Horses. That’s where it all started, didn’t it? How else can one explain man’s obsession with speed? Watching the majestic Rajwansh rear up on cue, posing with as much professionalism as our lady friend Chahat for our ace lensman Gaurav is mesmerising.
His grace and his strength is captivating. And that’s when it hit me like a brick. The bright red and brand new Porsche 718 Boxster is there because someone somewhere decided sometime around 3500 BC that horses would be good to ride. It must have been an astonishing feat for a human being, possibly the weakest animal in the world, to tame and then actually get astride an animal many times more powerful than himself. I wonder what he would have made of taming three hundred of ’em all alone and at one go.
Absurd as it may have sounded to him, truth is the driver of the Boxster does have 300 horses at his disposal. Three hundred horses (296bhp to be precise) released by a two-litre turbocharged flat-four petrol engine sitting between the front and the rear axles. Yet, neither is the Boxster the most powerful among Porsches, nor is it the most coveted. That glory belongs to the icon that made Porsche, the 911. In fact, this 718 isn’t even the most powerful Boxster there is. Thanks to our homologation norms we don’t get the more powerful 2.5-litre engined Boxster S. This Boxster though is one of the most attainable Porsches and also probably the friendliest of the lot from Stuttgart. You buy it because you want to use it and enjoy it.
And enjoy you certainly will if the new 718 Boxster is your choice of wheels. Driving up to our favourite haunt in Lavasa, her dynamics feel like they are balanced on a knife edge. There is no nervous twitchiness, no hairy moments. Just a smooth and continuous flow as you pick your line through the brilliantly surfaced serpentine road. The steering is so precise that I have no difficulty understanding exactly where the wheels are. It’s so effortless it makes you want to break into a song. I do, until a look from the Porsche driver beside me makes me shut up and hum in my head instead. You see the Boxster makes you feel happy. It’s that sort of a car. It won’t make you grin wildly with its antics but will put a smile on your face and keep it there. It’s capable but calm and inspires a similar demeanour in the driver.
Between the corners there’s plenty of shove from the two banks of horizontally opposed cylinders. In fact it has 380Nm of peak torque that kicks in at just 1950rpm and then stays till 4500rpm, power and torque being channelled to the rear wheels. Occasionally, if you’re sufficiently enthusiastic with the right foot, the tail slips out for just a moment. The heart flutters briefly and eyes light up briefly and then it’s back to that smile. It’s almost as if the slide, if it can be called that, is just a reminder that the car you’re in is a Porsche.
All you really need is a well surfaced road with a brilliant set of corners. No, all you need is a brilliant set of corners for this Porsche is enjoyable on any road. For a sportscar the ride quality is absolutely sublime. She masters good roads and takes the bad ones in her stride with equal élan. Comfort over less than perfect roads is never in question. No ugly thuds. None at all. Given how well this car handles, the balance that Porsche have achieved with the 718 Boxster’s suspension set up is truly astonishing. Just goes to show that one thing doesn’t always have to be at the cost of the other.
And just when I’m coming to terms with what a wonderfully engineered sportscar this is, I decide to drop the soft top and let the early morning sun warm us up a bit. It’s another matter that in just about an hour I’ll be dying to get into the air-conditioned comfort of a closed cabin. But right now, topless is how I want this car to be. Out comes the song again, this time a full throated tenor that startles my snoozing passenger. Sorry mate but it’s impossible to ignore the charm of this two-door two-seater convertible.
In any case, I have always had a special fondness for drop tops, especially sportscars. I think they’re more stylish and whatever little they lose out on in terms of outright performance (a convertible chassis is almost always less taut than a hard top) is more than made up for with oomph. Isn’t that the point of a convertible anyway? Other than the whole wind in the hair spiel, that is. Just the sight of her makes the white Mohini whinny and canter around her. Again, it isn’t the raw aggression of say a Lamborghini or a Ferrari that the Porsche exudes. Rather the design communicates a subtle statement of power. Sort of like saying, “I know what I can do. I just don’t have to announce it.” But however hard it may try there is no ignoring the car. Heads turn as I pass other road users, pedestrians and even animals. Makes you feel special. There, that smile again.
The other thing that I found amazing about the 718 is how practical and usable it is. Contrary to what they show you in movie car chase sequences over all sorts of terrain, the truth is that you’ve got to be extra careful with a sportscar when the going gets even a little rough. Most sportscars I have driven, some sedans even, are low slung with little ground clearance. Driving them on our roads keeping the bellies and noses intact can be quite the challenge. Not so with the 718. For a car of its kind, the Boxster has plenty of ground clearance. As a result, speedbreakers and potholes don’t scare the living daylights out of you.
The Boxster is like a bridge in many ways, spanning the yawning gap between daily usability and practicality – it has even got a decent boot, and The Thrill of Driving. With it you really can have your cake and eat it too. Commute to work? She’s game. Weekend run to Goa? Perfect. A trackday? No problem. It’s all rather peachy, isn’t it? Fact is, the 718 Boxster is indeed a peach. The way it drives and can be driven can only be explained in superlatives. Quality is up there with the best. A near perfect balance between handling and ride quality for the ultimate driving pleasure along with a sack full of bragging rights. What’s not to like?
There is one thing however that I missed, character from that engine. Make no mistake, it is super smooth and despite the turbo, there is hardly any lag. Power delivery is creamy too. All in all extremely well engineered but there are no OMG moments. Step on the throttle and the sound is… well… nice and sporty but not something that gets the heart beating much faster. The old naturally aspirated six-cylinder unit was much better at providing aural delight. Yep, there’s none of the thrill of daredevilry that one would usually associate with a sportscar.
So why buy it then? I can think of several reasons. First, it is superbly engineered. I struggled to find a flaw and failed miserably. Think about it, the only thing I found amiss was character in the engine, which is really rather subjective. From the chassis to the overall solid build quality and top notch fit and finish levels, there’s no faulting this Porsche. Second, it’s a statement. For that matter any Porsche is. It tells the world you’ve arrived and are here to stay. It also tells the world you have taste, and class and you understand your cars and don’t just own them to show them. Third, it’s brilliant to drive. I don’t remember a single section of road where I didn’t smile at something about the 718. It really is that good. Fourth, it is supremely usable. Take it home, take it to work, take it for a weekend trip. The Porsche 718 Boxster is up for all of this. As long as there are just the two of you, the 718 can be the perfect four-wheeled partner. Fifth, it’s not particularly expensive. At Rs 81.43 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi, it is the one of the most affordable two-seater convertibles in the country right now. Last but not the least, it’s a Porsche for crying out loud!