D. Randy Riggs thinks he's found the car of his sports car dream. No one had to twist his arm to get him to do the words and photography.
Finally, I thought. The Porsche that had been teasing me for three years was at long last resting in my garage, tucked away for the evening, after a serious flog through the twisties and over to the coast. I lowered the garage door, grabbed a tall, cool one from the fridge-sat down and just stared.
As the heat from the Boxster's internals radiated into the quiet garage, the cooling mechanicals clicked and ticked in apparent appreciation for the spirited run we'd just had-the setting sun at our backs. And now I couldn't help but walk around the gorgeous little roadster to drink it all in, and to ponder the enormous top-down exhilaration I'd just experienced, the flat-six howling from behind like a wolf at the moon.
When you get right down to it, the Boxster was a do or die car for Porsche. First shown as a serious design proposal in January 1993 at the Detroit Auto Show, Project 986 (Porsche's internal code) represented a radical departure for the company, after years of building 2+2 GT models.
Complicating matters, the Boxster's development would take place at a time of low fortunes for the company, when sales of Porsches worldwide were at rock bottom.
So the Boxster had to work, carrying with it true sports car magic to win over additional customers for Porsche-and why it had to be radically different from the 911, while retaining traditional Porsche features and styling cues.
Because the time had also come to completely redesign the 911 to meet future safety, fuel economy and noise standards, in February 1992 Porsche decided to develop both cars simultaneously, parallel to one another on the same technological platform. The Boxster and next-generation 911 Carrera would form the two cornerstones of Porsche's future range of sports cars.
In the process, Porsche turned to Toyota for help. Adopting the Kaizen workshop principles that stress the elements of just-in-time parts supply, one-piece flow and the integration of subassemblies in production line assembly procedures, the Boxster (and new 911) would be built entirely differently from any Porsche ever before.
The Porsche Spirit
What I had sitting in my garage was truly a new Porsche through and through, but one that most clearly and distinctively stayed true to the company's roots. And if my initial impressions from the hour-long backroad sprint were any indication, the extended weekend I had planned with the Boxster in the nether regions of Northern California would be almost as good as that three-letter word that has such a positive effect on TV ratings.
In giving the Boxster a visual once over, the bluntly pointed nose blends gracefully into the fenders, which evoke a bit of 911 feel. Somewhat heavy-looking from certain angles, the lower nose positions two intakes for engine and A/C cooling. Up top, the unique headlights are now most certainly a Porsche styling cue, since near identical units are used on the all-new 911.
Side gills not only add flare and shape to the roadster's sides but also feed intake air to the engine and cooling air through the engine compartment.
The Boxster's rear three-quarter view might just be the best of all, a sweetly sculpted set of fenders that blend into taillights that integrate perfectly. There's even a centrally-located exhaust outlet and if the look is reminiscent of early day Porsche RS race cars or the 550 Spyder, that's the way it was intended. The beautiful shape makes you want to give the Boxster a pat on its rump every time you walk past.
Don't bother trying to get a good look at the new water-cooled flat-six engine. From the top of the car one can't, since the six is nestled between the passenger compartment and rear trunk and beneath the folding top.
Instead, engine access is from the bottom. Because modern engine components can go 100,000 miles before servicing, Porsche states that 95 Percent of any work required during that period can be done from below. Dipstick, oil and coolant fillers nestle in a corner of the rear compartment.
The following morning, the Boxster's presence in my garage only kindled the excitement of the trip to come. With my lady joining me, it meant additional luggage that was quickly swallowed up by both trunks including my rather substantial camera bag and tripod. Unfortunately, the trunk levers are located inconveniently on the door sill, where they are subject to heavy abuse, while the door must be opened to operate them.
I hit the button on the garage door remote and fired the six with a twist of the key, located on the left in proper Porsche tradition. In an instant, that wonderfully familiar flat-six whine crackled the dampness of the early morning dew as I backed into the driveway, the sun still hiding in the fog, cams turning, gears whirring.
There's a real feeling of spaciousness in this interior, (much more so than the larger Corvette we'd tested a week earlier) and my six-foot frame found instant comfort and an ideal driving position with little fuss. But I was very much bothered by the oval shapes scattered throughout the interior and tacky-looking shiny black plastic buttons that scream-cheap! Tactile sensations feel cheap as well.
The instrument panel, aside from the stacked gauge cluster (which lacks an oil pressure gauge), is an unattractive lump that looks as though it was borrowed from a pickup truck and narrowed to fit.
The Becker audio system is difficult to operate, even with practice. Its design also doesn't blend well with the interior and reflections bounce from its shiny surface almost as much as from the faceplate of the climate control system-very distracting.
We can only hope that Porsche's interior design team-Matthias Kulla and Wolfgang Mobius-are already hard at work on a complete instrument panel redesign-one that includes a glove box, cupholders and user-friendly audio system. Save the instruments, but begin anew with the rest.
Let The Sunshine In
It's true that with the twist of a latch and the press of a button that the Boxster turns into a top-down roadster in 12 seconds. We timed it. But because of the fog, my lady was a bit apprehensive about dropping the top so early in the morning (you know how women are always cold, when men are sweating away?). So we compromised. The top stayed down, the windows went up, and the heater went on. Viola! Instant comfort in the cool coastal mist, and the top was never up again while driving the entire weekend.
In a matter of minutes, we found our selves on California's Highway One, c narrow ribbon of asphalt that winds its way over the undulating surface of the incredible Pacific coastline.
In only a few miles, I was convinced that there might not be a better combination 0 road and car on the planet. As I rowed the perfectly matched ratios of the gearbox pretty much a snick, snick, snick operation just behind the cockpit music played-the Porsche Symphony Orchestra-a flat-six resonance that kicks in just below 5000 rpm and continues to its 6500 rpm redline. On gnarly mountain road, driving briskly, you' live in this rev range, and it's about as sweet a driving experience that you'll ever have this side of the Nurburgring.
The Boxster's power delivery doesn't explode in furious wheelspin or thrust, yet produces far more smiles in the powerband than 201 horsepower or the numbers might I ever indicate. An impressive power-to-weight ratio is part of the secret along with a broad, flat torque curve.
If the Boxster's engine music titillates, then its cornering capabilities captivate. There's a preciseness and litheness to the steering that puts the front wheels exactly where you want them. Straight line tracking is spot-on, requiring little correction, even at autobahn speeds. And when it comes time to slow from such speeds, it just doesn't get any better than this Porsche brakes are renowned for their capabilities and the Boxster continues the good tradition with the first production use of light-alloy, single-piece calipers, mated with large vented discs.
The car remains neutral even when pushed to track limits, easily controllable and steerable-never tail-happy like some mid-engined cars of the past.
This was certainly one of those trips we wished would never end-perhaps the most satisfying sports car experience either of us had ever had.
It's a car that I might just sacrifice a 911 for-my longtime 4-wheeled flame-but only if I could learn to live with the interior. With our luggage stashed away, and the Boxster nestled in the garage, it was time for both of us to have a cool one-for we had new car Possibilities to contemplate.
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