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Porsche’s press office had taken delivery of their one and only Boxster GTS less than a week before I got my hands on it. That gave them just enough time to give the car a polish and check the tyre pressures before I became the first journalist in Britain to drive it on public roads. What a treat and a privilege!
It’s a bit of a mystery how they do it, every time, but I am happy to report that this car performed the traditional Porsche trick of blowing away the cobwebs of world-weariness, scepticism and prejudice.
Heavy-footed resignation had lumbered my steps as I approached the Boxster GTS: “Oh, God,” I was thinking, “yet another pretentious Porsche with too much power and looking just the same as the one that went before except for the fact that they are squeezing even more tens of thousands out of hapless suckers.”
They tell us that the engineers have done everything in their power to focus on giving the driver the best time it’s possible to enjoy on this earth without, as Woody Allen once said, “taking your clothes off”.Within minutes – seconds – of turning onto empty forest roads in the Fife hills where I live and opening up that sumptuous 3.4 litre, flat-six engine, I was completely engaged, revelling in the pleasure and saying to myself, almost out loud, “This has to be the best roadster I have ever driven.”
The GTS letters – meaning “Gran Turismo Sport” – have been a special marking for Porsche since the mid-1960s. That was when they applied that designation to the 904 Carrera GTS – a barely house-trained racer which struck dumb awe into the most experienced drivers for its terrifying handling and ferocious performance. For more than half a century, then, the GTS letters have meant that Porsche really mean business with this car. They tell us that the engineers have done everything in their power to focus on giving the driver the best time it’s possible to enjoy on this earth without, as Woody Allen once said, “taking your clothes off”.
They have done it again – and how – with the Boxster GTS. The racing circuit on owners’ track days would be a natural habitat for a car with 370 Nm of torque or pulling power, 0-60 mph in under five seconds and top speed of 175 mph; but no open two-seater is more of a pleasure to drive on the road. With its rich, rowdy sports exhaust system, its hand-of-God braking, its knife-edge handling and athletic agility, the GTS is such a sensory, physical delight that you would naturally take the long way home just to be enveloped in the experience for a moment longer.
Porsche’s Sport Chrono package and Active Suspension Management are fitted as standard, allowing the driver to modify the throttle response and the stiffness of the dampers. Under hard acceleration, cornering or braking, the engine mountings also stiffen automatically – meaning that less weight is getting chucked around within the body of car and throwing it off balance.
Even in their default settings, those controls offer a set-up that would be hard to beat. Hard to beat in the sense that you won’t find anything better in the automotive world until you get up to the heights of Mclaren/Ferrari territory; and hard to beat in the sense that any modifications individually selected by the driver are not likely to improve the car’s overall balance of powers. One of the most startling sensations in the Boxster GTS is to realise that, on top of its toupee-shifting powers, it has a lovely, creamy ride. Any car that can give the Nurburgring a run for its money may be expected to feel like sitting on a tin tray. And, indeed, you can give yourself that sensation if you choose the Sport+ settings; but you’re only gaining discomfort and an automatic blip on the throttle when the PDK seven-speed double-clutch transmission changes down a cog.
For a considerable saving in money and an enhancement in self-satisfaction, you can duplicate that blip by heel-and-toeing in the manual gearbox version I was driving. Porsche’s PDK system is so fast and accurate in its changes that it would be impossible for all but an F1 driver to outdo; but the six-speed manual gearbox is so precise and perfectly firm yet not stiff that it adds a genuine measure of pleasure to the driving experience.
Porsche have dandified the GTS in return for its £52879 on-the-road price, giving it 20” black finish wheels, black finish bi-Xenon headlights, sports seats with leather trim and Alcantara dabs around the cabin. The instrument panel and controls for audio/satnav remain comically antiquated to the point where you have to wonder if Porsche are deliberately being satirical, especially when they are charging an extra £2141 for the Porsche Communication Management system that lies behind those fiddly knobs and incomprehensible buttons.
That extra and others added nearly £10000 to the price of the car I was borrowing, bringing it up to £61582. Having got in the Boxster GTS thinking that only a sucker would pay such a price, however, I got out thinking it was worth every penny.
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