Roger St Pierre takes a look at two German gems.
Porsche’s entry-level Boxster 718 sportscar might not exactly qualify as bargain basement but the £44,758 of the forecourt lead-in price tag does represent value for a car that adds a considerable measure of prestige to its many other merits.
For once, that much over-worked motor industry ‘all new’ epithet comes close to being justified – the windshield, roadster cloth top and luggage lid being the only body parts to carry over from the previous model.
The car’s previously rather effete looks are much enhanced, more purposeful, reflecting what’s going on in the engine bay where a completely new generation of turbo-charged flat-four engines and a re-tuned chassis produce impressive performance.
The suspension has been tweaked to make steering response sharper without reducing ride comfort. This has been achieved by the fitting of stiffer coil springs, thicker anti-roll bars, a stronger rear sub-frame and wider rear wheels.
Complimenting the quicker steering is a smaller diameter steering wheel that, apart from anything else, makes it easier for the driver to get in and out of the car. That wheel is free of knobs, dials and switches.
Thanks to the turbo, the 718 Boxster develops 300 bhp, which is 35 bhp more than was achieved by its normally aspirated predecessor. Torque readings are up 36 per cent.
Even more potent, the Boxster S features a 2.5 litre flat four to boost its power to 350 bhp with 309 lb/ft of torque.
The cabin is neat and purposeful, its chairs being hip-hugging but wide enough to suit those of us who are a little broad of beam.
A major drawback of mid-engined two seaters is their general lack of luggage space. The Boxster offers two fairly capacious bins – one under the bonnet, the other in the car’s rump. Their shape means you will need soft bags rather than suitcases but they do provide a total of 275 litres of stowage.
The car’s latest generation of PCM (Porsche Communication Management), comes as standard and is ready for mobile phone installation and an audio interface and can be enhanced with services such as real-time traffic information, Google Street View and Apple Car Play. The touchscreen interface is commendably easy to navigate.
Porsche’s Sound Package Plus Provides a high-quality sound system, with six speakers and 110 watts of power.
Though, as we say, this is by no means a poor man’s Porsche, but at almost exactly half the price of the Stuttgart company’s 911 Carrera it does provide supercar style, handling and performance, with a 5.1 seconds’ acceleration figure and a potential 170-mph top speed. A claimed 38.2 mpg in the combined cycle is also impressive.
Does four mean more?
Hardcore Porsche 911 addicts scroll to another page right now please – this one’s not for you! With its four doors, front-mounted engine, usefully sized boot and comfortable rear seats, the sleek Porsche Panamera sedan breaks the Stuttgart company’s time-honoured jelly-mould.
Memories flood back of the long gone and, sadly, not much missed 928 – an earlier effort that placed luxury above performance but which, just a handful of years into its belaboured 10-year model run, could be picked up second-hand for less than the price of an entry level Ford Escort.
So, have they got it right this time? Well, since the Panamera’s debut some seven years ago, except in America, sales have not exactly been dazzling, despite several facelifts, involving such cosmetics as new lights front and rear, re-styled bumpers, a smaller 3.6-litre V6 for the S model and the option of a plug-in hybrid drive-train, as well as a choice between rear or all-wheel drive.
Styling-wise, the Panamera is best described as a ‘four-door coupé’, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors.
Our base for the test weekend was historic Thornbury Castle, near Bristol, one of the fabled “ruins that Henry knocked about a bit”. Here, our bedroom was at the top of a spiral stone staircase with more than 70 steep steps to negotiate before arriving in our Tower Suite sanctuary. Our reward for all that effort was to spend the night in what is claimed to be the largest bed in Britain, measuring a massive 10 feet from side to side and seventh feet from head to toe.
Thanks to high sills, a low roof line and deep bucket seats, getting into the Panamera also proved to be a bit of a struggle but, by the same token, offered a truly luxurious environment once you snuggled into the cabin. Long wheelbase versions are available, providing easier access, as well as extra space for the longer legged among us.
Fire the engine up and there’s a throaty rumble, but noise – be it from the engine, the wind or the road – never reaches intrusive levels.
On most versions, the power comes from a potent V8, which will easily crack the six seconds barrier for the 0-62 mph sprint. On base models, maximum speed is electrically limited to a licence busting 160 mph – a purely academic figure for most of us more humble motorists. Just for the record, the 4.8 litre V8 turbo versions reach 62 mph in 3.9 seconds and tops out at 180 mph.
To better handle such performance, buyers can opt for the highly sophisticated Porsche Active Suspension Management System, which automatically regulates damper forces according to road conditions and the driver’s style of motoring.
As you’d rightfully expect from a top-end luxury sedan, the Panamera is fully loaded with bells and whistles, ramping prices from £63,913 to £131,152 as you move up the range. What a contrast to the latest fully stripped out ultra-lightweight 911 GT3RS which dumps everything – from sound system and sat/knave to carpets and stowage bins – that is not essential to the quest for ultimate performance, though you do get a roll cage, but costs around £40,000 more than the fully loaded Porsche 911 Carrera.
Only Porsche could get away with charging thousands more to give owners considerably less than they’d get with a Carrera, when it comes to the GT3RS yet at the same time offer the comprehensively equipped Boxster for half the Carrera’s price!
Roger St Pierre is a seasoned professional travel and motoring writer and editor with over 40 years in the industry and one of our regular contributors.
Photographs courtesy of Porsche Cars