On paper, the Boxster RS 60 Spyder might seem nothing more than a limited-edition Boxster with some interior upgrades, a slight horsepower bump over the S model and a name picked from the company's rich racing history.
Let's first take a look at the car's historic name. In 1960, Porsche's mid-engined 718 RS 60 won both the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Targa Florio. Historic pictures show it as a silver car with a red leather interior, much like the 2008 Boxster RS 60 Spyder I took around Barber Motorsports this week.
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Photos Copyright ©2008 Chris Tutor / Weblogs, Inc.
On the street it won't be easy to distinguish one of the 1,960 RS 60s from its more common Boxster S siblings. RS 60s wear revised front spoilers, 19" SportDesign wheels with 5 mm spacers and all-red taillights. The really observant might notice the Boxster S script on the rear deck is chromed instead of matte silver and so are the roll hoop covers. The car's standard sport exhaust is also noticeable because of its two round tips instead of oval outlets. Inside, the stainless steel door sill plates are emblazoned with the RS 60 Spyder logo, and there's an authenticating plaque below the passenger airbag.
The interior gets Porsche's "full leather" package, which includes Carrera Red leather on the door panels, dash, center console and sport steering wheel. The Boxter S gauges are topped with a crescent hood while the RS 60 loses the cover, and, in my opinion, gains a nice retro touch. Gauge faces also get the car's GT Silver Metallic paint to coordinate with silver seatbelts and seat backs.
On a track, though, you're more likely to hear that sport exhaust before you see it. On the car's first lap around Barber, everyone's attention was focused on seeing what car was lapping. At speed, the Porsche's pipes open up and the sound changes from refined sports car to snarling Germanic wail. Tim Cupp, Porsche's product manager for sports cars, says the sport exhaust is available on other Boxsters, but only raises the volume. On the RS 60, it helps the car take advantage of a re-worked engine management system, which adds eight horsepower.
On paper, that's not worth the extra $9,200 you pay for a Boxster RS 60 instead of an S. Not even if the RS does have a luxurious-looking digital/analog timer atop the center of the dash. But in the right hands on a track, the GT Silver Metallic drop-top comes to life and quickly proves that red interior bits on a Boxster S an RS 60 does not make. At least that's what the Porsche guys told me.
So I eagerly jumped behind the wheel of a regular 2008 Boxster S with accomplished racer David Murry in the passenger seat and did three very quick laps around Barber's nicely landscaped 16 turns. The track, as usual, was beautiful. My driving, as usual, wasn't. I missed apexes, turned too early, braked too soon, but kept it out of the rough. The acceleration from the S's 295-horse 6-cylinder was phenomenal. The handling was way beyond anything I was capable of exploring. The S's Porsche Stability Management System usually took a nap during my laps.
My first two laps in the RS 60 Spyder were just as timid and badly done, but I could feel more low-end torque. I could also tell that the car's suspension had even more body-roll-controlling ability of which I wasn't taking advantage. I think. On the third lap, Murry invited me to take the tach past 5,000 at least once. No, not invite, gently prodded. He's a very patient man, by the way. He prodded me, in fact, to exceed 6,000 RPM to see just what happens in the engine's sweet spot. Inside, things got loud. Outside, they were blurry. And the yellow "BRAKE" sign trackside got closer much quicker than on the last lap. My grin, I'm sure, was wider than turn 7, which we were in, and for which I, again, braked too soon.
I obviously needed a pro to tell me the difference in the two cars. Murry was more than happy to trade seats and give me his opinion. The Boxster S, he said as he shifted from third to second to accelerate out of Barber's tight turn 5, had a mostly linear power band. He then proceeded, in third gear now, to tell me as he demonstrated that the RS 60's power spikes between 6,000 and 7,200 RPM. That must have been what the tach was indicating at that point because I couldn't hear a word he was saying over that sport exhaust three feet behind us. He braked exactly when he needed to for turn 7, showed turn 8 who's boss and rocketed down the back straight almost exactly how I did not.
For a track car, Murry says he'd choose the RS 60 over the more common S. The choice is even easier with the RS60's Porsche Active Suspension Management system, which makes a big difference in the car's handling by allowing greater slip angles, stiffens the dampers and gives more dynamic accelerator pedal response. And the RS 60 is still a Boxster that gets 26 mpg highway, has enormous trunk space for a convertible and can be used as a daily driver.
P.S. As the cars were being loaded onto the trailer to go home, the RS 60 belched out a big cloud of gray smoke. No one seemed too concerned, so I asked around what might be the problem. Apparently, the RS 60 was barely broken in with just over 3,300 miles on it. After being the most popular car all day, it had sat while I took photos of it and oil had gotten in places it didn't belong. One of the fleet managers asked that we suggest to new Boxster owners to be careful not to overfill their cars with oil and there won't be a problem. Consider yourself warned. Before you go crying foul play, we checked with a few Porschephile friends who say that it's perfectly normal for flat engines to do this upon startup for a brief second.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Chris Tutor / Weblogs, Inc.