Ever since Porsche launched the Boxster, people were awaiting the time it would surpass the lady of the house, the 911. Or at least the road testers were. It almost happened a few times, but not quite. Then last Wednesday I drove a few Porsches, so now it’s my turn to chime in on this.
Us car journalists are said to be a lucky bunch. I would feel much luckier, if I would be more than just moonlighting as a freelance auto writer, but then there are days that make it worthwhile. Like when I get an invitation from the local Porsche importer to try the new, turbo engines in the Boxster S and Carrera S. As well as the Macan GTS, the facelifted Turbo S and the Cayenne Diesel S. I don’t get why they included the large SUV, it feels every bit the huge cruise ship it is, when you swap straight from the sports cars into it, so the less said about that, the better. The others though - all different, all excellent.
Most of you have already ridden Saturn V rockets (you have, haven’t you?), so there’s no need for me to try and describe how the launch-control provided 2.9sec to 62 mph acceleration of the Turbo S translates to your balls fizzing like on a roller coaster, and your field-of-vision literally narrowing, because of the G-force. And I was driving, wonder how the passenger felt... Also, the Macan GTS is ace, the only ‘problem’ is that it’s a V6 with two turbos, so it’s much too smooth and quiet for the sports car-shaming speeds it is capable of on twisty roads. We might talk about these on another day, now though let’s look at how the new turbo boxer-four Boxster 718 S compares to the new turbo boxer-six Carrera S.
I have to tell you this was the first meaningful drive I ever had in a proper Porsche, so it is hard not to just babble about these being the best things since, like, ever. But driving a Boxster S, a 911 Targa 4S and a 911 Cabrio S (all PDK) back to back put me in the picture. And here’s the thing: the 911 felt every bit as special as I expected it to be, while in comparison the Boxster “only” felt very good. What I mean is that because I have driven powerful cars before, mid engine cars too, the dynamics, the driving sensation of the Boxster was something I was prepared for. It is a very sharp tool, a precise instrument to dissect twisty roads with, but if I’m honest, it reacted in ways any good sports car does. And this is the part the loss of those two cylinders really insults the Boxster in my opinion, because it doesn’t even sound that special now.
I don’t know how much low-end gruff the old engine in the Boxster had, but the new single-turbo boxer four has a bit of lag, and only comes alive over 2500 RPM. The fact the PDK doesn’t let it spin under 3000 in sport plus mode, speaks volumes. It is loud, with a harsh, metallic and very aggressive voice, which is lovely for a sports car, but as I said, maybe not special enough for a Porsche. One of the best roadsters ever, no two ways about that, but it never eclipses the 911, and for good reason.
There’s been a lot said about the current 991 generation, some of that negative because the steering’s supposed to have lost a lot of communication. I don’t know how communicative old 911s were, but for any PAS system this seemed pretty good to me: I instantly felt the weight transfer off the front axle, when I was accelerating out of a bend. And while we are at chassis dynamics: although I didn’t switch off any of the nannies, the car made the rear engine placement felt. This makes it such a special driving experience, I just cannot hope to explain - you either love it, or you go for the much more theatrical Ferrari.
But the biggest talking point of course is the new turbo engine. And this one I loved. You hear the two small turbos work, and you don’t hear much else, just the exhaust making throaty noises, and the whole car is less loud than the Boxster. But it’s all about the way she moves, and this motor has it all. No lag to speak of, works basically from idle, then gives loads of torque through the midrange, and when you go balls deep, it will scream all the way up to the 7400 redline, with lightning quick gearchanges from the PDK meaning the power surge is unrelenting. It’s so fast, I had no idea how the Turbo S could top this - for you and me, the 991.2 generation Porsche 911 Carrera S is as fast as we’ll ever need.
So in all: Porsche still turns everything it touches golden. I personally like the 6 cylinder better, and the 911 dynamics more, but that’s just me. I would wager they’ll have no problem shifting each and every 4cyl Boxster they can make. You can split hairs, and say an air-cooled 911 had more character (all old cars are said to have more character btw., maybe nostalgia is at play?), and was a more involving driving experience, but in fairness, this 911 is just as characterful and involving as a 2016 car can be. And what I know for sure, that I still don’t care which generation it’ll be, but I do need to get a 911 for myself before I go.
Shame they are now so firmly in collector category. Some of them even as new.