Boxster comes on strong
Evolution lands in Sicily as Porsche unrolls its puristic roadster, writes NEIL DOWLING
THE road is narrow, wet and muddied by winter rain. It winds its way across the face of the Sicilian hills and becomes more littered with mud, increasingly calling for aid from the tyres and drivetrain. Conditions become so bad earth starts scraping on the underside and pools of water threaten to enter the cabin.
Things would have been a lot brighter if the Porsche Boxster was an all-wheel drive.
A Boxster is made for smooth, open bitumen roads.
Visually this second-generation Boxster — the first was launched in 1996 — looks bigger with its wider tail and sharper nose.
In fact, no dimension has changed. Designer Michael Mauer — ex-Saab — says the idea was to portray a more muscular car without making significant sheet-metal changes.
He achieved its stronger appearance by more horizontal red-coloured LED tail-lights and projector headlights that eschew the ‘‘fried egg’’ pattern once shared with the 911.
The more powerful look is pertinent. Porsche lovers will appreciate the latest Boxster — arriving in Australia next month with keen pricing — is more powerful, faster, more fuel-efficient, has lower emissions and delivers a spine-tingling exhaust roar.
The range remains the same: two models, the Boxster and Boxster S, each with an electric folding fabric roof.
The mid-engine mounting is integral with the car’s name and is paramount in delivering its assured handling.
The Boxster S remains at 3.4 litres but the engine shares nothing with its predecessor. It also adds direct fuel-injection for the first time.
Cylinder dimensions have changed so there is now a shorter stroke and the extra 11kW is delivered higher in the rev range.
Torque is up 20Nm to 360Nm at 5500 revs, compared with the previous engine’s flat rating from 4400 to 6000 revs.
But this is misleading because the engine’s torque is practically a plateau from about 4200 revs before a slight drop near 6000 revs.
Its delivery is also masked by the dual-clutch PDK transmission that is optional — though should be mandatory — on all Boxsters.
The Boxster gets a single rectangular, central exhaust pipe and the ‘‘S’’ has the twin pipes centrally located. Just like the 911 GT3.
Fuel economy actually improves. The ‘‘S’’ is claimed to get 9.6 litres for 100km, compared with 11.1 litres/100km in the previous model.
Performance is up. The PDK version hits 100km/h in 5.2 seconds, compared with the Tiptronic-boxed old model at 6.1 seconds.
At the Boxster’s launch, Porsche harped on weight as being vital to performance. It was at pains to discuss the magnesium roof skeleton, for example, and why it will never consider a metal roof.
The Boxster S PDK now weighs 1355kg, down an impressive 40kg on the previous Tiptronic model.
The standard Boxster also gets the treatment. It has a 2.9-litre engine, up from 2.7, and adds 8kW to 188kW and 17Nm to 290Nm. Both outputs are delivered lower than the previous model.
This Boxster doesn’t get the ‘‘S’’ model’s direct-petrol injection. Porsche says it reached all its targets without using this injection.
Targets included the power output and its impressive 9.2 litres/100km average, down from the old 2.7’s 10.1 litres/100km.
Acceleration of the 2.9 is 5.8 seconds to 100km/h with the PDK version, compared with the previous version’s seven seconds.
All this is helped by the 2.9 getting the same diet treatment as the ‘‘S’’, taking it to 1335kg, a loss of 60kg.
Cabin changes add a better audio system with its 125mm screen and MP3-compatible CD player.
Optional is the Porsche Communication Management 163mm screen and satnav, USB and iPod availability.