2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder (© Rod Hatfield)Click to enlarge picture

2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder

If there's one thing Porsche wants you to know about its new Boxster Spyder, it's that the sports car is light. The press material handed out here at the 2009 L.A. Auto Show reads like a fitness instructor's survey of his handiwork at Fat Camp clinic on weight loss: A few pounds off here, a dozen more here. Cut weight! Increase power!

Thanks to design elements like aluminum doors (33 pounds lighter than standard Boxster doors) and lower and lighter side windows, and getting rid of heavy, pesky things like the radio and the air conditioning (neither comes standard), the new Boxster Spyder weighs in at just 2,811 pounds — 176 pounds lighter than the standard Boxster, making it the lightest vehicle in Porsche's lineup.

Another significant way the German car builder reduced weight was to outfit the new Spyder with a lightweight cloth "cap," rather than a mechanized convertible, cabriolet-style retractable hardtop. While it does fit snugly, the ragtop does nothing more than keep the rain out (it can't even stand up to an automatic car wash). According to Porsche, the Boxster Spyder is meant to be enjoyed in the open air, not with the cap on.

And enjoyment shouldn't be hard to come by. The Spyder is powered by a 3.4 liter flat 6-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection. At 320 horsepower, it has 10 more horses than the Boxster S, and the power-to-weight ratio of 3.98 kg/hp bests even the 911 Carrera S. Launch Control helps the car sprint from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds (top speed is 166 mph). The Spyder gets Porsche's PDK double-clutch gearbox and has the option for a Sport Chrono Package.

And we haven't even gotten to talking about how it looks. For a company whose design language is measured not from year to year but from epoch to epoch (and, hey, when you're an icon, it's the right move) the Boxster Spyder stands out. Two elongated domes stretch back from the headrests along the rear lid (a third brake light extends between them at their apex), and it skips the fog lights found on the Cayman. The word "Porsche" written along the bottom of the car's sides is a nod to the 908 and 909 racers from the 1970s. The design, though fairly evolved from the original Boxster, can't exactly be called "new," since its stretched, taut stance is reminiscent of the Carrera GT. But, again — this is Porsche. If it looks like a Porsche, especially a mean, getting-down-to-business Porsche — and, man, does this thing ever — they've done their job, designwise.

The open-air roadster will, one expects, be pretty niche; this thing isn't going to stand up to many New England winters. Then again, at an entry-level price of around $61,000, customers are getting a whole lot of German sports-car perfection for a little (relatively speaking) in terms of price.

Look for our First Drive of the new Boxster Spyder soon.