The Car Ferdinand Dreamt Of.....

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The Car Ferdinand Dreamt Of.....

“So this is the car for people who can’t afford the 911?” came the rather unexpected reply from my German relative when I showed him the Porsche Boxster GTS that I had been driving around earlier in the day. I was taken slightly aback by my uncle’s quip at the Boxster, as I’ve always thought that such disapproving comments were the reserve of Anglo commentators who saw the Boxster as a poor relation to the 911, a car for brand poseurs.  I assumed that the Germans saw no reason to dislike Porsche’s little mid-engined roadster, especially coming from my Bavarian-born and raised uncle who isn’t an ardent petrolhead. Perhaps what the motoring lore says is true, that Porsche and the 911 are institutions as ingrained in the law of the land as beer and sauerkraut is. Anything else from Porsche that isn’t a 911 are bastard children that can stake no claim to royalty.  

Porsche and the 911 are institutions as ingrained in the law of the land as beer and sauerkraut is

A badge engineered Porsche for people who can’t afford a 911 then? Haven’t we heard that before? Well yes, it’s word for word the same argument by those who show disdain towards the Cayenne, Panamera, and Macan. Models that are made to line Zuffhausen’s pocketbooks it seems, rather being fit for lining up on the track. The 911 is sainted, and everything else, tainted by original sin.

On that argument the Boxster GTS, should be the most tainted of them all, after all the GTS moniker was revived with the first-generation Cayenne, carving with itself a new niche for those who wanted a racy and raucous SUV, but not something with the cold and calculated all-crushing ability of the Turbo. Ever since then the GTS name, and its directive of building authentic sports variants for both the race track and everyday use, has worked its way into the rest of the range, with the Panamera, the 911, and now with the current 981-generation Boxster and Cayman, being the first of their lineage to receive the GTS badge.

And with the badge comes the treatment. Its 3.4-litre flat-six engine is now liberated of another 15hp and 10Nm over the Boxster S. This is thanks to an optimised management of the intake camshaft and valve timing adjustment, bringing the total stable count now to 330hp with 370Nm of twist served up from 4,500 to 5,800rpm. The ride height is dropped by 10mm with the Porsche Active Suspension Management fitted as standard, whereas there is a throatier vocal range from its standard sports exhaust system, and while they were at it, the Sport Chrono package was also tossed in for good measure as a standard fitment, bringing with it dynamic transmission mounts to stiffen up the chassis should the mood takes you.

So happened the skies were plastered with white overcast clouds, and ambient temperatures hovering in the low 30s on this particular day, which in turn meant that the mood was just right to pack away the Boxster’s fabric top, and drink in the calm and stillness of Singapore on a long weekend holiday. With most of the island republic’s population either overseas, or in Malacca for that matter, it was a rare opportunity for me to enjoy some severely underutilised infrastructure, though that being said, smooth roads and strict speed limits do make for one of the greatest exercises of self-restraint of all time.

Breaking the law is only but a flex of a foot away, this isn’t helped by the scalpel sharp throttle and that flat -six engine either

With a 0 to 100km/h capability of 4.7 seconds from our seven-speed Doppelkupplungsgetriebe dual-clutch equipped model, breaking the law is only but a flex of a foot away. This isn’t helped by the scalpel sharp throttle and that flat-six engine that is only so eager to wind itself up the rev range with impressive ease. One moment I can be pottering around at 2,000rpm, the next I’m already winding up north of 4,000rpm, and very well in danger of setting off speed cameras before I know it. But there is more to Singapore than just high rise buildings and well-kept streets.

As unbelievable as it is for outsiders, Singapore isn’t all wide avenues and 90-degree corners comprising of junctions, the island does have its fair share of green spaces. And where there are jungle covered hills, you are bound to come across some relatively empty ribbons of tarmac that drape over hilly terrains where one would be able to put their cars through its paces. Turning off from one of Singapore’s many highways and already I find myself in the quiet surround of lush greenery. There is the odd jogger and cyclist quietly enjoying the route, who I’m pretty sure won’t appreciate someone tearing through their idyllic holiday life with a racy flat-six engine in tow no matter how tuneful I describe it to be.  

After giving a quick glance around to ensure that there weren’t any motorists around, and a double-check the car’s satellite navigation that the road does stretch uninterruptedly for a fair bit, I gave the “Sport Plus” button a prod, firming up the dampers and stiffening the chassis with its dynamic transmission mounts, dropped a couple of gears, and gunned that engine. The power delivery builds and swelled as the needle soared up and through the rev counter, all whilst the dual-clutch transmission swapping through the gears right on cue. And what a noise it made while it was at it.

The Boxster feels lithe and jovial on the move, its sublime chassis is brilliant and absorbing.

Even with the rush of wind overhead, there was no escaping the gritty and feral all-consuming roar of that flat-six engine from filling the cabin, some echoing off the high walls that are erected along the length of the road, amplifying its sonic ferocity. Lift off the throttle, and the exhaust system releases a triad of bangs, crackles, and pops on the overrun. Excessive, gratuitous, all lovely, the Boxster and I are certainly getting off to a right note.

As the road starts to wind around the lush hillside, I steadily began to uncover the Boxster’s delectable balance and poise. Bereft of body roll and blessed with a 50:50 weight distribution, the Boxster draws you in and makes you a part of its being. Its front wheels feel as though it is hooked up to you through telepathy, rather than rack and pinion. Though electric in its assistance, and displaying the expected electric-eccentricity in its steering lightness and general feel, you cannot fault the steering for its precision and responsiveness. Any steering angle dialled in through here is met with an equal and desired change of direction up front.  There is no flabbiness in its movement, or delay in its response, giving me the confidence to push harder as the road continues up and onwards, deeper into Boxster territory.

The standard steel brakes on the other hand deliver plenty of stopping power to keep tabs on its 1,345kg mass, with added commendations given for being easy to modulate, trimming as much speed as you fancy with ease. Though it sports huge 20-inch 911 Turbo rims that are wrapped around spindly 35-profile rubber, it doesn’t seem to upset the ride. It feels compliant and strangely well-cushioned on the road when you leave it out of “Sport Plus” mode, though I have to remind myself that I am driving on Singaporean roads.

If there is one criticism I have with this particular Boxster GTS example, is the use of the push-and-pull steering mounted gearshifter buttons, which come fitted with the optional multifunction Sports steering wheel. Understandably this steering is well suited for casual drivers who want their audio and instrument cluster controls mounted in front, which forgoes the simpler and more driver-intuitive up-on-the-right down-on-the-left paddle arrangement, you would get from the standard SportDesign steering wheel.  That being said everything else in the cabin is spot on. The driving position is close to the floor and perfect, the standard Alcantara-clad “sport seats Plus” are not only comfy but it holds you firmly in place, and all the dials and controls are beautifully laid out and accessible.  

Besides the lack of a roof to keep cool and cosy away from the tropical heat, another reason why buyers would often baulk at the thought of a convertible for their lower chassis rigidity. Mind you though, being developed from the ground-up as a roadster, the Boxster showed with no signs of flex or scuttle shake as I drive over the odd bump. It feels incredibly rigid, stiff enough I reckon that you can take it for a good spank around a track, though sadly the Singapore Grand Prix won’t be along for another three months, and our own Pasir Gudang circuit lies is a little outside of Porsche’s agreed boundaries, so I will have to stick to city lanes and country roads for the time being.

Nevertheless as I piled on the kilometres from hillside roads to the highways and back again for more, the Boxster’s charms slowly worked its way on me. The Boxster feels lithe and jovial on the move, its sublime chassis is brilliant and absorbing, the steering upholds the Boxster’s engaging character, and its rip-roaring engine sends rapturous laughs, making its open-top nature all the more desirable. And it must be said that in its third-iteration of the name, the Boxster certainly looks stunning. With gorgeous curves that flow coherently from nose to its neat tail that bisects the rear light clusters, with a fine and focused interior to match, of which are accentuated by the GTS’ sporty front nose and highlighted by sinister darkened bits, the Boxster GTS is arrestingly beautiful. 

If there is a sports car that feels so right in every situation, be it highway cruising or country road driving, the Boxster GTS is it. It’s an everyday roadster with the heart and bones of a race car, which brings us back to the question which left me intrigued about the Boxster - can it escape its undeserved reputation as the poor relation to the 911?

Look through Porsche’s history and you are bound to come across Ferdinand “Ferry” Porsche’s quote, “I looked around but couldn’t find the car I dreamt of, so I decided to build it myself.” Many attribute those words to the creation of the 356, which became the predecessor to the icon that the whole world has been smitten over since, the 911. While the 356 itself set the rear-engine coupe template the 911 would follow, it wasn’t the original design as Ferry Porsche had intended.

When Porsche built his first Type 356, known as the 356 No.1 in 1948, it was a sleek roadster with a race car like tubular steel frame construction, and the running gear of the Volkswagen Beetle that was rotated 180-degrees, and mounted ahead of the rear axle. Essentially the very first Porsche car was a two-seater mid-engine roadster, and not a rear-engine coupé, following his in father’s pioneering work in mid-engine cars such as the Benz Tropfenwagen and Auto Union’s pre-war racers.  Ferry Porsche did take the car racing, and won the Austrian Rund um den Hofgarten. Legend then has it that his work quickly gained the admiration of enthusiasts who wanted Porsche to build more examples of his unique roadster for them.

Seeing the potential the 356 had, Ferry Porsche sold off his unique roadster to fund the first serial production of the 356 coupés, at which he modified the design of his 356 No.1 to be more cost-effective, switched over to a rear-engine layout to expand it cabin space, and also accommodate rear seats. This certainly wasn’t the last time a mid-engine Porsche saved the company, considering that the Boxster was credited with saving the company from the financial doldrums in the late 1990s.

If there is a sports car that feels so right in every situation, be it highway cruising or country road driving, the Boxster GTS is it.

As much as Porsche-purists who would only recognise the legitimacy of air-cooled 911s, Porsche is more than the 911, and it wouldn’t do justice for a company with such a broad repertoire of producing cars, SUVs, and big grand tourers, of such calibre like Porsche. As much as enthusiasts won’t want to admit it, Porsche has grown to be more than the 911, and so the Boxster should be considered as no poor relation to the 911. In its own right, the Boxster GTS is the finest two-seater drop-top sports car for its money, a car that Ferry Porsche would have approved of greatly. Because after all, that was what he dreamt of in the first place.  

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