IF you judge a carmaker’s success by the amount of cash it has in the bank, then Porsche is ruling the roost at the moment. You may wonder how this can be possible. After all, it is a sportscar maker, with minute volumes when compared with the world’s biggest players. Yet now there is the very real possibility that Porsche could end up taking over chairmanship of Volkswagen, and have the controlling interest on this German maker’s supervisory board.
The secret is Porsche’s profit margins, which are said to be about six times higher than those of its nearest rival, BMW. Some have called this profiteering. Even scandalous. But the fact of the matter is that more than enough people are buying Porsches anyway. There is demand. And the prices are not scaring people off. The cars are perceived to be that good.
But are they really? Based on our experience, we have to say yes. Porsche is the only exotic sportscar maker that has the confidence to consistently supply us with test cars. And, practically without exception, they’ve been brilliant. This is a marque that never rests. And the latest result of its constant fine-tuning is the revamped lineup of Boxsters.
The biggest changes are to the range-topping Boxster S, which now gets the 3,4-litre engine that is also used in the Cayman S. Featuring VarioCam Plus valve control, this flat-six delivers 217 kW at 6 250 r/min and 340 N.m of torque between 4 400 and 6 000 r/min. The engine is based on the previous 3,2-litre powerplant and has an identical stroke (78 mm) but the bore is now 96 mm, as in the Cayman S/ Carrera. The cylinder heads are also common, as is the VarioCam Plus valve management system – valve timing on the intake camshaft is adjusted by a vane cell adjuster covering a range of 40 degrees, while valve lift is controlled by cup tappets on the intake side of the engine via an electro-hydraulic valve. The cup tappets are made of two tappet units resting within one another, and are connected, when required, by a pin. Porsche says the benefits of VarioCam Plus are stronger acceleration and lower fuel consumption.
Try as we did, however, we could not improve on the previous Boxster S’s performance figures. Our latest test unit arrived with very few kilometres on the odo, so the engine still had some loosening up to do. We achieved a 0-100 km/h best of 5,68 seconds (virtually identical to the previous model’s 5,61). Top speed is higher and quoted at 272 km/h. The new model also performed better during our in-gear flexibility (overtaking acceleration) runs, and completed the 1 km sprint in 24,72 seconds, compared with the 25,05 of the previous model. We found the newcomer to be slightly thirstier, though, with a fuel index figure of 13,04 litres/100 km. Overall, we’re confident that with more miles on the engine, it would outperform its predecessor more convincingly. That said, from behind the steering wheel, the extra flexibility is easy to pick up.
What will be hard to pick up are any other model year changes, simply because there aren’t any! Well, okay, the coolant and oil filler caps in the boot are now housed together under a lid. But that’s it.
Then again, not much change was needed. Our Boxster S was again equipped with the optional Sports Chrono Package, which includes a special Sports mode for PSM (Porsche Stability Management). PSM incorporates ABS, ASR, MSR (engine drag control), and ABD (automatic brake differential) functions. Press the Sport button on the facia and PSM will allow more slip before intervening. Throttle response is also sharpened up, and the exhaust note becomes even more vocal. An analogue/ digital stopwatch is placed on top of the facia to enable the driver to record lap times and other performance data, by using a lever mounted on the steering column. We suspect this won’t be used much by the typical Boxster S buyer.
If you’ve driven exotica before, the first thing that’ll stand out when you first get into any new Porsche is the unparalleled build quality. And then you’ll notice that the driving position requires absolutely no compromise. There’s good space all-round, and plenty of adjustment on offer from the seat and the steering wheel.
Twist the key and the engine initially sounds rattly, but on the move it smoothes out and emits a much more satisfying tone. The clutch is fairly stiff, which could make traffic driving tiring, but at least there is enough low-down torque, so you won’t easily cause it to stall. This is a car that could be used on a daily basis without much hardship…
But the real reason for the Boxster’s existence is to put a smile on the face of any keen driver. Flex your right ankle and you can pick up three distinctively different exhaust tones as the boxersix sings its way through the rev range to the 7 200 red line. At over 5 000 r/min the sound is scintillating, a rare mix of wailing and screaming. It actually sounds better with the roof up, by the way. Speaking about the roof, it is one of the quickest folding tops around, even if it requires manual release to start off with.
The Boxster’s body is one of the stiffest open-tops in the world, and you won’t need a magazine or press kit to tell you that – it is tangible in the way the car rides bumps and, more specifically, how it handles. The variable ratio steering is superbly weighted, and responds with such precision that it seems as if the Boxster S can be steered via telepathy, it is so sensitive to inputs – don’t sneeze in the middle of a corner! This certainly is no poser’s drop-top, but a serious sportscar.
At R595 000, the Boxster S cannot be described as cheap by any stretch of the imagination. But compared with what else you can buy for similar money, the picture suddenly looks much rosier. There is nothing at the price – except, perhaps, for a Cayman – that comes close to offering the same heady cocktail of performance, dynamic ability and desirability. Now throw in the beautifully wailing engine, the resale value and build quality, and money will be the last thing on your mind. It is often said that perfection is boring. The Boxster S disproves that theory…