With apologies to Lamont “Big L” Coleman, but I’ve been waiting to use the hackneyed version of his famous punchline for some time. The only problem is that TTAC and Porsche are frenemies at best, adversaries at worst, ever since one of our resident Porsche owners said unkind things about the Panamera.
But so much of life is not what you know, but who you know and while Brendan manages to get Porsche press cars due to his ruddy good looks (or being an AJAC member), I managed to weasel an invite to the customer launch of the 2013 Boxster, thanks to my old friend Robert Burgess of Downtown Porsche in Toronto. In 2003, Robert was with an uptown BMW dealership, and sold my Dad one of the last E39 5-Series cars to come to Canada, and moved on to Downtown Porsche not long after that. Both Robert and I have failed to convince the elder Kreindler to make the leap into a P-Car, but we’ve kept in touch throughout the years.
Attending a customer event wasn’t much different from attending one of the journo-circuit shindigs. One could argue that it was better. My drive partner on this event was a gentleman who spends half the year in Toronto and half the year working as an innkeeper in Provence. You won’t find someone so interesting when PR types invite every Twitter user with more than 500 followers. Rather than be put up at a fancy hotel, I got to go home to my Beanie Baby collection and Wiz Khalifa posters. Of course, there was somebody wearing Piloti driving shoes. There always is.
Within two minutes of our introductory briefing, the Porsche pro drivers were giving us a tutorial on proper seating position. Anyone who has read Jack’s Avoidable Contact series will be familiar with these instructions. Since you don’t need to hear “hands at 9 and 3″ again, we can go over the big changes.
Our testers only came one way; Boxster S mit PDK. Weighing in at 2970 pounds, the 981 S is down slightly compared to the 987, but keep in mind, the wheelbase is 2.4 inches longer, while front and rear tracks are up and rigidity is increased by 40 percent. Porsche reps touted the elevated center console, which they claim was inspired by the Carrera GT and 917. Personally, I think it looks more Cayenne or Panamera inspired, and it shares something in common with the Ford Taurus; it leaves the cabin feeling a bit cramped due to a lack of space for the driver’s right leg. Everything inside is beautifully finished, and memories of the barely acceptable cabins of early water-cooled P-cars are a distant memory. Until you try to use any of them.
Before we depart, one of the drivers comes over, and asks us to “turn off Sport Plus, keep stop-start on, don’t hit the suspension button just yet – oh, you don’t have sport plus. Nevermind”. Wait, what? Stop-start? Evidently, I zoned out during the marketing speech about Porsche’s “commitment to efficient performance”. Credit is due to Porsche for designing the cabin in such a way that all the buttons and switches are elegantly laid out in a way that won’t make your head hurt. I kind of wish they weren’t there in the first place.
The 981, like the 991, and the GT-R and a lot of other cars coming out today, are designed to minimize the once inherent compromises that came as an integral part of owning a fast car. Don’t think the throttle is quite responsive enough? Hit the “sport” button. Want to make a claim on our dental plan? Hit the button below “Sport” to stiffen up the shocks. Want to save a minute amount of fuel and C02 emissions over the course of the year? Turn on the auto-start-stop. Automated dual clutch gearboxes and fast-folding soft tops are soo last model-changeover.
When it comes to outright pace, it’s impossible for this hack to mock the 981. This is a seriously fast car. Our upcoming Hyundai Genesis Coupe video review will show that Jack’s 2004 Boxster S is roughly as quick as a brand new Gen Coupe 3.8 Track. The list of cars that a 981 S would leave for dead is longer than Manute Bol. I’d even wager that a Boxster S would hand a CTS-V or an E92 M3 its own ass in a straight line. It might even be a match for a pre-2011 Shelby GT500 – while the Shelby ‘Stang gyrates under hard acceleration, the 981 simply sets course for straight ahead, and lets the flesh around your eyes peel back, Clockwork Orange-style, as the 3.4L boxer emits an utterly belligerent growl.
Before we forget about the armchair auto critics, let’s discuss the much-feared electric steering system in the new P-Cars. Let me put it this way; if nobody told you that the 981 had EPAS, you wouldn’t know it. Maybe it does sacrifice some outright feel, but with a chassis this communicative, you either have to be a real racer or a hopeless pedant (or both) to really notice or care.
Our street drive was good for sussing out just how the Boxster behaves on public roads, but this car is ultimately wasted on anything that doesn’t have Armco barriers. Porsche was kind enough to set up a handling course in a giant parking lot for us, and while I aced the slalom, I totally screwed the pooch on the “emergency braking avoidance” exercise where we accelerate full throttle, and then brake and steer at the last moment in a direction of our passenger/instructor’s choosing. The first time, I did a daring right/left transition when the instruction said “Brake right”. The second time, I knocked clipped two cones. Blame target fixation and my lack of spatial awareness. I am confident that the Boxster has what it takes to avoid killing small animals that run into the road. As long as someone else is behind the wheel.
Downtown Porsche provided a Boxster S and enough fuel to rip around the back roads of Toronto for 90 minutes. Robert Burgess at Downtown Porsche extended the invitation to myself and TTAC. He can be reached at 416-603-9988