Affair with Porsche ends in heartbreak
This is a story of doomed summer romance. From the first flirt to the last tearful goodbye, it's a classic tale of a downtown boy meeting an uptown car.
I've known the Porsche Boxster since the late 1990s, when it was the youngster in Porsche's lineup. More a flirt than a full-blown vixen, the 201-horsepower, two-seat roadster took an agonisingly long time to drop its automated top and wasn't a powerhouse on the freeway, but it sure knew its way down a windy road.
It wasn't until very recently that the Boxster got a Vogue-worthy makeover, with a sharpened rear, bigger wheels and sensuous side scoops. Now it looks like a miniature version of Porsche's defunct supercar, the Carrera GT.
There's something distinctly European to the contours, like the car's most natural habitat should be the Amalfi Coast. I must admit that when photos were first released, my heart knew lust.
The S model starts at US$61,850 (that's NZ$77,487 in today's currency market) with a six-speed manual transmission. (Before you too excited, a Boxster S in NZ will currently set you back $141,300. The standard Boxster in NZ costs $120,300) The engine is a 3.4-litre six-cylinder with 315 hp and 266 pound-feet of torque. Located in the centre of the car, behind the seats, it guarantees a fine weight balance.
My lovely test car somehow came to a budget-bracing US$88,720, with a costly list of options from adaptive sports seats to a very sexy "Carrera Red" leather interior. The latter is not necessary, but boy does it look good.
Like all first dates should be, ours took place at night. After a lengthy blast down the highway, I exited onto a winding side road. I stopped long enough to put down the soft top, which took a mere nine seconds. Wow.
The new Boxster is available with an automated double-clutch transmission, which is faster and more fuel efficient than the manual. The gearbox is brilliant in the latest 911. It's also an extra US$3200.
Yet the old-school manual made me happy, a perfect companion to the light, fast car. More intimate, more engaging, more fulfilling.
I bulleted down the two-lane road, Xenon headlamps gouging out a path in the inky dark. Side windows down, the air buffeted me from all sides, the radio silenced so I could better hear the sound of the flat-six engine.
That noise, so special to a Porsche, reminds me of a buzz saw, forceful and visceral.
The car's steering is no longer hydraulic, but it is surgically precise, with perfect heft and an infinite amount of control. The steering wheel only needs a small twist to alter course, and you can effortlessly hold a single line through long sweeping turns.
Seating position is upright, with a racing-proper kink in your arms. It had the optional sport chrono package and torque vectoring technology, which selectively brakes the inside rear wheel to help the car turn.
That drive was only the first blush. In the coming days, the Boxster and I would rendezvous again and again, finding our way through twisty bits of road at immodest speeds.
The Boxster has always been well balanced, and older models are easy to toss around. You could get the rear ends to step out. The new one is different.
The chassis has been completely and magically reworked. My car had optional 20-inch wheels with Pirelli tires with serious grip, and I almost never elicited noise from them as I whipsawed through tight corkscrews. While there are limits to the Boxster's traction, I wouldn't care to find them on a public road.
We passed several perfect summer days this way. Butterflies floated around me as I paused at stop signs; a hawk followed my path along a creek-side road. My face tanned. What better place to spend the summer than in the roadster's alluring embrace? We seemed so right for each other.
But I was ignoring the warning signs. I asked a group of friends I was meeting in the country if they wouldn't mind stopping by my New York apartment to pick up some stuff that wouldn't fit in the front compartment of the Boxster. No bother, right?
There just isn't that much room for personal property. No easy perch for your mobile phone, and Porsche's answer to cup holders, swinging arms that come out of the dash, is as asinine as ever. I was almost embarrassed to bring along my coffee mug.
Then a friend asked if I could pick him up, but I already had another passenger, and there are only two seats. He was consigned to the bus. (I gave him a ride in the car later, top down. He was satisfied.)
The summer was running short, and my time with the car even shorter. I didn't want the fling to end. Perhaps something could be done.
I looked at the sticker price. What could I do without? The US$185 Porsche crests on the wheel caps and US$670 six-disk CD changer could go. I could even part with the red leather interior.
But who was I kidding? The Porsche was way out of my league. I can only hope that my Boxster S finds a good home with an owner whose summer romance never ends.