KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 — A while ago we heralded the arrival of the 718 Porsche — it comes with a new series of flat four turbos instead of the flat six naturally-aspirate. The 718 engines, and said that it would open more doors to Porsche ownership with down-sized capacities of 2.0 and 2.5 litre engines, but turbocharged to provide even more power than the larger capacity engines they replace, it means lower and more affordable road tax in Malaysia. The 718 Porsche refers to the Boxster and the Cayman, which are the entry-level Porsche models, and this time, we were given the 718 Boxster S to tame for a day.
We needed a road that had lots of corners, wasn’t too busy, and wasn’t too far away from Petaling Jaya, and so it was to Berjaya Hills that we went. From the Porsche Centre in Glenmarie, we took the ring road to the eastern side of the city and joined the Karak Highway that links the East Coast to civilization.
The Boxster S was recently introduced in Malaysia, and is a mid-engined soft top roadster. It seats only two, and is the higher end variant of the base Boxster. Whilst the Boxster comes with a 2.0 litre turbo-charged engine delivering 300 horsepower (which is awesome already), the S comes with a 2.5 litre, also turbo-charged engine that delivers 350 horsepower.
It’s been twenty years since the first Boxster was introduced — With this new generation Boxster, Porsche has re-designated the model series the 718 — Porsche is revisiting the concept of the legendary 718 mid-engine sports car of the 1950s and the 1960s. With its lightweight construction, strong four-cylinder flat engine and a precise chassis, it won numerous international races of that era.
In its driving dynamics, the new roadster the Boxster follows in the tracks of its ancestor — with a completely retuned chassis, handling and cornering performance is enhanced. For the Boxster S, Porsche offers PASM sport suspension as an option. This includes a 20mm lower ride height and much tighter turning in Sports mode.
On the road, you can drive the Boxster S sedately if you like — it is not one of those thoroughbreds that you have to push at high revs all the time — your mother can take it to the supermarket if she so wishes, and she might even achieve the rated fuel consumption of 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres. If you need power, all you have to do is just step on the accelerator, and the 350 horsepower is delivered with 420Nm of torque. You don’t even have to worry about the gears, as the 7-speed PDK automatically takes care of that department. For the record, the Boxster S (with PDK) does the zero to 100km/h sprint in 4.2 seconds and can hit a maximum speed of 285 kilometres per hour. There are several driving modes that you can select at the touch of a button.
We kept the drive mode on normal whilst on the highway, and it was quite a pleasant drive up the mountain towards Genting Sempah, and then through the tunnel and down towards the Berjaya Hills. It was with effort though, that we stayed close to the speed limit, because it is so, so easy to go beyond — the 350 horses is all there, raring to be unleashed, but rules are rules.
If you like, you can use the paddle-shifters, mounted conveniently on the steering wheel, and we did exactly that once we got onto the Berjaya Hills stretch of road which winds up from the guardhouse at the entrance all the way up to the Berjaya Hills golf course. There are two ways up the hill, a choice of either a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction — most people go up in a clockwise direction and come down the other side, so we took the same option.
The best way to test the Boxster S was to do it on the way up the hill — this way, we get to sample the massive 420Nm torque that this engine produces, and also check out the cornering dynamics without having to worry too much about braking, not that the brakes are potentially problematic — it’s just that the driver has less things to worry about.
This Boxster S took to the hill climb like a duck to water — as promised, the chassis tuning was superb — it features all wheel independent suspension, made up of McPherson struts all round, with un-sprung weight kept to a minimum with generous use of aluminium parts. The test car came with Sports Tuned suspension and PASM, and cornering was assisted even more by the Torque Vectoring system on board. Whereas a normal transaxle would get drive going to the side that has the least traction (which basically means that the inside wheel in a corner), and therefore causing the car to loose grip, the Torque Vectoring system senses when there is an abnormality in the wheel rotation on the same axle, and applies braking (automatically, without any driver input) to the inner wheel, thus transferring the drive to the outer wheel where it is needed. The effect of this is ‘tighter’ turning performance, and improved driving dynamics. I didn’t take the car to its limit, but I did drive at a decently fast pace, and of course the Boxster S took it all in its stride, never faltering one bit. The fact that the test car had 20-inch wheels also made a difference to the handling.
In terms of driving fun, the Boxster delivers as promised. The turbo-charger makes up for the smaller engine displacement. The next question would be, how does it stack up against the flat six that Porsche is so well known for? Well, if you have never driven a flat six before, you wouldn’t know the difference. I have driven a similar flat six engine configuration before in the Cayman GT4 — that one had a little bit more horsepower, being the engine from the 911, shoehorned into the mid-ship arrangement — that was awesome and raw power. Compared to that, the flat four sounds less aggressive, but over a period of time, people will forget. The same thing happened to BMW when they started moving from the straight six to the four-in-line configuration. Let’s face it — downsizing will happen no matter what we say or have to say.
Finally, would I pay RM762, 730.52 for this Porsche Boxster 718? Note though that the base model with only the bare necessities would set you back RM620, 000, while the extra is for the add-ons, look good and go faster parts. Maybe not, but not for the reason that I will not, but rather for the reason that I cannot. Perhaps one day