Minggu, 01 Juni 2008

Porsche Boxster S Review

By Robert Farago

The English say it's horses for courses. The French say it's horses for main courses. And the German say it's horsepower uber alles Sch├Ątze. Well, everyone except Porsche. Since ’96, Stuttgart’s parsimonious power brokers have restricted their entry level Boxster’s engine so as not to steal big brother Carrera’s thunder. Porsche’s policy stands in direct contradiction to Mercedes and BMW, who happily pump-up the volume on vehicles that need more speed like an obese caffeine addict needs a bottle of Black Beauties. That’s just mean; the Boxster deserves proper motorvation. And now, finally, it’s got it.

Don’t ask me why Porsche suddenly decided to upgrade the Boxster S’ 3.2-liter powerplant with the Cayman S’s 3.4-liter 295hp short stroke flat six. Other than its sexy fastback and slightly stiffer chassis, the Cayman’s extra 15 horses and 15 ft.-lbs. of twist provided the primary justification for stumping-up the $6k differential between the ragtop roadster and its hard-topped twin. Now, why bother? Yes, the Boxster S’ roof generates wind roar at speed. Yes, its body flexes more in the corners (not that you’d notice in any absolute sense). But once you’ve joined the Boxster S club, you won’t spend a femtosecond wishing you’d bought the more expensive whippet snapper.

You will, however, wish you had more road. Unless you’ve got regular access to 50 miles of lightly trafficed, gently policed winding mountain tarmac, you’ll run out of corners long before you run out of desire to wind out the Boxster S’ silky sonorous six. Although there was nothing wrong with the way the “old” 987 carved-up the twisties, the incrementally more powerful Boxster S turns the speed-crazed sublime into the violently ridiculous. Porsche’s roadster is, finally, quick enough to scare you. Until it doesn’t. Which is even scarier. Until it isn’t.

The new model owes much of its aggressive nature to the Cayman’s borrowed gearbox. The shorter first and second gear ratios all but eliminate the Boxster S’ pre-Variocam lag, giving the German roadster Tyson-esque punch a moment after git-go. Second gear is especially useful; in the “instantaneous and abundant thrust” sense of the word. Third gear is relentless; in the ”you’ll be sleeping in that cell over there with Bubba” sense of the word. Equally important, you can now buy your S with 19” wheels. Unless you order Porsche’s pricey Active Stability Management, the resulting ride is as stiff as a triple Stoli straight up. And twice as intoxicating.

In dry conditions, the Boxster’s mid-engine balance, masterful suspension and fat rubber make it virtually impossible to break the rear end loose— leaving you free to explore cornering limits enjoyed by drivers of stratospherically-priced cars prepared by Maranello’s satanic mechanics. If and when you over-cook it, Porsche Active Stability Management steps in and saves your bacon. Switch off the handling Nanny and overwhelming rear grip is still less likely than securing a Manhattan cab in a 3am snowstorm. Drift kings need not apply, but the new Boxster S [still] isn’t about tire smoking machismo. It’s about tripping the light fantastic.

In fact, the Boxster S’ competition better hope that the old saw about a car only being as good as its brakes is wrong. As improbable as it sounds, the new S’ brakes are even better fear reducers than the previous binders. Porsche drivers familiar with the company’s curious clutch engagement now face acclimatization to the Boxster’s initially touchy brakes. It’s worth it; once mastered, the four-piston aluminum monobloc anchors (with new vacuum brake boosters) provide infinitely variable, endlessly reliable retardation.

And one more thing: once the revs crest three grand, the Boxster S’ raspy engine note hardens into something not entirely unlike a jet turbine. It’s nowhere near as addictive as the old BMW M5’s burble and roar, but then an unquenchable penchant for Chateau Margaux is less compelling than a crack cocaine habit (if equally pricey). Now that the M's V10 sounds like a diesel delivery van/F1 racer, there's only one thing better than an allegro concerto con Boxster S: a Boxster S fitted with a MAXFLOW exhaust. Even without the decibel enhancing (kill the spare cat) mods, if you like sex and violins, the Boxster S is your car.

Now more than ever, the higher horsed Boxster S is a more entertaining machine than the 911. Porsche’s $50k and [WAY] up convertible roadster is simply a more willing and nimble dance partner than the company’s ass-engined slot car. The new engine makes the Boxster S (and its Cayman cousin) only marginally slower than a base Carrera, so the 911's diddy rear seats and snob value are its only advantage. Put another way, there's no good reason not to buy a Boxster S (kids when you're caning?) and use the difference to reduce your monthly nut.

It’s a shame that it’s taken Stuttgart a decade to fit their mid-engined marvel with an engine capable of living up to its phenomenal chassis, remarkable suspension, peerless steering and world class brakes. Oh, and for the record, it’s still not enough. I’ve driven a 400hp Cayman. In any language, that car is the very definition of horsing around. Boxster brokers: you've broken the barrier. Now bring it on.