First times can be exciting. Your first time riding a bike, your first time on a plane, your first time on a date with a new love interest. But there are some first times you most definitely do not want to notch up with your father next to you. Your first time crashing a car for example. Or perhaps other things… Anyway, when it’s your first time driving a Porsche, well, that’s a bit of an exception.
Adding to my excitement about finally getting to drive a vehicle from one of the great sports car makers of our time, is that my dad has never driven a Porsche either.
He’s always loved Porsches, always wanted a Porsche but at 63, he’s never actually driven one. So what – provided I sling him the keys – will be ticking our cross-generational boxes? The new top-of-the-range Porsche Boxster GTS.
Rolling up to the parentals house in the fastest, most powerful Boxster you can buy – top down, of course – old Pop is already out front smiling.
Being the flagship variant of an already sporting model is no mean feat. So it’s no surprise that at $145,500, the mid-engined Porsche Boxster GTS starts at more than $16,000 above the Boxster S.
Add in our Rhodium Silver test car’s seven-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission and you’re looking at $151k-plus (before options or on-roads).
Helping to justify its higher price and distinguish it from its ‘lesser’ convertible siblings, the Porsche Boxster GTS comes standard with unique front and rear bumpers, blackened bi-xenon headlights and 20-inch Carrera S alloy wheels – the latter finished in black on our test car for an additional $2890.
About far more than looks alone, the GTS – or Gran Turismo Sport – also gets Porsche’s two-stage electronically adjustable Active Suspension Management system (PASM) and 11kW and 10Nm more than the Boxster S.
Using a tuned version of the same naturally aspirated 3.4-litre six-cylinder engine as its S base car, the GTS churns out 243kW and 370Nm. Oh, and that suspension – which incidentally lowers the body an additional 10mm – is normally a $2710 option for buyers of the $128,900 Boxster S.
Further goodies include a Sports Chrono package – a $3890 option on the Boxster S – that sharpens steering, throttle and gearbox response and helps take 0.1 seconds off the Boxster S’s 4.8-second 0-100km/h time.
The pack also adds dynamic transmission and engine mounts and a dash-mounted stop watch. For more specifics, though, read CarAdvice’s full technical review of the Porsche Boxster GTS here.
With the obligatory roof-off combination of sunscreen, hats and jackets – this is Melbourne after all – we leave the quiet Eastern suburbs for the even quieter back roads surrounding Victoria’s gorgeous Yarra Valley.
Apart from entertaining roads and daredevil wildlife, the Yarra Valley is also home to some pretty exceptional wine country.
Our plan is to clock up some kays in the Porka, revel in its Porsche-ness, have some lunch at De Bortoli’s restaurant like a couple of high-rollers, then head back enjoying more of what the German sports car has to offer.
I’m first at the wheel as we head towards Yarra Glen via Warrandyte.
Happy at a cruise anywhere from 1800rpm or above, the Boxster GTS, left in ‘Normal’ mode, is mostly very comfortable. Ok, you can feel bumps and the steering is a little on the heavy side, but the cabin is spacious and the wind buffeting is mild.
The PDK (or Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe if you’re trying to impress your mates) transmission is silky smooth in almost all situations, but can get a bit stuttery when gently taking off from lights or parking.
Pop – a medical professional with almost 40 years experience and comfortably closer to the target demographic than myself – quickly warms to the compact, mid-engined GTS.
“All the dials and instruments and buttons are a bit blingy and busy but you’d get used to it I reckon,” Dad says.
Drinking in the GTS’s swathes of leather, carbonfibre and Alcantara (a $7490 option), Dad says, “The build quality and finish is as you’d expect – top shelf.”
Highlighting the fact that the standard analogue speedo reads to 300km/h – mostly useless on public roads – Dad points out just how much the digital speedo “is a must”.
On the ginger drive out, we talk seriously about the car and who would buy it.
It’s not cheap but it is astonishingly practical for a two-seat sports car. There’s 150 litres of storage in the front trunk (or frunk) and 130L in the rear. And either is far more useful than the 196.2-litre excuse of a boot found at the back of the dearer Jaguar F-Type Convertible.
You can go from roof up to roof down in nine seconds, and do so at speeds of up to 60km/h or stationary via the key fob (infinitely cool and convenient).
As I continue to try and wrap my head around the price of the GTS versus that of a second-hand 911 (soft or hard top), we pull over for a driver change.
As much as I, and slightly less so my dad, would have loved our first time behind the wheel of a Porsche to have required the use of the left leg, the more time we spend in the Boxster GTS, the more the PDK gearbox makes sense.
Unobtrusive shifts fire through whether you leave things in ‘D’ or change cogs via the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles in ‘manual’ mode – accompanied by more of a dull ‘thud’ than a ‘click’.
“I like it,” Dad says of the whole package.
“Not just because it’s a Porsche either. You can drive it sedately or you can go crazy.”
Sitting flat and squat on 35-profile Pirelli P Zero rubber – 235mm wide up front, 265mm at the rear – the Porsche Boxster GTS is stable and confidence inspiring at all times. Squirting up the straights or hooking into corners, the 1375kg Porka never feels even remotely skittish.
A far cry from the notoriously snapping handling traits of mid-engined sports cars of old – I’m looking at you Toyota MR2 – even Dad admits its dynamic ability suits more senior drivers saying, “It’s a good old-man car”.
“You don’t feel like you’re going to get yourself into too much trouble with it.”
Though not the lightest, Dad praises the steering for its accuracy and directness. The throttle too he finds easy to “feel out”, quickly letting you know how hard to push and when.
“The soundtrack’s pretty good too,” he says using the ‘loud’ pedal for its nicknamed purpose.
A big fan of turbocharger technology – at one stage he had a late ‘80’s front-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo – Dad can’t help but be impressed with the unboosted powerplant.
“Naturally aspirated engines are interesting and exciting,” Dad says.
“I respect the engineering.”
Apart from cracking performance, the ‘Boxer’ flat-six also claims a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 8.2 litres per 100km. Though unable to match it on our 160km-plus round trip out to De Bortoli Estate and back, we did average 11.5L/100km.
If the flagship Boxster’s ride in Normal mode is firm but not unpleasant, as Dad puts it, “Sport mode could get tiresome”.
Individually selectable via a transmission tunnel-mounted PASM button, the two suspension settings are also linked in part to the ‘Sport’ and ‘Sport Plus’ buttons.
Effectively taking things from ‘angry Porsche’ to ‘let me out onto the racetrack Porsche’, your options when using the two programs are as follows. Either use them and accept that left in ‘Drive’ the gearbox will hold revs and aggressively gear down when it deems fit, or (my choice) simply take control and use the paddles.
And while part of the Sport/Sport Plus party trickery is opening up the tail pipes’ sound limiting baffles, you can unleash the six-cylinder symphony in whatever mode you want thanks to the function having its own button.
Regardless of what buttons you push though, in the real world, the Porsche Boxster GTS is plenty fast, offering more than enough poke to keep smiles on faces for days.
“It is a bit of an attention magnet, though, isn’t it,” Days says after we’d been followed and hassled by all and sundry simply because we were in a Porsche.
My other gripes are restricted to the low-rent map and radio display on the in-dash seven-inch touchscreen, the myriad of chrome-accented buttons, and the fact that features such as front and rear parking sensors are optional ($2580) on a top-spec Porsche.
Allowing you to scroll through phone, stereo, satellite navigation, and other functions, the right ‘master stalk’ toggle controls also take a bit of getting used to, though, once sussed, are actually quite smart if not totally intuitive.
Feed done, drive done – and no, neither of us drank a single drop of fermented grape juice – we return back home two men who can now say they have driven a Porsche.
Entertaining and vastly capable, the Porsche Boxster GTS combines impressive grip and cornering prowess with straight-line oomph and more than reasonable passenger comfort.
Would I buy one? No. I’d keep saving for a 911 GT3. But top down motoring is always a thrill and the Boxster GTS is surely one of the best at it, even if it may not be my personal glass of Pinot Gris… Dad, however, well, his response was far simpler.
“I could do this Porsche thing, you know. I could do this everyday…”
“I guess for this price, though, the question is, one of these or a second-hand 911?”
Images by David Zalstein.