Relationships and life in general would be infinitely better if people were honest. So let me state outright that I am an unashamed Porsche fan. Now before you hastily click the close tab on your internet browser, you should know that although I love the brand, I find its slew of South African car of the year victories a tad dubious. But that is a column for another time. For now, allow me to wax lyrical (and critical) about the new Boxster GTS, which arrived in South Africa this year.
It was a week-long test period in which I was immersed in the sweet nostalgia of boyhood dreams. I recalled the Porsche bed linen I had as a youngster, which I used well into adulthood. This was probably the reason I only secured my first real girlfriend at the not-so-tender age of 19. I also have a framed photo of myself as a three-year-old posing proudly with my uncle Aldrin next to a gleaming red 911 Turbo. This car will be in my garage someday. Although the 911 has always been the archetypal Porsche, models like the Boxster have evolved into venerable warriors with their own identities.
Of course, you cannot ignore those mean and unfounded slurs about hairdressers. But if the standard Boxster is a car for a salon owner, then the GTS version must be the chariot for Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street. It is the first GTS model in the history of the Boxster breed. And those three letters put a lot of expectation and pressure on its sculpted haunches. The letters were first seen on the 904 Carrera back in 1963, which proved its mettle in the FIA-GT racing class. So it would seem that the mandate for Porsche in the case of the Boxster is to build a racing car for the road. Except… that claim often leads to some nasty products.
We all know that when a manufacturer bills a car as a track-bred machine for the road, the end result is something of a compromise. It will inevitably jar the bones, it will be noisy, it will be impractical and the haze of the dream will fade away faster than Milli Vanilli. And yet the Boxster is a viable daily drive. Because the engine sits in the middle, it has two luggage compartments; both are impressively deep and wide. The insulated ragtop manages to expel road noise pretty well. Those with bad backs will not wince when driving over shoddy tarmac. And despite its sporting nature, it is no dipsomaniac — which will appease your conscience and wallet. The best figure we achieved was 8.7l/100km over a 70km stint that combined freeway and urban settings. But one does not buy a car of this kind for its practical virtues. So let’s get to the fun part: performance. Boy does it go! There is a little switch next to the gear lever with a clear illustration of a pair of tailpipes. Engaging it transforms the GTS from a stealthy cruiser to a bona fide beast that seizes the ears of everyone around it.
We have grown accustomed to a surfeit of synthesised snaps, crackles and pops in performance cars these days. But the Boxster is on another level. Of course, you have that distinctive flat-six soundtrack all Porsche fans know and love. But it has been mixed in with a cacophony of burps and snorts. Up-shifts are marked by a menacing “Braaaaaap” — lift off the throttle and it emits a sound not unlike kernels popping in a pot. I simply had to imprint the sounds on my brain, so on the night before handing the keys back, I headed to that well-lit tunnel just outside of Meyersdal in the south of Johannesburg. Top down, serenaded by the Porsche’s furious six-pot song was something I will not forget.
Compared to the lesser S models — which are no slouch either — the GTS packs an extra 11kW. The slight power gain trims a fraction off the 0-100km/h sprint time; 4.7 seconds Vs 4.8 seconds. What I found remarkable was the linearity with which it accelerates. It feels perfectly measured throughout the range and there are no spots where it feels indifferent. Then there is the seamlessness of Porsche’s PDK transmission, which aids that sense of uninterrupted momentum. On the handling front, you already know the score. Directional changes are abrupt, with the immediacy you would get on a motorcycle. Ballerina-like poise is what you can expect here and — although I hate to use this cliché — the GTS really does feel like an extension of the hands.
So what do we dislike about the talented roadster? Well, Porsche still needs to master the art of creating an interface that does not overwhelm the driver. Although the Boxster GTS is an improvement on the old model, the fascia is still festooned with buttons. And there is something else to consider: the GTS costs about R124 000 more than the S version; which is 0.1 of a second slower — and sounds just as good to the untrained ear — even though it might not have the bragging rights that come with the GTS badge.
Engine: 3436cc, six-cylinder
Power: 243kW at 6000rpm
Torque: 370Nm between 4500rpm and 5800rpm
0-100km/h: 4.7 seconds (PDK)
Top speed: 279km/h
Fuel consumption: 8.2l/100km (Claimed)
Prices: From R948 000