The boxer engine sits behind me, burbling, idling. I am waiting for a group of tourists to complete their journey to the other side of this zebra crossing when suddenly a girl, perhaps in her late teens or early twenties – I’m horrible at guessing ages – pulls out her point-and-shoot and starts clicking.
The camera starts flashing in small bursts before going for the big all-out explosion of light. And then one more time, from another angle. She smiles and waves, I smile back and return her wave. The exchange is leaving me dumbfounded.
It is, of course, not an ego booster because I do know what I am not the main subject of the sudden photography project. After all, I am nowhere close to becoming a celebrity; Malaysian journalists rarely do become one. But the car I am driving is a star in its own right.
The car is a Porsche Boxster S, done up in Racing Yellow. I had its red roof packed neatly a few inches behind me, which laid bare the Carrera Red natural leather interior for all to see. Not a chore to put it down, the roof. And I didn’t need to pull up by the side of the road to accomplish the task – all it took was a push of the button to peel the top off and pack it away.
Some might question the sanity of driving with the roof down in equatorial weather like ours. But I’m not exactly at sea level. Fact, I am several thousands of feet above the usual 35-degrees Celsius. Here, it a gentle 20-ish degrees, cooler if you factor in wind chill. And it’s cloudy also, with clouds laden with rain hovering above, never out of sight.
Again, some might question the sanity of driving with the roof down when rain is close by. Look, it’s really not an issue. The fully-electric convertible top cracks open or seals shut in the time it takes you to count from one to nine. It’s that fast and is operable at speeds of up to 50 km/h, so the possibly of getting drenched is low.
If the Boxster looks good with the roof up, it scores a few more desirability points with the roof down. But really, take a walk about and you can see why her camera was stealing a few shots. The new Boxster is a completely redesigned beast – most telling are the front headlamps, the doors now have an indent that channels air into the side intakes and the rear spoiler is now integrated with the rear lights.
Then, there are the little design accents that brings it all together. It starts from the upward curve front wings and sweeps into the shoulder line that merges with the rear haunches. The windscreen is also set flatter and set approximately 100 mm further in front, which lowers the car by 13 mm. The wheelbase has been stretched by another 60 mm. Its front track has been widened up to 40 mm and 18 mm at the rear and it allows the wheels to align flushed with the body. The new car is 37 mm longer and has its front overhang shortened by 27 mm, which lets the convertible keep its compact appearance.
In spite of the upsize, the entire car is lighter. New manufacturing technologies allow the Boxster to be built with die-cast aluminium, aluminium sheet metal, magnesium and high-strength steel. The new body, compared to the previous Boxster S, is 30kg lighter; the new car tips the scales at 1,350 kg.
Nothing here is out of place. The Boxster looks more aggressive and sporty than the previous generation. It is – dare I say it – the best looking car Porsche has designed that is on Malaysian roads thus far. Sorry, 911.
And that’s just it, the car has been attracting plenty of attention since I drove it out of Porsche’s lot in the morning. A pity that I have to return the car later in the day and there’s so much driving that needs to be done. Yet, I am still waiting for another busload of tourists to walk by.
Not that I mind that much. This is a Porsche and they do know how to put the interior together, albeit the colour. Customers can choose the interior scheme, but the test car had swatches of red skin all over. If you’ve been in the 911, the Panamera and – to a certain extent – the Cayenne, you’ll find the Boxster is a familiar place to be.
I find myself wrapped in a cocoon of red. The transmission tunnel, which slopes upwards and merges into the dash effectively puts a definitive border between the driver and front passenger. It also puts the gear lever very near your hands so that less time is needed to move from steering to knob. Useful if you’re driving a manual, not much if the car comes with the PDK.
The test car pushes power to the rear though the seven-speed PDK, and the sport design steering wheel means that you can man the transmission though the paddle shifters. Together with the Sport Chrono Package, the Boxster will sprint quicker to 100 km/h. Perhaps, there’s another better reason to tick this in the option box – dynamic transmission mounts that are smart enough to alter its rigidity and damping to adapt itself to different driving situations. It also reduces the vibrations that usually comes from bolting the engine’s transmission directly to the body.
I also spy a button that makes the exhaust grumble louder and other buttons with equally exciting graphics drawn on them; I’m a kid in a candy store. Or I could push either the Sport button and ignite everything on full. Sport Plus, as learned from the 911, will turn everything up to 11, which is more suited for the track. Sport it is then.
Tourists clear and I start my descent. Wind has picked up speed, and it isn’t just coming from my increasing speed downhill. The thing about having the convertible down is that you have more sky to see. The weather is turning for the worse and the clouds has started to drop its payload. Ahead of me, still many more kilometres of winding roads. The situation cannot be more ideal. For the Boxster, it’s just another piece of tarmac to deconstruct.
One by one, the corners are neatly taken apart. Either that or my perception has been altered. No matter what kind of radius or diameter the corner is, the Porsche sweeps through without ever needing to trim much speed. The car urges me to go quicker, so I give into its wants and discover that there is still so much grip left.
Handling this car becomes easy. It’s really a three-step process – brake, turn, accelerate. There’s not much else to it. Look elsewhere if you’re a fan on body roll and aggressive nose dips, because Porsche has removed all traces of it out of this roadster. Porsche Active Suspension Management and Porsche Torque Vectoring makes cornering more compelling, more precise and more involving. Twitch the steering and the front wheel obliges instantly while the rubbers send out little hooks that gives you more grip to make that turn.
Breaking away from the corner’s orbit will always feel like being catapulted from a slingshot, especially with a power-to-weight ratio of 4.19 kg/hp. Acceleration is always swift and strong and managing the throttle becomes key in not coming out of a corner tail first. Not that it’s easy to do, mind you.
In Sport, the Boxster S becomes more willing to release all of its power in one burst. On full roar, the 3.4 litre flat-six creates six micro-suns in its six cylinders in quick succession, releasing 315 hp at 6,700 rpm and 360 Nm between 4,500 rpm and 5,800 rpm. The six-speed PDK provides rapid-fire gear changes that takes advantage of the energy these little suns generates. The resulting sprint to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds and to 200 km/h in 17.3 seconds makes for an interesting read, and it translates well to reality.
The steering notwithstanding, the Boxster S a car that communicates with you at a higher level. It is as if the car has a telepathic link that taps into your instincts rather than your brain. You sit just in front of the engine, sandwiched between the axles. This explains why you are feeling all that the car is going though – from the grunt of the engine to the grip on all four extremities. And with the top down… the wind in your hair. I’ve never felt so one with a car, any car, before this.
Cold and a little wet now. I hit a small drizzly patch on the way down, there’s just no escaping nature. The air still-cool air fills up the cabin and makes cruising with the top down more pleasurable.
It is on days like these that puts a punctuation in a line of work that can be monotonous most of the time. That is why, without a sliver of doubt, that the Porsche has put something truly special in the Boxster S. Incidentally, as tested, the fully spec’d yellow mule is priced at RM682,090, with the base price kicking off from RM550,000.