Thursday 23rd August 2012


PH BLOG: PURE AND SIMPLE

Forget electric steering, it's Porsche's obsession with grip that's the real threat


Lordy you can throw a lot of acronyms - and cash - at a Porsche these days. T'was ever thus of course but hence the invitation to Silverstone last week for a full explanation of what they all do.

It always was proper but latest Boxster looks it
It always was proper but latest Boxster looks it
Never being one for sitting in classrooms I promptly grabbed this rather fetching Boxster S, Racing Yellow paint and mean looking 20-inch Sport Techno wheels (a hefty £1,809 extra PLUS £809 for the honour having them painted black...) drawing me in like some Porsche fixated magpie.

Maybe I've been spending too much time around GT86s and MX-5s lately (maybe?) but those bloody great wheels got me thinking. I mean, they look great. The car looks great, inside and out, and more that up to shifting up a pay grade or two to compensate for the Carrera's inexorable rise to being a six-figure purchase.

But with all that rubber on the road, supported by that army of acronyms, Porsche's obsession with mechanical grip (again, t'was ever thus) makes the Boxster feel curiously inert, at least at anything even approaching a sensible kind of speed on the public highway. Demonstrated by the blinding B-road just north of Silverstone I always use for such tests that's packed with fast and slow corners, weird cambers and lumps and bumps of all shapes and sizes. And the Boxster just took it apart with clinical precision. And that's just it - clinical precision. Still a lovely thing, mind.

Two possible extremes of 991 purchase
Two possible extremes of 991 purchase
Back at the track there was a fleet of 991s with varying levels of acronym overload to show off the tech. I took a PDK'd S with the new aero kit, PASM, PTV+, PDCC and POYWW (aka Please Open Your Wallet Wide). And it was great. But again, clinical and brutally efficient. And then I hopped into a vanilla manual Carrera, silver, on 19s and just a sports auspuff to its name. And it was bloody wonderful. And it brought back something from the presentation where we were told the development goal is to get the chassis perfectly balanced and set up and THEN add the electronics on top. Which begs the question, why bother? Especially if it's going to add a five-figure sum to the bottom-line cost, as it could if you got carried away with the box ticking. Yes, that base car rolled about more, didn't grip quite as hard and wouldn't be as quick against the clock as the bells and whistles one. But it sounded gorgeous, involved you in what was going on and was ultimately much more fun.*

The less is more school of Porsche buying
The less is more school of Porsche buying
There followed an interesting discussion with some of the engineers off the back of driving the new Sports Chassis option coming on Boxster S soon. Passive dampers and much more aggressive settings liven it up no end. Innocently I asked Herr Doktor engineer number one why, if PASM active dampers are so good, this hardcore set-up used passive dampers? Are they inherently less compromised? Herr Doktor engineer number two, just out of his line of sight, nodded vigorously with a mischievous grin as I got the party line about why active dampers offer the best of both and a Porsche that can do the city commute and blistering 'ring lap alike. He did concede that if he had it his way active dampers wouldn't have a driver selectable 'sports' setting but that the market insists and who's he to argue.

Minimum electronics, maximum fun
Minimum electronics, maximum fun
So, pushed a little, even the engineers appear to admit the gizmos aren't really all that necessary. Which probably wasn't the message I was supposed to bring back from the event...

Dan

*The above words will promptly be swallowed at the first whiff of the keys to anything with a GT3 badge on it, obviously

Author: Dan Trent
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