Hits a roar nerve

Porsche wheels out an­other block­buster ... but the sound­track’s a mute point

Herald Sun - Motoring - - THE TICK -

ALL the num­bers tell me I should be lov­ing the new Porsche Boxster.

It’s a quicker sprinter than be­fore, faster at the top end, has more power, uses less fuel and also has some snappy visual and cabin tweak­ing.

How about those fig­ures: 220kW and 380Nm, with a 4.9sec­ond sprint to 100km/h and fuel use as low as 7L/100km?

The multi-mode driv­ing dy­nam­ics come down from the 911, in­clud­ing the sen­sa­tional “push-to-pass” fea­ture that primes the gear­box and en­gine for a big in­stant hit of over­tak­ing power or for in­ject­ing more smiles into a twisty road.

There are also big­ger brakes, wheels and tyres on the car that’s of­fi­cially known as the Boxster 718.

It’s al­ready a run­away suc­cess with keen driv­ers around the world, who are talk­ing more about the im­proved per­for­mance than Porsche’s move — sparked by fuel econ­omy and emis­sion re­quire­ments — to in­stall tur­bocharged four-cylin­der en­gines in place of the pre­vi­ous sig­na­ture flat-sixes.

So I’m look­ing for­ward to my time for The Tick in a ba­sic 718 con­vert­ible with the 2.0-litre turbo four.

Then I get in, hit the starter but­ton and the 2017 Boxster time-warps me back to my first car. That would be fine if my first car was a Porsche. But no. It was a 1959 Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle, and the ex­haust sound in the new four-cylin­der Boxster is ex­actly the same — to my ears, any­way — as that an­cient Bug. Chugga-chugga.

Some peo­ple say the first four-cylin­der Porsche since the 1980s, when the Ger­man sports car spe­cial­ist had the fron­tengined 924-968 col­lec­tion, sounds like a Subaru WRX. But not to me. And even the Boxster’s turbo whis­tle re­minds me of the noise from the cool­ing fan in that an­cient Bee­tle.

But let’s be pro­fes­sional, dis­re­gard the sound and take a look at a car that is sig­nif­i­cantly up­dated. Porsche claims 80 per cent of the chas­sis and body parts are new.

The body has more creases and new head­lamps, the fold­ing roof still takes 10 sec­onds to op­er­ate at up to 50km/h, and there is a re­vers­ing cam­era in the lat­est in­fo­tain­ment pack­age.

The Boxster has never been cheap and this one starts at $112,800. The ex­am­ple tested for The Tick comes in at $148,380 be­fore on-roads thanks to the seven-speed PDK dou­ble­clutch auto, 20-inch al­loys, ac­tive sus­pen­sion, GT wheel and Porsche crests em­bossed onto the seats. But this is typ­i­cal for a Porsche pur­chase, which is never about the bot­tom line, even though it’s moved up by about $9000 this year.

ON THE ROAD

This Boxster is as sharp as I re­mem­ber, per­haps even more

crisp in the way it re­sponds to the steer­ing, and the turbo four is a blast. It pro­duces huge torque vir­tu­ally from walk­ing speed and there is a real surge of top-end power from the rel­a­tively mod­est 2.0-litre dis­place­ment (the beefier 2.5 vari­ant puts out 257kW/420Nm).

The mid-range surge is the best thing, as in all the lat­est tur­bos, and the seven-speed auto means there is an ideal ra­tio for any sit­u­a­tion. It’s fun to tweak down with the pad­dles for tight turns, then shift early and of­ten to keep the car mov­ing along.

The brakes are great and re­vised steer­ing is even more feel-good than I re­mem­ber, com­mu­ni­cat­ing every­thing from the front wheels.

The roof is just as be­fore and the cabin is much the same, al­though I like the re­vers­ing cam­era and the push-pass but­ton lurk­ing on the good look­ing wheel. The ride is good, even on the 20-inch wheels, and the noise lev­els are fine for the car and class. It can boom on some sur­faces but there’s noth­ing truly nasty.

There is no of­fi­cial safety rat­ing for the Boxster but it has six airbags and elec­tronic safety kit. Some peo­ple will com­plain there is no spare, not even a space-saver, but once again that’s typ­i­cal for Porsche. So we come back to the sound.

To get some per­spec­tive I call a cou­ple of mates with sports cars, one who has an As­ton Martin and an­other with a Lam­borgh­ini, to get their take. Both are em­phatic that the sound is a huge in­gre­di­ent in any suc­cess­ful sports car and they’re sur­prised that the four­pot Boxster has lost the scream that’s al­ways been a six­pack Porsche sig­na­ture.

I take the mat­ter up with Porsche Cars Aus­tralia boss Sam Cur­tis: “Porsche buy­ers don’t care. Sales of the Boxster have never been bet­ter.”

So there.

TICK OR NO TICK

The head says a def­i­nite yes, and so do all the sen­sory or­gans that soak up the de­lights pro­vided by the big num­bers from the new car.

The down­sized en­gine makes sense at ev­ery level but one — the sound — and that should be more than good enough for any­thing ar­riv­ing from one of the world’s great car­mak­ers.

But, for me, it’s not enough. In the end, a Porsche is more about the heart than the head and that means I can’t give The Tick to the Boxster.

Maybe next time, once Porsche has done some tweak­ing of the sound­track.

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