BOXSTER MIXED FORTUNES
Jeremy Laird’s Cayman to Boxster swap was going well until the water pump failed. Speedy action under warranty sweetened the pill, and paved the way for a weekend with a Boxster 2.5, too
Clank, whine, rattle, fizzle... oh hell, what's that? It was upon this very cliff I left you hanging last issue, albeit in a side-column excerpt rather than the full diary-style exposition. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Since last we met, the Box has put quite a few miles under its belt. Over 5500 since I picked it up in July, actually, or about a decade’s worth of typical modern Porsche GT car usage.
Catty remarks aside, those miles included an impromptu sprint to a friend’s house in France and criss-crossing the south of England for various social and domestic duties. I caught the second half or so of what was a completely cracking summer, of course, which made it all the easier to enjoy the Box rather than waste time second guessing my 987-to-986 transition. So, it was probably fitting that just as the weather began to turn that the aforementioned soundtrack kicked in.
Inevitably, it was on an essential journey to collect my sister from hospital. But I knew the game was up. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the noises were ominous. I stopped immediately to be greeted by steam billowing out from the driver’s side rear air intake and a dribble of liquid just ahead of the rear wheel. It was pretty obviously the water pump, which was good because it wasn’t terminal but bad because it meant I wasn’t going anywhere then and there.
Long story short, the AA collected the car and shipped it down to Martin Reed of North Devon Porsche. That process was a little bit painful due to the AA’S policy of treating transport differently depending on whether you remain with the vehicle, and also thanks to the breakdown happening on a Friday. But by Monday afternoon the car was with Martin and all was essentially well. By the end of the week, the Box was back in action.
As it happens, the Box spitting its water pump was also a chance for Sean Dewhurst of Flat Six Classics, who sold me the car, to shine. Which he duly did. The Box came with six months and 6000 miles of internally underwritten cover from Sean. That he was true to his commitment and covered the costs of the water pump was welcome enough. However, Sean clearly
went above and beyond by lending me one of his stock in the meantime, ensuring I was without wheels for as little time as possible. Put simply, one couldn’t ask for more.
That also gave me the chance to get reacquainted with an old friend in the form of an early 2.5-litre 986. Not actually my own old 2.5, which frankly would have been too ropey for the likes of Sean to retail. But a rather nice 50-something thousand mile example in silver with Metropole Blue extended leather. And what a beguiling little car it was.
For starters, there’s absolutely no question there’s that little bit more purity in all aspects of those early 2.5s. They feel every bit the classic car and in a good way. For starters, the cleaner looks with no central air intake up front, plus simple black plastic grilles for the two main radiator intakes and no fussy ‘titanium’ strip around the windscreen, as per 3.2S, is a subtle but definite improvement (in retrospect) over the 3.2-litre cars. Inside, it’s a similar story. There’s no plastic painted silver to make it look like metal and that’s all for the good.
The drive is also unquestionably that little bit more old school. There’s marginally more feedback from the controls and through your bum. You can hear much more transmission whine and road noise, too. Put simply, the whole car feels more mechanical than even an early 3.2-litre 986 Boxster like mine. Of course, my 986 feels more mechanical than an early 987. And so it goes, with each successful generation adding ability but losing a little in the process. Choosing a Porsche, I’m increasingly realising, is all about where you draw that line between capability and character. There’s no right or wrong, just a personal sweetspot.
So did the 2.5 have me hankering for that little bit more involvement? I realise that this will make many guffaw, but I honestly think the little 2.5 has as much charm and merit as a classic car as something like an early air cooled 911S, let’s say the 2.2 for the sake of argument and because I’ve driven a really nice example a little while back. For sure, I’d say the Boxster sounds better and goes at least as well or better. Its steering is as sweet, its shift miles better, if rather loose and long compared to the precise and tight action of my own 3.2.
Look, I’m not saying the Boxster is better than a £150,000 air cooled 911. Obviously the 911 is far rarer and more fashionable. But as a car to drive and enjoy, I’d say they’re simply different rather than one being better than the other. I even think the early Boxster cabin has a lovely classic feel now, especially with extended leather but otherwise with minimal spec as per the 2.5 Sean leant me.
Despite all that, I wouldn’t swap my 3.2 for a 2.5. The 2.5 does put you closer to the machine, but only a tiny bit. You lose only a little in that regard with an early 3.2. In return you get what feels like a lot more than a mere 50hp in terms of the power advantage, plus a generally more solid and together feeling car with a much better shift and, to my ears, a more musical soundtrack at the top end of the rev range. The 3.2, I grant, lacks the 2.5’s delightful low speed whine.
Anyway, it was lovely to be reminded of just how special even an early 2.5 986 truly is. For those that traditionally doubt the 986’s credentials, I doubt any of this will be terribly convincing. For the rest of us who get Porsche’s first unambiguously modern motor car, the 986’s value proposition continues to stun.
Below: Jeremy has managed to put 5500-miles on the Boxster since July. Good going
Completely standard, right down to the ‘fried egg’ headlamps. For how long though?