Rendez-vous June 2000 – Two Weeks With a Boxster S

RSR Rendez-vous June 2000

Two Weeks With a Boxster S

After two years of waiting, my Boxster S was delivered on April 27th. Here are my first impressions of it. 

In the gloom of winter, Speed Yellow with black seemed like a good idea.  pring sunshine proved the good looks but it sure is visible. I fear it will attract unwarranted attention. Speaking of which, to those Rennsport folks leaving me voicemails singing “you are my are my sunshine”, thank you. Please stop now.

Two trunks! The front has about double the capacity of a 993 and the rear is close in practical terms. The aft compartment unlocks by remote control. Nice. The inside release handles are attractive and easy to reach. Trouble is you can’t use them unless you open the door. A safety thing I guess.

The interior is very different from a 911. I hedged my bets by springing for the full leather treatment and I don’t sense I’ve gone down-scale in the look and feel department.

The ergonomics are typically Porsche, i.e., perfect. The three spoke steering wheel seems to be a copy of a Momo and positions your hands very naturally. A telescopic steering column let’s you get the driving position just

Engine instrumentation is sparse. Apart from the usual speedo/tach there’s a gas gauge, coolant temp and a very neat oil-level indicator. No oil pressure, oil temperature or voltmeter. I’d gladly trade the analog speedo (too small to be useful) for an oil pressure gauge and voltmeter. The outside air temperature display is a nice feature.

The oil level indicator merits a few words. When you turn on the ignition key, the digital clock switches to oil level mode. There’s a vertical bar graph showing the level with high and low marks beside. If the engine’s been stopped for more than a few minutes, the readout is instant. If not, the clock displays a countdown timer telling how long it will take before you’ll have an accurate reading. Very neat.

The gear box is good but not as good as the 993. The throws are longer and it needs a more deliberate lateral movement through the gates when going from second to third for instance. Not enough to gripe about, just not as good as the 993. 

The clutch engages higher off the floor than the 911. It’s funny, but you can jump into almost any ’98 and earlier 911 and feel immediately comfortable with the clutch. It will take a while to retrain my left leg. Effort is similar to the 993.

The steering is perfect. Porsche has a knack of doing power steering (all 911’s since the 964 in ’89) better than anyone. Older (lighter) 911’s have the best “feel” of all with no power assist. On the other hand driving over a Kleenex can wrench the wheel out of your hands. The power steering communicates well and isolates you from small bumps (like facial tissue) while providing excellent feedback about the road surface and grip.

Steering precision is flawless. You can place the car within an inch of the apex with no hesitation. No trade offs here. There’s no on-center slop and the car tracks like it was on a mission from God. This is better than the 993, probably a result of the better weight distribution.

The brakes are what you’d expect. The big red calipers live up to their reputation. Pedal feel is similar to my C4S and not as good as the regular 993. The Boxster has the same “relatively” soft pedal as the AWD cars and is a tad too sensitive for my liking. I really prefer the “brick- wall” feel of the older 911 and 944 brakes. Like all the newer cars, the pedal arrangement will need some fiddling to facilitate proper heel and toe. 

Engine sound is pure music – when you can hear it. There’s the usual turbine whine characteristic of the water cooled sixes and a lovely 911 induction noise when you get into the throttle. In normal driving the engine is too quiet, something I intend to fix real soon now.

Visibility is ok. The top (no rear side windows) limits outward vision. Large sideview mirrors help. The rear view mirror is small. Not that it matters because the small plastic window and roll bars obstruct the view. Just
another excuse to put the top down.

Speaking of roll bars, the good news is that they are triangulated to the structure. This means that we can use them to attach a harness. Cool.

Thanks to good aerodynamics and an insulated top (exclusive to the “S”), noise level in the cabin is similar to a 993 coupe. The open/close mechanism is a mechanical symphony and I enjoy watching the evolution. The rear window doesn’t like being folded and I’ll have to find a sheet of foam to protect it.

Seating (I have the plain Jane ones) is excellent. I’d save the cost of the optional Sports Seats. Louise thinks they’re improved over the ’99 Boxsters and 996s she’s driven. If you want something more supportive , use the
money you saved on the Sport Seats to get a set of Momo’s.

Storage in the cockpit is limited. I’d forgotten how useful the floor behind the 911 seats was. The center console is too small. There’s no glove box and the door pockets are about the same as the 993. Their plastic covers are a bit cheesy. The 993 is better in this regard.

A funky little spoiler lifts at 120 KPH to signal that you’re speeding. There’s a -talk your way out of it switch- for manual deployment located waaaay down in the drivers footwell. Very odd placement.

I went for 18 inch wheels. I was pleased with the result. The Sports Classic is a two piece “BBS” wheel. A pain to clean but very nice looking. The wider 225 and 265 (F/R) rubber can’t hurt either. The OEM Conti’s stick very well in the wet.

Being a track junkie I opted for the “M030 Sports Chassis” with its stiffer springs, shocks and sway bars. The ride is acceptable especially in light of the 18 inch wheels. Big bumps are absorbed well. Very stiff roll compliance will make you think you’re in a go-kart over broken pavement though. On the whole the stiff suspension shouldn’t scare off anyone into performance. The very stiff chassis helps here since bumps don’t cause squeaks or rattles.

Handling is superb. Ground-school last weekend gave me a chance to test on a wet skid pad. The Boxster S is confidence inspiring. Michel Galarneau came out with me for the test. I pushed the car into terminal understeer and let off the gas abruptly. As we demonstrated 100 times that afternoon, doing this in any model Porsche (and a Mercedes S-500) results in a spin. Not so in the Boxster. It just tucked back into the intended line with no false moves. Galarneau refused to believe I had lifted off.

We did it again only this time I lifted my smelly sneaker to within a few inches of his nose to prove the point. Other than a gasp from Michel the result was the same.

Don’t get the idea the car can’t spin but you have to really provoke it. Since a few of us (including me) had the theory that the mid engine car would spin like a top if you lost it, I was determined to find out. Making the car spin took real effort and four attempts. We were right. It does rotate around its center of mass very quickly. Don’t eat Poutine before doing this experiment.

A set of impromptu drag races against Louise in her 993 (wearing brand new SO-2 Pole Positions) was (according to Louise) inconclusive. People watching said I won. Louise said I got a better start and that she was catching me. All three times. Could be, or maybe I had lifted off by then. I suspect the 993 has the edge but when she passes me it shouldn’t be too humiliating. Besides I’ll have a better tan.

At last, air conditioning that really works. Hot humid weather has proved that the new system is as good as that found in any American car. I could freeze myself out with the fan on low. The new system is automatic with full
manual overrides. It appears to be the same system (controls anyway) as Audi uses. This is a big improvement over the 993 and its predecessors.

While on basic things, the wipers and headlights are also up to snuff. The 993 wipers like most of the 911’s that came before were marginal at best. The Boxster and the 996 fixed that, and it’s safe to drive in the teeming rain now. My headlights are the ordinary halogen ones and they’re excellent on both beams.

Like many cars adapted to Canadian laws, the Boxster S has useless fog lights. You cannot drive with the fogs alone. This defeats the purpose in foggy or snowy conditions. Mercedes gets this right, but Porsche/Audi don’t.

In sum I like the car a lot and don’t regret the switch from the C4S. I’m going to borrow my son’s G-Tech meter and try a couple of 0-60 runs comparing with the 993. I’ll  report later. 

Tire Valve and Cap Warning:

Howard at Talon reports that they have discovered a problem with tire valves and caps. Apparently tire valves come in two different lengths. Either were considered acceptable. It seems that for cars used on the track, the short valve is superior. Also, valve caps are suspect. Talon now uses metal valve caps which have a sealing gasket at the top. The plastic ones don’t have this safety feature. If you track your car you should stop in and have your valves and caps checked. The long valve and a plastic cap can result in a sudden loss of air and a ruined tire to say nothing of your day.

Ground School – Well Done!

We missed the first half of Ground-school because Nicolas was making his First Communion. For Jewish readers, this is a lot like a Bar-Mitzvah and if you feel inclined you can send gelt <grins>.

The afternoon skid pad exercises were a blast. There were a lot of happy Porsche owners who got to experience what their cars could really do. All the new owners were surprised by how well their cars handled. It was fun riding with them. A Surgeon driving a Cab.  demonstrated finesse apropriate to his profession. He’ll be a natural for the Instructor Development Program I bet. Lisa Carbone (she’s the [much] better half) of Al Carbone, learned to four-wheel drift a Mercedes S500. She also learned that if you lift, it spins just like a Porsche! She had a smile half way around her head when she was done. Audrey Brown showed off her car control by circulating the pad in a perfectly controlled four wheel drift lap after lap. Congrats to Mike Delaney and Peter Korsos for giving us a really good time.


..Porsche, life is short. Drive the line.

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