The Porsche Boxster: Try Finding Any Fault With ItOne of the things about Porsche is that it doesn't try to be all things to all people. It's not a family car maker but a sports car manufacturer that understands the business of building mind-blowing sports cars.
Conceived in the early '90s, the Boxster was a bold experiment for a company that was drowning in red ink and living off the avails of an automotive legend, the 911, the sole model in its product lineup. It was time for the company to get back to basics and build higher volumes by slashing the price of admission into the Porsche club with a lower cost model that would appeal to the legions of baby boomers who were lusting to get into their first Porsche.
And the rest, as they say, is history. When the Boxster was first launched in 1996, it exceeded Porsche management's wildest expectations and it's still going strong.
The Boxster shares a lot in common with its costlier sibling, the 911. From the cockpit and the windscreen on forward, the Boxster and 911 are virtually identical. Something like 60 percent of the components are shared between the models, a move that saved the company a bundle in development costs.
The Boxster is a veritable feast for the senses. It's capable of serving up the adrenalin rush of a roller coaster ride even if it's just for a leisurely drive to the corner store to pick up some milk.
And you get this every time you turn the ignition key.
Nail the throttle and this car sprouts wings. It sails along effortlessly, pushed by a 220 bhp engine. This free-revving six cylinder has a displacement of 2.7-liters whose output peaks at 6400 rpm. Maximum torque is 26.5 kg.m at 4750 rpm.
The styling pushes your emotional buttons, all the right ones. Here's a car that looks as good from the back as it does from the front. The rear is so exquisitely executed that if it weren't for the red lenses of the tail lights and the exhaust pipe, you might think you were looking at the front of the car. Viewed from any angle, not many cars look this good.
Side intake ports are not cosmetic add ons but are a fully functional design. They scoop cooling air past the radiator, which is located behind the back seats along with the engine. With the engine amidships, the car has none of the nose- heavy problems associated with front- wheel drive cars. Instead, it's endowed with ideal weight distribution so you can flick it effortlessly into a corner.
This gives the car two luggage compartments, one in the rear and one in front. However, just try squeezing two full-size golf bags into this car. You can't.
The gearbox feels incredibly solid, like an anvil, so the clutch and gear shift action ranks as the industry standard. For the mechanically challenged, Porsche offers its Tiptronic, a transmission which dispenses with the clutch to wed the convenience of an automatic with the sportiness of a manual. In Germany, 39 percent of Porsche buyers are now opting for the Tiptronic.
To activate the hair drier, pull up the parking brake lever, release the mechanical fastener overhead, hit the button and the canvas top drops and folds away within 15 seconds.
The youthful athleticism of a Porsche is an expensive cure for mid-life crisis. At $20 a pop, a Viagra pill is much cheaper. But there's no shortage of people waiting to pay the premium for the Porsche experience. Which is why it's the most profitable car company in the world and why Porsche is the legend that it is.
To talk of Porsche is always to talk in superlatives, especially price. The good news is that something in the order of three of four Porsches ever built are still on the road, a testament to their exceptional reliability. If you're well-heeled enough to be looking at a Porsche as an investment, it's reassuring to know there's a high and steady demand for used examples so their resale value is among the best in the industry. On the downside, parts are breathtakingly expensive. A special note of thanks to Hansung Motors, the local Porsche distributor, and Porsche Cars North America for setting up my test drive. Price as tested: 99 million won ($82,500).
Next Week: Hyundai Tiburon
by Oles Gadacz