Some people like to impute human characteristics to their cars. Others, like me, prefer a more analytical approach based on the facts before them. And so this brings me to my dilemma. The facts before me are that in the new 2007 Boxster S, Porsche have produced something that you would not want to leave alone with your wife for too long at a party. Rakish, suave, powerful and well equipped with that all important dangerous side to complete the appeal.
The design goals that Porsche actually had for the new Boxster probably looked far more prosaic and typically German:
- Increase engine size
- Implement VarioCam Plus technology
- Increase power from 280bhp to 295bhp
In layman’s terms what they did was:
- Steal the engine from Cayman S
- Improve fuel efficiency
- Make the car much more fun to drive
The demo car provided by those nice people in Stuttgart was the Tiptronic edition of the Boxster S – a 5-speed automatic with manual override on the steering wheel. A 6-speed manual is also available and probably even more fun to drive but not half as clever as this baby. Space does not allow for a full explanation of the automatic gearbox but the car basically learns from your driving style. A “Sport” mode can be manually selected but just a few rapid throttle inputs throws it there anyway allowing the gear changes to get closer to the red line than the normal driving mode. This is very important when the desire takes you to turn everything in front of you into small specs in your rear view mirror in short order. Also in this mode, gear changing is suppressed during cornering and a nifty incline sensor improves uphill gear changing and downhill engine braking.
A mid-engined layout with rear wheel drive is God’s recommended sports car design. The Boxster has both melded to a chassis that is unchanged from the 2006 version and all the better for it in my opinion. Balance, poise and grip by the bucket load result from this divine piece of engineering. All this is topped off by an exhaust note that starts with a suggestive “burble” at idle, quickly passing through “angry growl” up to “full on roar” as the Porsche fires from 0-60 in around 6.1 seconds (auto) or 5.4 seconds in the manual.
So, as Jennifer Aniston used to say, that was the science bit. Actually driving the car is a joy and my chance came on a road trip from home in Brussels, via Stuttgart (to pick up the car) and on to Monaco for that weekends Formula One Grand Prix. Everything was arranged, perfect car, perfect route (through Bavaria, into Switzerland crossing the Swiss and Italian Alps on the way into France) and a wife who had agreed not to scream too much!
The first section of German autobahn that took us to the Swiss boarder was largely without speed limits and so allowed for an examination of the cars top speed. Sadly, it was also not without traffic and so I was only able to record (a still respectable) 154mph but given the half inch of throttle play left, I’d say the car was at least good for the 164mph claimed by the manufacturers.
Following a healthy sprint along the Swiss motorways, it was off up into the mountains for some quality time. I defy anyone to push this car hard and not grin like a fool. The car likes the straights but it loves the bends and the warning chevron signs leading into them only seem to provoke it. In fast, out faster is the maxim here and this car can do it with attitude and style. Hikers freeze in shock as the Boxster screams past or leap into the hedgerows to escape what must sound like an incoming missile attack. The 4 piston brake callipers grip the all round ventilated disks hard and have enough stopping power to save you from most situations where your driving skill and ambition are not always that closely aligned (in English – you screw up). Ceramic brakes are an option for this model but my thrash through the mountains produced no noticeable signs of brake fade so these may be overkill for most people.
Overtaking on these kind of roads is what this car was built for and the mere act of doing it exposes you to the full panoply of what this car does best. You line up your victim, floor the throttle, feel the rear end sink just a fraction and then hang on tight as the car flies past the one in front, snarling as it passes. Some people have said that the engine is bit noisy – which is really like saying Kiss or AC/DC are a bit noisy – that’s the whole point! In reality, inside the cabin, engine noise is well controlled despite the engine being just behind your shoulder. We pulled into our Swiss hotel for the evening and I parked the car. 30 minutes must have passed before the stupid grin finally faded along with the suspicion that, for the entire drive, the Boxster had been trying to look up my wife’s skirt!
Along the coast from Albenga (Italy) to Monaco the two lane highway runs through the edge of the mountains as they fall dramatically to the coast. Tunnel follows bridge follows tunnel as the road winds its way west through stunning scenery to Monaco. With the top down, you can enjoy the full sense of speed that the car gives you. With the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) enabled and the suspension tweaked, you can still feel every nuance of the road while retaining the ability to drive the car for more than 2 hours without consigning yourself to a wheel chair. The driving position is good and you don’t have to lie back the way you do in certain other (Italian) cars I could mention. It’s more dentists chair than operating table if you know what I mean.
The turn off for the tiny principality arrives in an obscenely short period of time. Leaving Switzerland and arriving in Monaco were two events so close together in time as to seem almost continuous and although pure male pride makes me want to share with you the average speed recorded on the Boxster’s trip computer, fear of extradition keeps me silent.
The quality of the interior finish is outstanding (take a look at the stitching on the leather door panels) and most of the usual toys are there. Some more attention to the Porsche Communication Management system would not be wasted as it is currently about as intuitive as a government tax form and don’t get me started on the GPS.
What this cars does, it does well – exceptionally sometimes. Because Porsche got the fundamentals right with the Boxster (i.e. engine in the middle) all the other improvements they have made are now shown to their full effect so from an engineering and performance angle, for the price, there is little to fault.