy to use heating controls, and then a bank of toggle switches for the windows, door locks, heated seats and fog lights. A similar band of switches is located above the rear view mirror, and those operate the various interior lights, and the power switch for the roof.

    A large tachometer sits in front of the driver and there is a small LED screen inside it that shows various bits of information such as a digital speedometer, clock, thermometer, and the trip info that includes average and current miles per gallon, distance to empty, dual trip meters, etc.

    Just to the left of that round dial is another smaller one called the Openometer, which tracks your top down, engine-on time for up to 7 hours. (A cumulative count is kept in the trip computer). I’d love to meet the guy who came up with that idea and shake his hand. Not that it’s a great idea – I think its stupid – but that guy must be able to sell ice cubes to Eskimos if he was able to get a bunch of stoic Germans to approve putting that thing in their car. German’s are not exactly famous for their whimsy, you know!

    The leather wrapped steering wheel has the cruise controls on the right side, and redundant radio/telephone controls on the left. All are easy to use. Storage space is limited, as there is no armrest console between the front seats, so you’re left with a glove box, and small door pockets to keep small items handy.

    CONVERTIBLE ROOF ALSO RETRACTS HALF-WAY

    The convertible roof is a soft top that features a retractable sunroof that opens about halfway back for those times when the full top down experience isn’t desired. It’s nice, but because it retracts right from the windshield header, there is no pop-up wind deflector, so it’s a bit noisy and creates a lot of buffeting in the cabin. When the convertible top is fully lowered for open air driving, there is a good deal of back draft, and the car didn’t come with the detachable wind deflector, but I’m never critical of the windblast in a convertible because… it’s a convertible and that’s the whole point, isn’t it?



    As for top-up driving, unfortunately, there’s a good deal more noise than I care for, and it’s more than most other rag tops I’ve driven lately.

    The trunk is small, very small, but it is aided by being able to lower the rear seats. Unfortunately, the fold down tailgate opening is so tiny, it’s just hard to get anything into the trunk at all. It’s much easier to fold the rear seats down and load things into the back with the top down.

    THE VERDICT

    The Cooper S Convertible starts at $27,450 ($36,350 CAD) versus the Standard convertible's $24,550 ($29,950 CAD) starting price. If you’re not on a tight budget, I'd spend the extra three grand for the increased performance, and lay off the other options. My test car added the Metallic Paint for $500, the Leather Package, Cold Weather Package, Premium Package, Sport Package, and Park Distance Control to bring up the bottom line to $33,700. If you compare the prices to a Miata Touring, it’s about $2,500 more, although it is about $2,000 less than a Volkswagen Eos. So you’ll have to decide if you’d prefer a more cushioned ride in the Volkswagen or Miata, or if you want to be able to pretend you’re a Formula 1 racer when the roads get challenging.

    The MINI Cooper S Convertible has its flaws, mostly in the ride quality department, but it is a really fun car to drive aggressively on demanding roads. If you're lucky enough to live in places where you can spend a fair amount of time driving on interesting roads, then that might tip the scales in favor of the MINI. I found myself using this car like I do my motorcycles. That is, I had nowhere to go in particular, but I just took it out to find some nice roads to play on, just for the sake of having fun. I don’t usually do that with most cars. Maybe MINI should have scrapped the Openometer idea in favor of a Funometer, but then they’d have to make it count more than just seven hours.

  • Jul 29

    The Infiniti M is brand new for model year 2011. With incredible road manners, a luxurious passenger cabin and superior cargo capacity, it has all the qualities required of today’s luxury sport sedan. The fact it can do it all and carry five people in complete comfort is more than just icing on the cake. It’s the reason why this sedan should be considered one of the finest cars currently in the market.

    FAST FACTS
    1. The new 2011 M is offered as either the M37 with a 330-hp V6, or the M56 with a 420-hp V8. A 7-speed automatic transmission is standard.

    2. Both V6 and V8 engine models can be had with rear or all-wheel drive.

    3. Standard equipment includes the Infiniti Drive Mode Selector that allows the driver to choose between Standard, Sport, Snow or Eco modes.

    4. A $3,650 Sport Package adds 20-inch wheels, a sport tuned suspension, larger Sport brakes, 4-wheel active steering, sport seats, a Sport front fascia and other upgrades.

    4. Pricing ranges from $46,250 to $60,050, plus options.

    MORE PERFORMANCE AND POWER

    The 2011 Infiniti M is available in four variations: M37, M37x AWD, M56 and M56x AWD. Which one you choose will most likely be based on your desire for 6 or 8-cylinder power.

    Featured as the workhorse across the Nissan and Infiniti line-up, the 2011 Infiniti M37 and M37x AWD benefit from the now familiar 3.7-liter, 24-valve V6 used in both the Infiniti G37 and Nissan 370Z models.

    Muscle is rated as 330 horsepower at 7000 rpm and 270 ft-lbs of torque at 5200 rpm. Mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission featuring Downshift Rev Matching and Adaptive Shift Control, power delivery is immediate and smooth.

    While not as quick as the V8, it is speedy enough to get your heart racing and palms sweaty with anticipation. Fuel economy numbers indicate city/hwy ratings of 18/26 mpg for the rear-wheel drive M37 and 17/24 mpg for the all-wheel drive M37x.

    The 2011 Infiniti M56 and M56x AWD models are powered by a 5.6-liter, 32-valve V8 engine. Similar in design to the V6, our spec sheet indicates 420 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 417 ft-lbs of torque at 4400 rpm. Manual shift mode is standard with the 7-speed automatic, a feature we put to the test on numerous occasions during our initial test drive.

    STEERING AND THROTTLE RESPONSE IS EXCELLENT!

    Turn-ins are quick due to vehicle speed-sensitive power steering and making corrections halfway through a tight corner is easy. The independent double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension adjusts well to changing road conditions, keeping the 2011 Infiniti M connected at all times. Options include the “S” Sport Package with 4-wheel active steer, a sport tuned suspension, larger brakes and plenty of other options for those who desire the ultimate in vehicle control.

  • Jul 29

    Silted soil and loose gravel fill a narrow trail cut into mile-high slopes of the Wasatch Range in Utah's Rocky Mountains. The daunting path, lumpy in washboard ripples as it zigzags up the steep grade, shows off the excellent off-road manners of Toyota's compact-class Tacoma pickup.

    FAST FACTS
    1. Tacoma models start from just $16,365 with top models priced at a $10,000 premium.

    2. Two engines are offered, a 2.7L 4-cylinder with 159-hp and 180 ft-lbs of torque, or a 4.0L V6 with 236-hp and 266 ft-lbs of torque.

    3. Regular Cab and the Access Cab models get a 73.5-inch bed, while Double Cab models bring a choice in box lengths with the 73.5-inch bed or a chopped 60.3-inch bed.

    4. The standard tow rating is 3,500 lbs., with V6 models sporting the optional tow package capable of hauling up to 6,500 lbs.

    A WIDE RANGE OF MODELS TO CHOOSE FROM

    For 2010 the Toyota Tacoma is available in three cab sizes, two powertrain choices and 18 different models with options for rear-wheel-drive (RWD) and four-wheel-drive (4WD) traction.

    The Tacoma we're pointing up the Wasatch trail, outfitted with a muscular six-pack of power and sure-footed traction promised from the 4WD mechanism, piles on sophisticated electronic devices for precise vehicle control and also carries a TRD (Toyota Racing Development) off-road package with locking rear differential, tuned Bilstein shocks and 265/70/16 BFGoodrich tires mounted on 16-inch alloy wheels.
    Those electronic controls link Tacoma's 4WD device to the anti-lock brake system and active traction (A-TRAC) and vehicle skid control (VSC) tools, plus an automatic limited-slip differential (A-LSD), hill-start assist control (HAC) and downhill assist control (DAC) systems, making for a capable machine on most any terrain.

    With so many onboard systems designed to keep this truck's tires moving steadily and safely up a rough and steep slope, it makes the challenge an easy task for Tacoma's driver.

    At one point a fallen boulder blocks the hillside trail, prompting us to veer around the barricade in a maneuver that pitches the truck precariously at a canted angle, left wheels hiking high on the hill and right ones in a rut between slope and stone. Despite the slippery grade and a dicey maneuver, our Tacoma trudges forward without tipping, rolling or foundering in what becomes a keen demonstration of its 4WD ability.

    RUGGED GOOD LOOKS ON THE OUTSIDE

    The Tacoma, in any trim, looks tough with an elevated hood, double-bar bumper and massive front grille flanked by big multi-lens headlamp clusters on front corners. Sculpted fenders set off big wheel wells that are rimmed by thick body-colored cladding that dips to form protective sills beneath side doors.

    The 18 different configurations for the Tacoma are based on three different cabin designs -- the two-door Regular Cab and extended-length Access Cab with dual rear-hinged access doors behind front doors plus flip-flat rear jump seats. Finally there’s a Double Cab with four conventional front-hinged doors and a back seat fit for three.

    Tacoma Regular Cab and the Access Cab carry a truck box in back that extends 73.5-inches, while Double Cab models bring a choice in box lengths with the 73.5-inch bed or a chopped 60.3-inch bed.


    Deck and walls of the bed contain composite sheet-molded compound (SMC) that's lighter than steel yet stronger and more durable. The box has a built-in system for two-tier loading of cargo with rails for adjustable tie-down cleats and optional 115-volt powerpoint. And bed rails were designed for compatibility with Toyota accessories, such as cargo bed cross bars, a fork-mount bike rack or diamond-plate storage box.

    The structure underpinning Tacoma is based on a ladder-type frame reinforced by seven cross braces with boxed sections to deliver extra strength and control energy forces unleashed from a frontal or off-set frontal collision.

    Mated to that frame are suspension elements that include an independent double wishbone arrangement up front with coil springs and gas-filled shocks, and leaf springs in back mounted beneath the axle for RWD and above the axle for 4WD in order to increase the ground clearance. All 4x2 models are rated at 8.1-inches of ground clearance, while 4x4’s get a 9.3-inch rating.

    Overall, the setup does an excellent job of delivering off-road capability and yet is perfectly at home on the road.

    POWER AND POISE IN A WORKHORSE TRUCK

    The Tacoma comes motivated by one of two powertrain options, beginning with the entry-issue engine, a dual-cam 2.7-liter four-cylinder plant consisting of a cast iron block with aluminum alloy heads and Toyota's intelligent variable valve timing (VVT-i). It generates 159-hp at 5200 rpm with torque of 180 ft-lbs at 3800 rpm. A five-speed manual transmission is standard with the four-cylinder engine, although a somewhat outdated four-speed automatic is available.

    Toyota's dual-cam 4.0-liter aluminum V6 is also on tap for the Tacoma, pumping a modest 236-hp at 5200 rpm and 266 ft-lbs of torque at 3800 rpm. Transmissions for the V6 upgrade to a six-speed manual or five-speed auto-box.

    Neither setup is overly impressive, but when compared to the competition Toyota really doesn’t have to try to hard.

    Compared to the Ford Ranger the Tacoma does make more power, but at the expense of fuel economy, with 4-cylinder models getting 19/25-mpg in 2x4 form and 17/22-mpg for 4WD versions. The larger 4.0-liter V6 then delivers 17/21-mpg for 4x2 and 16/20-mpg in 4x4 layout.

    Tow ratings for the small truck are quite impressive with a 3,500 lb standard rating that increases all the way to 6,500 lbs with the V6 and a tow prep package. Payload isn’t as impressive with most models sitting in the 1,300 to 1,500 lb range.

    Standard electronic vehicle controls are extensive on every Tacoma trim, with ABS and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) plus electronic brake assist (EBA), traction control (TRAC) and the VSC system. Frontal air bags go to all models, and curtain-style side air bags tuck into headliners above outboard seats.

    NUMEROUS TRIM LEVELS TO CHOOSE FROM

    The Tacoma shows up in several trim grades (base, SR5 and TRD Sport), but also in special editions like PreRunner and the X-Runner. The PreRunner with RWD traction appears like a customized 4WD truck with hiked stance and flared fenders. It comes in all three cab sizes and the four-cylinder or V6 engine.

    Low-to-the-ground X-Runner, a swoopy performance truck with ground effects and hood scoop added and the look of customized drop job, draws its name from x-brace frame reinforcements designed to increase torsional rigidity for handling a twisty set of road curves. The X-Runner strictly conforms to the Access Cab with V6 power and the six-speed manual transmission.

    The SR5 package installs color-keyed overfenders, chrome on the front grille and back bumper, bucket seats in the cockpit with a floor-mounted center console.

    A TRD Sport Package for any Tacoma V6 adds a sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, cabin enhancements such as sport bucket seats and bodywork including a hood scoop and body-color trim.

    THE VERDICT

    Toyota's price chart for the 2010 Tacoma starts around $16,365 for a base edition (RWD Regular Cab with four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual) and climbs to $27,250 for the top truck (4WD Double Cab V6 automatic). All come with an excellent warranty and a solid track record regarding resale value.

    All things considered, it’s no surprise that the Tacoma continually outsells its rivals by a significant margin.

  • Jul 28

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    Students from the Tennessee Technical Center in Nashville work on the Infiniti QX56 engine.

    By: Jake Lingeman on 7/28/2011

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  • The Infiniti QX56 is already a land yacht. Its 400-hp V8 can push the three-ton SUV with aplomb, even stacked to the gills with people and stuff, or with a boat attached. And what would go best with a big, gaudy towing vehicle? A big, fast powerboat.

    The automaker partnered with students from Tennessee Technical Center-Nashville and Nashville State Community College to install the QX56's 5.6-liter engine and seven-speed transmission in a powerboat. It's up to the students to figure out how to do that. The rest of the vehicle was donated to the Tennessee Technical Center for use in its auto shop.

    "The genesis for the Infiniti QX-powered luxury-boat project came about when a group of us were talking about our full-size SUVs standing as the perfect luxury tow vehicle," Infiniti Americas vice president Ben Poore said. "So, what better object to tow than a boat custom-outfitted to QX-inspired standards."

    The assignment involved not only extracting the engine and transmission from the QX, but figuring out how to make it work on water. The starter motor and engine-control unit are also being used, but items such as power steering and the air-conditioning unit need to be deleted. Engineers from the nearby Nissan plant in Decherd, Tenn., lent their experience to the job.

    The project is set to debut by the next boating season. Infiniti will provide updates on its Facebook and Twitter pages along the way. Fans and friends will be invited to name the cruiser when it's finished.

  • Jul 28

    On a narrow offshoot of a road somewhere near Carmel Valley Road in Monterey, CA, I’m absolutely hammering on the Porsche Boxster Spyder and simply couldn’t be having more fun. In town for the Pebble Beach festivities, my weekend is spent in everything from a Corvette Grand Sport, to a Porsche Turbo S to a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. And yet this Porsche delivers the most smiles and is the one that I find myself gushing about to anyone who will listen.

    FAST FACTS
    1. A direct-injection 3.4L flat-six makes 320-hp, 10-hp more than the Boxster S.

    2. Standard with a 6-speed manual, an optional PDK dual clutch setup and Sports Chrono Package will deliver a 0-60 mph time of 4.8 seconds.

    3. With a 2,811 lb curb weigh, the Spyder is 176 lbs lighter than the Boxster S.

    My tales of lateral g forces and smiles as wide as the choppy asphalt I’m riding on are met with the same skepticism by everyone. “The Boxster? Really?” they say, my comments so incongruous with their preconceived notions of the soft-top poseur Porsche that they simply refuse to accept my tales of canyon carving grandeur.

    But from behind the wheel and on these lonely roads the Spyder is as far from the standard Boxster as the GT3 is from the Carrera. And that’s saying a lot, as apart from the Boxster’s perception, it’s as well-balanced and dynamic a drive as they come.

    LIGHTER AND MORE POWERFUL

    Weighing 176-lbs less than the standard Boxster S and with 10 extra horsepower, it’s as though Porsche decided to start building Lotuses. The difference, however, is the engine and transmission in this car. Instead of using donor parts from Toyota, it’s pure Porsche and it shows. The shifts are smooth and precise, the powerband is broad and yet perfectly linear in the way that only a naturally aspirated engine can be.

    All 320 horses come on at 7200 rpm, which is 950 rpm higher than in the Boxster S and the added revs make for added fun. Also important in invigorating the driving experience is the Sports Chrono Package that includes a Sport button on the dash that delivers more sensitive throttle response. Those who opt for the PDK and Sports Chrono Plus package will get a Sport Plus button that not only offers improved throttle response, but also adds quicker shift times and new shift points.

    The sound is also intoxicating with enough resonance from the raspy growling flat-six coming into the cabin to really let you know the engine is right behind you.

    CUSHY AND COMFORTABLE IT IS NOT

    After my thrilling joyride I informed a Porsche rep of my Lotus analogy, to which he responded that the Porsche, unlike a Lotus, is also comfortable. As he said this my train of thought came to a halt with the force of some carbon ceramic rotors. Comfortable it is not.

    Sure, it’s not brutalizing, but the stiffer and lower (0.8-inch lower) suspension is seriously firm and you’ll feel everything from suspension joints to hairline fractures in the pavement.

    Compounding the interior experience are racing seats with a lower structure that isn’t just stiff, but solid. My 34-inch waist fits with only minimal room to spare and those with less-than sleek frames should be weary. Surprisingly, they’re actually incredibly comfortable and the lower and side bolstering is certainly necessary for the sort of driving you’ll do once behind the wheel.

    With leather sides, grippy Alcantara seat inserts and bright red seat belts, the car’s race-inspired theme is obvious. Also of note is the three-spoke steering wheel and red door pulls rather than door handles.

    Outside, the Spyder gets numerous unique design cues inspired not just by the classic 1953 550 Spyder, but also the Carrera GT. Most notable are the rear bulges on the decklid. And helping make the roadster look longer and larger than it is are shorter side windows.

    THRILLING ACCELERATION AND HANDLING

    And the Spyder’s fun factor isn’t just limited to the twisties. Straight line acceleration is brisk. Sure with “only” 320-hp from it’s direct-injection 3.4-liter flat-six it’s no ferocious exotic, but it goes nonetheless with a 0-62 mph time of just 4.6 seconds when equipped with the optional PDK dual-clutch transmission and Sports Chrono Package. My test model was fitted with an old fashioned 6-speed manual transmission (delivering a 4.9 second 0-60 mph time) and as much as I love and respect Porsche’s PDK, I wouldn’t have this car any other way.

    Combining the balanced chassis, stiff suspension, precise steering and perfectly sensitive throttle with a real stick and pedal makes for a classic motoring experience that’ll deliver the most smiles. Plus, while it might not be the most efficient, a properly executed heel-toe will have you feeling fully in control of this masterful piece of German engineering. It’s the sort of feeling that let’s you know you didn’t just earn this Porsche, but that you deserve it.

    On the canyon roads with the Sport button pressed, the car reacts perfectly to each and every input while a new program for the Porsche Stability Management (PSM) allows just a little extra slip. The stiffer suspension, limited slip differential, reduced curb weight and lower center of gravity accentuate the Boxster’s already well-balanced dynamics. Possibly even more amazing is that with such a firm spring and shock combo the car still grips the rippled and pot-marked road that’s a far cry from the glass smooth surface of a racetrack.

    The solitary complaint we have about the Spyder’s driving experience is in the braking department. The brakes themselves did actually operate admirably, but initial bite was lacking.

    SILLY SOFT-TOP, BUT IT’S WORTH IT

    Then there’s that soft top – which has drawn criticism from other writers and even caused some to discount the Spyder as a foolish vehicle altogether. Not comfortable referring to it as a convertible roof, Porsche instead says it’s merely a sun shade, hinting that it’s only designed to keep your leather seats from baking in the sun.

    Tales of its absurd complexity to operate are accurate. While a Porsche rep said an owner who’s familiar with the setup should be able to assemble the contraption in a minute, newbs will certainly look foolish fumbling with the many tie-downs, clasps and tensioners. And the time it takes to install will feel exponentially longer if you’re caught fumbling in the rain while everyone else runs inside the Starbucks chuckle at your misfortune.

    The reason for this ridiculous setup is to keep the vehicle’s weight down. With it there’s no heavy folding top mechanism and Porsche even went so far as to make the piece that connects to the windscreen surround out of carbon fiber.

    THE VERDICT

    But it’s all worth it for a Porsche that’s this light and this raw. And the criticisms are mostly irrelevant anyway as it’s highly unlikely anyone who purchases this car will use it exclusively as transportation.

    Pricing is set at $61,200 – a very reasonable $3,200 premium over the Boxster S. But the models almost can’t be compared as the Boxster S is significantly more functional (not to mention vastly more comfortable) as a daily driver.

    The Boxster Spyder is a toy, pure and simple. It’s designed for drivers and meant to be driven. Will it hold two weekend bags for you and the wife? Who cares? You’re not going to want to share the Boxster Spyder with anyone anyway and the way it’ll possess you to drive will ensure no one will want to be your passenger twice.