Sideways glance

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Nick Faure is Britain’s most famous, and spectacular, 911 driver. What then would he make of the rather tamer Boxster? Roger Bell does the introductions

If Porsche is pinning its future on the Boxster, I think it has got it wrong.” It was the trader in Nick Faure who spoke first, not the driver. “Ask people what a Porsche is and they’ll say 911.”

The veteran of some 600 races, 11 Le Mans and more deals in 911s than you’ve had visits to Tesco’s, was expressing his doubts about the new Boxster. “Once the hype is over, will people really buy a two-seater Porsche? My customers want rear seats. There aren’t enough buyers around who can afford to be that impractical.”

People certainly want the Boxster right now. What’s more, they have the money.

Silly money. Seated at a big, paper-strewn table that serves as his desk, Nick Faure a burly, bearded, 54-year-old with a ready laugh and an artist’s eye tells us of the punter who had just paid £52,000 elsewhere for one. Loaded with extras, it retailed at £45,000 (up from a basic £33,950) and the rest was premium.

“I cannot understand the mentality of people who get into the overs market for the sake of a few months’ wait,” says Nick. Not that Nick Faure, car dealer, is complaining. “I have just sold a £21,000 Lotus Elise in the trade for £24,000. And it was left-hand drive, at that.”

Here we go again, I thought. The market is on the verge of madness. The world is awash with new sports cars and, for the moment, everyone seems to want them. Me included. My first drive in a Boxster had been so bewitching that I considered ways of raising the cash to run one for a year or so before selling it on without suffering any loss. Singing through the gears over the South Downs en route to Nick’s place in Milford, Surrey, he works from home beside a golf course I wish I had, even though my order would have been at least a year too late.

I was hooked, no question. But then I don’t make a living trading in used Porsches. What would Nick Faure, Britain’s best-known exponent of Germany’s rear-engined icon, think of the new ‘affordable’ Porsche? As it happened, Nick had just returned from Germany in a current 911 which left him waxing lyrical about a car that everyone agrees just gets better and better. Surely the less powerful Boxster which Nick had yet to drive would prove something of an anti-climax.

“I cannot see why Porsche is even thinking about killing this 911 which is both roomier and smaller than the Boxster. In Germany, they’re already saying that the 996 (the 911’s replacement, based on the Boxster’s floorpan and powertrain) is a disaster… It’s a modern 928, and look what happened to the old one. It never sold that well. People have very short memories.”

Nick is puzzled by talk of the Carrera 4S being retained, against expectations, as a third-string model alongside the Boxster and 996. “Why the expensive 4S? It’s never been that desirable,” he says. The no-frills 3.2-litre 911 Classic Nick would love Porsche to build for Boxster money would make far more sense. Amen to that.

Commercially, the 914 and 914/6 the Boxster’s mid-engined precursors never made much impact, either. “They had diabolical handling,Nick recalls. “You needed to spend a lot of money to make them safe. The standard set-up was quite dangerous, with terrible understeer…”

I’d never considered the 914/6 that had, so was my admiration for the Boxster misplaced? Nick was about to pass judgement. The first thing he does when settling into the hot seat is to pull the wheel right out, as close to his chest as possible. “I always drove at Le Mans like this. It’s much less tiring.” No long-armed, boy-racer stuff for this old pro. “I feel wonderfully comfortable. The seat’s built for big Germans, so it suits me fine.”

Within seconds of departing, Nick is enthusing about the pedals hangers in the Boxster, not floor-hinged like the 911’s. “They’re the best Porsche has done.” He shifts quickly and smoothly, spotting the absence of clutch lag, praising the sharp responses. Nick is surprised there aren’t six gears (he later concedes that five are sufficient), but seems pleased Porsche has returned to a shift pattern that places reverse on the other side of the gate from first not dangerously adjacent to it, as on late-model 911s. “Novices have been known to move off smartly backwards at the lights.” He enthuses about the instruments and the traditional dominant central tacho which I always dismissed as pretentious nonsense, even with a supplementary digital speedo. Why bother with the analogue one at all? Nick also comments favourably on the view ahead. “It’s part of Porsche tradition to have wing pointers you drive between.”

First impressions? Very good. “I’m reminded of my first go in a 356.” And it was the 356 that gave Nick his taste for Porsches. He started racing 911s in 1967, after a ’65 debut in a Mini. In ’73 he won the British Production Sports Car Championship in the importer’s Carrera RS 2.7, with 16 victories. As the most successful sports car of the year, his 911 appeared alongside Jackie Stewart’s Tyrrell at the Scottish Show.

Nick is immediately at home in the Boxster. “It seems to wipe the road,” he says, remembering how the late Denis Jenkinson once described the 356’s progress in MOTOR SPORT. “It gives you great confidence immediately, there’s no learning curve at all. Anyone could get in and drive it.” Not like a 911, then? Nick will hear little ill spoken of the current 911 which is very well sorted (and not, it should be said before time), though he concedes that earlier models are not so user-friendly.

At first, he describes the Boxster’s steering as incredible, even though it lacks the outright feel of an unassisted 911’s. “No modem car could have that much feel,” he observes. Pushing hard along wet country roads, Nick then concludes that the steering seems a bit detached, that it’s not as positive as he’d like. “A 911 isn’t like this. The Boxster seems to float over small undulations, as though the dampers aren’t doing their job properly. Didn’t you find that?”

Can’t say I did, Nick. But then again, with my reputation to uphold as the world’s worst passenger, my mind is by now only half devoted to NF’s pearls of wisdom. The other half is concerned with the speed with which waterlogged tarmac and muddy verges flash towards us, then swish beneath. We come to an open right-hander. Nick blips down to second under braking (he really is enjoying those hanging pedals) and buries the throttle. The inside rear tyre scrabbles harmlessly. What, no limited slip differential? “It doesn’t want to throw the back out. It’s as though the car was designed to sit there and just spin the power away.”

Nevertheless, Mr Faure is clearly enjoying the Boxster. “How could I not? I feel as though I’ve been driving it for 20 years. Clearly, it’s built by people who understand what the feel of a car should be… the brakes are fantastic.”

Anyone who’s seen Nick racing will know that opposite-lock power slides are a speciality, particularly in 911s. He soon has the Boxster’s beyond-the-limit habits logged and tamed. “You have to be quite aggressive to make it slide. Breakaway and recovery are far sharper than a 911’s.” That’s as it should be, given the newcomer’s midengined layout and light ends. “But breakaway is not so progressive. There’s no slow pendulum swing, which is what’s so splendid about the 911.”

Splendid eh? I wonder at this point whether Nick doesn’t underestimate his own skill at the wheel of a 911. What to him is characterful play is to lesser mortals a tricky sting in the tail. My own feeling is that the Boxster is the safer, more friendly car by quite a margin. Its limits are so high that no ordinary punter is likely to breach them unintentionally. As Nick found, simply backing off the natural reaction to getting out of shape is normally sufficient to restore the equilibrium. Brilliant though it is, the current-model 911 that gives Nick so much confidence seems to me a trickier animal than its young sibling.

Nick regrets you can’t see the Boxster’s lovely 24-valve engine hidden amidships. “Buyers like to be able to see the engine on a forecourt, not on a ramp,” he grumbles. To restrain performance to sub-911 levels, the Boxster has 2.5 litres and 204bhp though there’s a more powerful 3.0-litre variant on the horizon. Water-cooling jackets soften the flat-six’s raspy edge but, vocally, the Boxster is still classic Porsche. “It’s a lovely noise,” Nick says.

“The thing about Porsches is they always sound great to the driver.” So what about performance?

Nick zings the honey-smooth engine up to its modest six-five limit. “You don’t need anything faster than this for the road.” I had-expected criticism of the engine’s modest low-rev muscle, if not about its upper virulence. Not a bit of it.

“Driving a sports car is about using the gearbox,” says Nick, who praised the engine’s flexibility. Like me, Nick would not want the alternative Tiptronic auto. Why pay £2600 more for less fun? Why deny yourself the added involvement of a good manual box? And that of the Boxster is very good, provided you’re fleet of hand and foot.

Nick Faure, driver, sees the Boxster differently from Nick Faure, trader. “The more I drive it, the more I want it. Its appeal is immense. It’s the concept that’s limited.” What about structural integrity? “Brilliant. It feels far stiffer than a 911 cabriolet.”

I’d add to that a 911 Targa too. For an open car, the Boxster is uncannily taut. Given the shallow sidewalls and width of its low-profile tyres, it also rides well. Two-seaters don’t come much more comfortable than this, not even Merc’s SLK.

High praise, then, from Mr 911 for the upstart Boxster’s feel, sound, looks, safety, performance, brakes, hood, seats at the end of the day he’s even playing down criticism of thet front-end float.

“It’s all right the the road.” However, he still has misgivings about the car’s commercial role. “I don’t think that the Boxster will ever achieve as much as the 911. It’ll be a flash in the pan… but it would be nice to be proved wrong.”

You may also like

Related products