A Porsche Boxster Spyder in the Wettest Place in North America
Where frost, lake and cloud conspire to thrill—and nearly kill.
Startled by movement, a tiny brown bird bursts from the underbrush. The Spyder instantly snaps it from the air, killing with the casual violence of an ill-domesticated cat. Later, I will pluck a layer of downy feathers from the grille and watch the breeze carry them away. But at the moment, there’s no time for ruminations on mortality; things are happening way too fast.
Here's the measured dose of idiocy. On one end of the spectrum of bad ideas is a workday wasted on Netflix, and at the other end is strapping yourself into a V-twin-powered, British-built bedpan and spending 41 hours and 49 minutes cheating death in pointless record-setting. Somewhere in between, a Porsche Boxster Spyder skitters on summer tires along a frost-rimmed coastal road, flat-six engine honking hard for the top of third gear and momentarily lighting up the rear tires as the car hits a rut.
The idea: to take the most-convertible Porsche to the least-convertible-friendly place in North America. Just up the coast of Vancouver Island is Henderson Lake, which averages 272 inches of rain and managed a record 366 inches two decades ago. To get there, you start out from the stately colonial splendor of Victoria and run west alongside the Pacific for more than 100 miles, ending up at Port Renfrew, as close as you can get by car. It's the wettest spot on the continent, so what better place to try out the big-hearted Boxster with the complicated top?
God loves a fool and he loves an Irishman, and if you happen to be both it's pretty much four-leafed clovers out the arse all day long. It's late November in the middle of a rainforest, but He's thrown away the sun's lampshade and it's eye-wateringly bright from dawn to dusk, not a cloud in the sky.
Handy, as battening down the hatches on this most expensive Boxster variant requires more than just pressing a switch. The old version had a bikini roof more complicated than your high school girlfriend's brassiere; this new semi-electric version is easier, but it'll take more than a fistfull of Mardi Gras beads to get its top down. Push the button, pop the hatch partway, fiddle with the hidden release catches for each of the two flying buttresses, fold and wedge the top into the narrow space, attempt to close the clamshell, discover you've got a wrinkle somewhere, re-stow it, re-close the roof, climb back in and turn up the heat.
It's the kind of thing that could make you perpetually late. Except.
Crammed in the Spyder's guts is a naturally aspirated 3.8-liter flat-six the same size you got in the base 911 before Porsche went Oprah-tic with the turbos. (You get a turbo, and you get a turbo, and everybody gets a turbo!) It makes 375 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque according to Porsche's marketing department, and more according to the pricking of my thumbs and the squashing of my eyeballs.
Third gear is a murderer's weapon in this car. The added torque hauls you up the rev-range, blitzing toward vision-blurring speed any time you can straighten the road out. But in deep sylvan hollows that warmth forgot, it's all crystal-strewn undergrowth and glare-ice to spin you rotten. The drive becomes a dance of shadows and sunshine, rocketing forward on the light-drunk spine of a ridge, then edging through a skating rink with eggshell-fragile inputs.
It's an experience dominated by the bigger engine. Death's pale steed has little time for delicacy; given a sledge-hammering flat-six, every apex starts looking like a nail.
When I get to Port Renfrew, my wind-chapped lips are cracked and bleeding—whether from smiling or just baring my teeth I can't tell. But I have to go back for another bit of recon. And maybe some binoculars to better spot the birdlife.