A couple of weeks ago I was invited over to my local Porsche dealer in Cambridge to one of their open day events and to have a drive in a couple of their cars.
After looking at the cars available, I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to drive the same two cars I drove a few months earlier at the SMMT Test Day, but this time in the real world. With that in mind, I booked myself in for slots, one in the 911 Carrera GTS and one in the Boxster S – now you may have already noticed that the last 911 I drove was actually a Carrera 4 GTS, but the C2 is all they had available.
When I got there I was greeted by the great staff at Cambridge Porsche. My brother bought both of his Porsches from them and I know a few other people who have as well, and the service you get from the team there is brilliant – always welcoming and happy to answer any questions you have. It also helped that on that particular day they had a burger van serving up complimentary chicken burgers and beef burgers, and even better than that, a fire engine dishing out coffee!
In my usual style, I arrived pretty early, around an hour before my first drive was booked in, so this gave me plenty of time to look around the dealership to see what they currently had in and to have a little play in all the new models as well like the new Panamera. One thing which definitely caught my eye whilst I worked my around the building was a stunning white 911 GT3 RS. It had a matching white roll cage inside and black leather and just looked fabulous.
First car up was the 911 – this time finished in Porsche’s special “Crayon” colour – essentially a dirty off-white that definitely grows on me the more I look at it… The first thing I have to say about the new 911, and the new Boxster as well I guess, is that when you fire them up they have lost a bit of that uniqueness that lets everyone around you know that you are starting up a Porsche. The 911 is not quite as bad as it still has flat 6 and it still sounds like a flat 6, but the Boxster always had this great almost rattle that you could tell a mile off on a cold Sunday morning.
The biggest, and most noticeable difference between the Carrera GTS and the Carrera 4 GTS is the All Wheel Drive element of the Carrera 4 GTS – When I drove the C4 back in May I really liked the feel and the power it produced and it handled the Alpine Circuit at Millbrook beautifully, but it did feel a bit heavy. There is quite a significant weight difference between the two cars, over 50kgs in fact and you can definitely notice it in the steering. Having said that, the C4 GTS is quicker. Output wise, they are pretty much identical – both the C2 and C4 dish out 450hp with 550nm of torque from their turbocharged 3.0 litre flat six engines. Top speed is also pretty much the same, 192mph for the C2 and 191mph for the C4. The only 2 really obvious differences are the 0-62mph, where the C4 is slightly quicker due to its grip from the AWD set up (3.6 seconds with launch control compared to 3.7 in the C2) and the price. With the PDK gearbox, there’s £5k between them with the AWD model costing the most.
A lot of purists out there will tell you keep your 5 grand (or use it for more goodies in the options list) and go for the RWD option, and I would have to agree with them. The best drivers 911 has always been the two wheel drive option and there’s no change here. The differences aren’t huge, but when you drive them side by side, you will see. That really is not to say that the Carrera 4 GTS is any worse, it’s brilliant, it’s just not as good as its cheaper brother.
I didn’t really spend much time with the 911, and when I was driving it I just kept thinking how great Porsche are at making really good quality sports cars. When you sit in a Porsche, whether it’s an entry level Boxster or a fully loaded Panamera, you get the same feel of quality. They are not the most exciting places to be inside, everything it very functional and where it should be with very few gimmicks, but is that really a bad thing? After spending years with the Ferrari F430 at home and also spending a lot of time in other Ferraris etc… you always took the build quality with a pinch of salt – “you buy the car for the handling and the engine, not the cup holders and sat nav” and I agree in a lot of cases, but Porsche really do manage to get this right across the board. In conclusion, the 911 Carrera GTS is a great car, all the fun of the basic two wheel drive Carrera 2 car with a few extras and a bit more poke to make it a really good drivers car, probably the best you can get under £100k and if you are trying to toss up between the C2 and the C4 option, definitely save the pennies and go for the C2 GTS!
On to the Boxster. This must be maybe the tenth Boxster I have driven in the last few years – ranging from a standard 987 Boxster to the awesome Boxster Spider and then more recently a few of these new 4 cylinder 718 variants and I love them all. I have had countless conversations with people who sit on both sides of the fence about these cars, and I really cannot stop loving them. Yes, as mentioned above, the new ones just don’t sound the same as they used to, but thanks to the great work at Stuttgart, they still sound great, just a different kind of great! The biggest “problem” for the Boxster (and Cayman) is that a lot of people have labelled them the “poor mans Porsche” – Off the bat, I can tell you that most of the people who say that, have not driven one, or if they have, definitely have not driven one in anger. There really isn’t, in my opinion, another car in the Boxster’s price point that offers the same amount of grip, driveability AND practicality in one package. The V6 Jaguar F-Type is probably the closest “everyday” car you can get for that kind of money and as much as I love the F-Type (and I REALLY do) it just is not as good. The 718 Boxster is the perfect blend of reliable German build quality with sensible service intervals and a proper B-road blaster. I drove the old 987 Boxsters around the Porsche handling circuit at Silverstone and remember thinking how awesome these little cars are, and then I took the 718 S around the Alpine handling circuit at Millbrook and just thought, again, how amazing these cars are. They can make you feel like a real track hero with very little fear-factor.
So, to cut along story short, the Carrera GTS is brilliant, but the cheaper, smaller 718 Boxster S is more fun. Sell your houses and by them both.
And as always, a huge thank you to the very welcoming staff over at Cambridge Porsche, it’s working with people like that that make the experience all the more enjoyable.
*For a slightly more detailed write up on the 718 Boxster S, have a look here: https://welldriven.wordpress.com/2017/06/23/smmt-test-day-2017-part-2/