“The 911 versus the Boxster, one-on-one. We’ve thrown down the gauntlet Porsche. How keen are you to pick it up?”
Very, as it turns out. And truth be told, that rather caught crankandpiston off guard. Not because the boys and girls at Porsche Middle East aren’t a lovely bunch, but mainly because a scenario in which a manufacturer pits two of its own high-profile models against each other doesn’t happen very often: how, for example, can Porsche promote one car without denting the reputation of the other? And this particular line-up looks a pretty one-sided affair.
Let’s take a look at some of the facts. In the Carrera Red corner we have the new 991 Carrera S Cabriolet, boasting a 299kph top speed, a 0-100kph time of 4.3s (with the Porsche Doppelkupplung gearbox that this model has), a 3.8l boxer engine and a reasonably weighty $117,000 starting price. Now let’s have a look in the Aqua Blue corner, where we find the recently released Boxster S Spyder. Top speed for the 911’s baby brother is 277kph, it has a 5s 0-100kph time (with PDK), a 3.4l six-cylinder and only two seats, but starting price comes in at a comparatively modest $59,000. If we’re going by numbers alone then, this is hardly a fair test. But then, since the two are not industry rivals, this was never going to be the case. So why compare them as such?
So, if we’re not here to competitively compare the 911 Carrera S back-to-back with the Boxster S, other than to show off to the neighbours what are we going to do with them?
Well, drive them, of course.
Following the respective releases of both the new 911 and the new Boxster, the general consensus seemed to linger on two items: exactly how much room for improvement there was left after five decades of honing and perfecting, and – in the Boxster’s case – just how much potential there really was. Indeed, read back through crankandpiston’s features on the 911 and Boxster convertibles, and you’ll notice we didn’t spend much time actually driving them. All that changes today though.
For this drive I’ve enlisted the help of crankandpiston’s dedicated digital team, Moe and John. They’re both big on ‘the perfect setting’ for any shoot they undertake (as their earlier work on the site will ascertain) and have in mind a particular location in Dubai’s neighbouring emirate, Fujairah. Moe in particular is delighted that, for once, the cars I am currently signing on the necessary dotted lines for at Porsche GHQ in Dubai are neither black nor white (colours that are always difficult to photograph properly), and is thus mightily keen to get going.
There’s a brief moment of narcissism on my part when I notice that the letters on the numberplates are ‘J’ and ‘G’, and it’s while I’m contemplating if this is an impressive act of forethought by Porsche that Moe and John make a beeline for the 911. I don’t put up much of a fight though. So far I’m the only member of the crankandpiston team not to have taken a spin in the Boxster, and I’m very keen to see how it fares.
Twenty minutes later our little convoy is on the Dubai-Fujairah Road which makes up a good two thirds of our near-three hour round trip. And in the Boxster it’s so far so good. The ride, completed thus far with default steering and suspension settings, is very comfortable and the graceful elegance of the cabin design means there’s little in the way of clutter or confusion, even if the Luxor Beige upholstery in this particular test model is perhaps a little underwhelming. The sweeping dashboard for example boasts little aside from the re-designed air vents, all systems work through the LCD screen (once you’ve taken a few minutes to work out which buttons do what) and the steering wheel is not festooned with buttons. Indeed, the single rotary dial next to my right thumb, which changes the information on the display in front of the driver, is a very neat design. I wouldn’t have minded somewhere to put my phone and wallet though, the lack of compartment space in the centre cluster meaning they are now rolling about the passenger seat.
Radio reception begins to fade as the mountain range gets closer, but this is of little consequence to me. The noise that’s emanating from the exhaust valves is entertainment enough for me. It’s a sound that does not ‘thunder’ out of the pipes, nor does it constitute a deep, resonating tenor. In fact, the sound is more akin to a higher pitched roar that hits the sweet spot around the 5000-revs mark. It’s still operatic but not in the deep, bellowing way that so often goes hand-in-hand with performance machines, and this for me helps set the Boxster apart: already it is not attempting to be something it isn’t.
Soon we hit the mountain passes, and once we’ve taken care of a few motion shots (with the sight of Moe hanging out the 911’s window amusing a number of our fellow motorists), it’s time to switch the Boxster S into Sport – there’s only one driving mode available, though you can also change the suspension settings – and put it through it’s paces. So far the performance part of this test has involved me selecting a lower gear and planting the right foot a split second earlier than the boys in the 911 in the naïve belief that 315hp may be able to keep up with 400hp. Through this next stage of winding asphalt though, it’s every man for himself.
I’m a little disappointed that this particular test model has two gear selector buttons on the steering wheel as opposed to a paddle shift gearbox, a system I find much easier to use. The gear changes are crisp and swift, with nary a hair of lag between shifts and which produces good engine braking, allowing me to get the car balanced where necessary. Steering is similarly responsive, the front tyres producing almost bundles of grip and capable of withstanding a lot of punishment. There’s few apexes I miss on these sweeping, high-speed left and right handers, with a quick tap of the brakes here or there just enough to get the nose lined up ready for a squirt of throttle to shoot me out of a corner.
One thing that has caught me eye as we descend en-masse into Fujairah is the sense of speed. The Boxster is certainly not slow, the dynamism conveyed through the simple task of turning the wheel more than proof of that. What has caught my attention on a few occasions though is the lack of grunt further down the box: there’s certainly a good amount of response from each of the six-cylinders but a few extra degrees of oomph when the rev needle hits mid-range might have made a big difference.
After more than 90 minutes of careful experimentation intermixed with childish giggling, the Boxster has made an admirable impression on me as we pull into a nearby service station to refuel the cars and grab a quick bite to eat. Moe and John are similarly loving the 911, the speed with which they intermittently en-route dropped down a gear, planted the right boot and quickly got smaller and smaller through my windscreen having already confirmed this. Not only that, but after the opening stint they’re still both perfectly comfortable, even despite the 911’s comparatively stiffer chassis and suspension. I’m starting to look forward to my time in the Carrera S more and more as I finish off my sandwich, since I’m curious to see how it handles by comparison. Yes, the Boxster is unlikely to match the 911 is dynamism, but it’s always interesting to see how they both fare.