Spyder's date with a

sky full of stars

Porsche 718 Spyder at the Dark Sky Park
Porsche 718 Spyder, cabin
Porsche 718 Spyder, side
Porsche 718 Spyder, rear
Porsche roadsters, from left, Boxster T, 718 Spyder and 911 Speedster
Porsche roadsters - 718 Spyder and, in rear, 911 Speedster
Porsche Boxster T
Porsche 911 Speedster

BLASTING a super-powered Porsche roadster at high speed through pitch black upland lanes in the dead of night might sound a foolhardy enterprise.

Especially when the road surfaces are damp, greasy and covered in a carpet of fallen leaves.

But there's a twinkle of light, literally, at the end of this hour-long white-knuckle adventure.

We negotiate a dam traversing the largest man-made lake in the UK, pulling to a halt in a haunting and deserted Kielder Water and Forest car park.

There is no artificial light for as far as the eye can see, until you look to the heavens - and marvel at a celestial fanfare like no other.

This expanse, known as the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, is the darkest in England and the largest area of protected night sky in Europe, on a par with Death Valley, USA.

It is one of the most amazing places to witness on even a partially clear night - while most town and city dwellers can usually spot a few well documented constellations, here the sky is an explosion of stars, comets and planets within our own galaxy and beyond.

It can also prove bitterly cold at this time of year, and plainly time to replace the fabric roof on a mid-engined sports car that even Porsche admits is ‘everything your everyday life doesn't need, but your heart yearns for".

And yearn it does, for the 718 Spyder is a phenomenal piece of engineering.

At its heart is a 4.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine developing 420bhp, capable of revving to 8,000rpm and mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

It is basically the same car as the 718 Cayman GT4, the only real difference being that its stablemate is a hard-top coupe.

But while the GT4 represents the entry-level GT street car from Porsche with credentials suited to the racetrack, the Spyder leans more towards road-based driving.

Both though rely on supreme aerodynamics, a thoroughbred chassis and - essentially - powerful brakes.

The next morning we head off on a succession of long, sweeping and largely empty moorland roads affording spectacular views of the North Pennines and Teesdale valley.

The Spyder has the potential to accelerate from 0-62 in a fleeting 4.4 seconds and is capable of reaching 187mph.

And as we sweep through the bleak landscape the roaring sound of the 718's engine is only matched by the nearby High Force, a 70-ft waterfall crashing relentlessly from a dark ridge.

The Porsche's gearbox also has a switchable auto blip function on downshifts, adding to the soundtrack.

With the amount of power on tap you would expect fuel consumption to be minimal. However the Spyder also features adaptive cylinder de-activation at light throttle load, helping achieve a claimed 25.7 miles per gallon.

After a lunch stop in the picturesque village of Romaldkirk, dominated by the Norman church of St Romald, the route back to our starting point near Hexham takes in one of the most bleak but beautiful roads in Britain, heading north on the B6278 via Stanhope.

Along this stretch the 718 really bares its soul with instant throttle responses, pin-sharp steering and that banshee exhaust scream.

And as we edge closer to normality and rural suburbia the Spyder's road manners underline that, like many other Porsche models, it really is an everyday supercar - albeit one costing a princely £73,405.

The two-day Porsche roadster exercise also provided the opportunity to drive two other models in the shape of the 718 Boxster T and the 911 Speedster.

The latter, a limited special edition 70 birthday series run-out model costing £211,599, has a 510bhp 4.0-litre engine - the most powerful in any Porsche - and can hit 62mph in bang on four seconds.

Like the Spyder it looks fabulous but will take a very deep pocket to secure. With the allocation already sold out the going rate for a ‘used' example is currently around the £350K mark, though one was actually advertised last week for £1million.

The 718 Boxster T, meanwhile, seems a snip at the price by comparison at £53,000 and is designed to be a more hardcore version of the Boxster.

With its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine producing 296bhp, it is capable of 0-62 in 5.1 seconds, a potential top speed of 170mph and with its terrific driving characteristics demonstrates what sensational roadster models Porsche continues to unveil.


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