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The Ghost of Spyders Past

The Ghost of Spyders Past

As Donohue and I sit in the car and wait to go on the track, I can't help but notice the Anniversary Edition's interior. While perhaps not mimicking the stripped down, ready-to-race ambiance of the original 550 Spyder as much as I'd like, the accommodations are quite impressive and undoubtedly well suited to the expectations of today's typical Porsche buyer. Especially noteworthy is the unique dark-brown, Cocoa leather that's used throughout. It also matches the convertible-top color (a black top with gray leather interior is available too). Adding further luster to the Anniversary Edition's cabin is an abundance of silver-colored trim, topped off with a bright-metal, individually-numbered, "50 Years of the 550 Spyder" plate on the center console.

The green light on the starting tree flashes, and with a hearty blip of the throttle and quick lift of my left foot, we're off. The clutch pedal's smooth, easily modulated action serves as the first of many subtle hints at the Boxster's substantial, all-of-a-piece feeling. There are many more such reminders to come.

2004 Porsche Boxster S 50th Anniversary Edition
The car pulls strongly off the line, perhaps aided a little by the Anniversary Edition's extra six horsepower over the standard Boxster S's 258-hp rating. While not exhibiting the burly punch of bigger-engine rivals such as Corvette, the car acquits itself well in this short initial sprint, and we arrive at the first turn running a brisk pace, already in third gear.

Turn one opens to a daunting little kinked downhill section, terminating in a tight bend that looks like it could easily fool the uninitiated into carrying too much speed here. But it's not a problem this time; the Boxster S four-piston brakes haul the car easily down to an appropriate velocity, while the light, communicative steering gives all the information needed to make good decisions about how to best use the car's considerable grip. In fact, the Boxster communicates so well that I already feel confidently at-ease behind the wheel, despite thus far having spent less than thirty seconds on-track with it.

Coming out of the turn, I gradually roll into the throttle, reaching full power as I cross through the safe, late apex I've chosen. "You hit your marks really well," says Donohue. "You've been around here before and it shows." I'm obviously quite flattered, but I can't help but suspect the car's making me look better than I am. Boxster is that sort of machine.

From there we blast all-out into a gradual, uphill bend that basically acts like one long straightaway. As can be expected, there's considerable wind noise as we rise into triple-digit speeds, but it's not annoying.

Throughout our drive, the engine treats us to a symphony that sounds part contemporary megabucks exotic, part vintage Porsche. The pleasing sound is another extra that comes with the Anniversary Edition, the result of an exhaust system that differs from that of the standard Boxster S.

1954 Porsche 550 Spyder
At the end of this fast section is a hump, which obscures the tight turn that lies just past it. As I come up over the crest on the brakes, I work my way down to second gear. The pedals are wonderfully placed for heel-and-toe work, making it easy to do clean, race-track-appropriate downshifts. Also aiding the process is the Boxster's smooth, precise shifter, which on the Anniversary Edition has 15-percent shorter throws than on the regular Boxster S.

I dive quickly into the turn, reveling in the car's composure; the stiff chassis and quick steering ratio are well matched to make for turn-in that's sharp but never twitchy. The car's inherent good balance is evident here too, with barely a trace of understeer.

From turn five we quickly climb a steep uphill, to another somewhat sharp, flat turn. It's just the first of two more, before another at the end of a quick, twisty downhill called the Hurry Downs. Through the whole sequence, the Boxster remains unflappably agile, maneuvering crisply with help from the mid-engine design's low-polar moment of inertia. Our progress through the course's twisty middle portion is undoubtedly also aided by several suspension tweaks that are part of the Anniversary Edition. These include a ride height that's lowered 10mm, and a slightly wider stance achieved by 5mm wheel spacers all around.


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The Ghost of Spyders Past
Driving Porsche's Newest Boxster Model on One of America's Oldest Tracks

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