Boxster comes on strong

Evo­lu­tion lands in Si­cily as Porsche un­rolls its puris­tic road­ster, writes NEIL DOWL­ING

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

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.

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