Although I’ve never been what you’d call a “Porsche guy,” I have to admit that lately I’ve been staring at older 911s an awful lot. That’s partly because it’s been a quarter century since I’ve owned my last sports car, and if you don’t repeat something at least every 25 years or so, you shouldn’t call it a genuine habit. But my wistful gazing at elderly 911s also has to do with the ways in which the current 911 has improved. Yes, improved.
While the latest 911 is absolutely the fastest, most refined and best behaved 911 yet, it’s also the biggest 911. To my eyes it’s subtly inflated right to the brink of being perceived as a “GT” (meaning “Grand Turismo,” a car that’s both sporty and comfortable for long drives) instead of a sports car. And it feels – how to put this – as if a thin gauze of electronic filtering has been inserted between your hands and its handling. Ninety-nine percent of its drivers will welcome both of these things. I guess that makes me a 911 1-percenter who prefers not-so-perfected 911s – with their lovely quirks (oversteer, anyone?), odd vibrations, fast-panting engines, odors of singed oil, and almost child-like single-minded purpose. They’re sort of like World War I fighter planes on the road.
I recently drove the 2013 Porsche Boxster, and I’m now rethinking matters. The Boxster? Really? Oddly enough, yes.
Up until now (and forgive me, drivers of earlier Boxsters) the 911’s little brother was a decidedly lesser car; it was the “911-lite,” a happy drop-top two-seat sidekick that looked good and obediently avoided challenging the mighty 911 as the brand’s performance top dog.
However, this Boxster changes everything. Just as it has expanded to near-GTness (along with its next Cayman sibling, which will share this architecture), the 911 has finally gotten the ammunition to declare itself Porsche’s new best sports car. It’s not the fastest, perhaps – with 265 horsepower from the base model’s 2.7 liter flat-six, and 315 horsepower from the 3.4-liter powering the Boxster S. It’s still shy of even the entry-level 911’s 350 ponies (and its $82,100 base price; the Boxster starts at $49,500). But it’s a bigger kick to drive.
How has the Boxster changed? Its wheelbase is longer, and its wheels have been punched out laterally, this broader stance benefiting handling. It’s substantially lighter. Both the 2.7-base engine (which is smaller but more powerful than before) and the S’s 3.4-liter are all new and higher revving. They include direct-injection and a “start-stop” feature that saves fuel at red lights. An available PDK 7-speed twin-clutch is a lot of fun to paddle shift, while its optional Porsche Torque Vectoring actually tugs at the cars inside rear wheel when you turn into a corner, helping it to pivot like a figure skater. What isn’t different, though, is its mid-chassis engine placement, giving it racing car-like balance (an intrinsic advantage over the notoriously rear-heavy 911 – though I like that, too).
On the road, the new Boxster is simply one of the most alive sports cars I’ve ever driven. All that silly blather you sometimes read about this or that sports car being an extension of your hands and feet is, in this case, actually true. It tingles. It talks. It’s, it’s … now a better sports car than the 911.
And because I’m saying this, I’ll be wearing a fake mustache for the next few months. I don’t want any new 911 owners recognizing me and roughing me up for these heretical statements. Or maybe I should just join the club – and get an old 911.
≈ STAT SHEET ≈Who should drive this car? Before buying a 911 (as good as it is), I implore you to first try this car. If a sports car is what you want, look no further. And if you need a fixed roof, the Cayman version is on its way.
How does it drive? Quite frankly, the Ferrari 458 Italia is the first car I’d compare it to – and I think I’d rather own the Porsche.
MPG (city/hwy): best 22/32 (Boxster with PDK); worst 20/28 (Boxster S with manual tranny)
Base Price Range: $49,500 (base Boxster) to $60,900 (Boxster S); both exclude a $950 destination charge
Comparable: MW Z4, Mercedes-Benz SLK
Kim Reynolds is testing director of Motor Trend magazine.