Monday, 29 June 2009
There's a lot you can tell of a car just by its seats. Firstly, you can differentiate whether you are made to sit on one or to properly sit in one. While one of the most famous Japanese marque seem to dictate that you plant your gluteus maximus muscle on one of their car 'stools', the Pug that you see above has simply one the most cossseting and supportive item around - for its class or even one segment up. Paired with a suspension pliancy that reeks of Conti finesee - French to be specific - it's truly very pleasant to drive around in one. Case in point, even when you have failed to brake in time for one of those free-for-all-tall-supersized speed bump, the 308 dampers seem to have taken it all in stride. No bottoming out, no jarring thump, no post hump wallow.
While this base 308 may roll a little more than desired around corners, the whole package seem to work very well with the naturally aspirated 1.6L engine. Power is mostly adequate and definitely not underpowered, what's with the 4-speed Titronic Porsche gearbox working well across the sweep of engine speed. Of course, there's that Turbo sibling with much more verve and with what higher bookings probably translating to a notion of better value-for-money. However, all is not lost on this VTi. At sub-RM100k for a C-segment Conti hatch, I doubt you will be able to find anything with ride, seats and body control better than this, brand new with warranty et al. Heck! You can't get even a brand-new Honda Jazz i-VTEC for that kind of money. Go figure.
Friday, 5 June 2009
There's no denying there is something mesmerising and magically alluring about the Porsche brand, with its sportscars heritage et al. Attending the new Boxster and Cayman launch a couple of weeks ago, I noticed the gleaming facies, dilated pupils and glistening eyes of guests and potential owners looking much like a kid lost in Toys 'R' Us.
What we have here is the new generation (in German auto speak) Boxster and Cayman, possibly on its last leg of service (read: 2 - 3 years), with some nip-and-tuck applied to this 987 series mid-engine Porsche, before the all-new 988 (?) takes over the midship rein sometime 2011 or slightly thereafter.
It's also undeniable that the 987 shares so much of evolutionary traits from the debut 986 series. Dimensions, platform, doors, removable hardtop, powered soft-top, mechanical layout and overall silhoutte, especially the roadster version i.e. Boxster. After all, the Cayman was honed with an all-new hardtop as a complementary model since MY2005. It is also probably the only model in automotive history in which the coupe version cost more than the cabriolet sibling!
Of course, since the unveiling of the Boxster in 1997, the car has not only saved Porsche from bankruptcy but also gives motoring journalists the world over more than a glimpse into how "flawed" the 911 is in its chassis dynamics, with its engine hanging out away from its rear axle. Of course, Porsche purists in their pricey 911s will beg to differ and will likely not sway from their stance of the 986/987 being "a poor man's Porsche". Well, they will have a lot to argue about with the Cayenne available as a turbodiesel now and the equally performance and presence commanding GTS. Come September/October 2009, Porsche's truly all-new Panamera will become available (for viewing) in Malaysia. What will these snobs say then?
Back to the new Boxster and Cayman for 2009, the base model now gets a 2.9L boxer-6 (upped from previous 2.7 in use since year 1999/2000) which is allegedly a brand new block unrelated to the previous M96 engine. As usual, Dr. Ing h.c. F. Porsche AG will save the best for higher paying customers, so DFI (direct fuel injection) only goes into the 3.4L Cayman S. However, both models get Porsche's Doppelkupplung Getriebe (PDK) twin-clutch automated 7-speed gearbox. For the Malaysian market, both will mostly - if not all - be standard specced with 'Sports Chrono Package' which enables launch control to be executed. Best of all, pricings for the 2009 Boxster and Cayman have remained largely unchanged.
Of course, you can tick the option boxes for PASM, leather trimmed dash/door, sports seats, special colour interior (Terracotta or Cocoa), 19" alloys etc and the cost will go near the base 911 Carrera with PDK. Trust me, you don't need the base 3.6L Carrera facelift, not when at RM668k you get a Cayman S with the all-important PDK and Sports Chrono Package. It's truly wicked doing 4.9 seconds to 100km/h with launch control. Executed the launch control runs twice and it feels like there's a turbocharged lump lurking behind your kidneys. Unlike the previous power-sapping 5-speed Tiptronic S 'box, the PDK feel more latchy for quicker bite of torque transmission, more alive, more responsive, more urgent, with what seemed more Golf GTI-ish now, but with double the fun. Now, that's the 3.4L Cayman S with PDK for you.
Prior to this, I had a go in a base 997 Carrera 2 with PDK, which, off the mark, feels more dramatic, a heftier mass but a tad more urgent in initial push. However, there's no denying that the Cayman S is more cultured of the two and wouldn't just be a total washout in face off with the base Carrera. In fact, the Cayman is easier to drive, with a more refined chassis balance to it all.
Even the base Cayman 2.9 is no slow poke. Capable of 5.8 sec to the century (5.5 secs with launch control), the exhaust note even sounded sweeter, more melodious than the Cayman S. No doubt the bigger brother has a more throaty, more menacing howl circa 5000 rpm and beyond, but it's also noticeably grittier, with hoarser vocal resonance pounding behind your ears as you stretch the flat-six towards its redline. I was lucky enough to pilot an 'old' Cayman 2.7 Tiptronic S back-to-back and I could feel the new Cayman 2.9' extra 200cc of displacement at work and undoubtedly, the wonderful PDK giving you more instantaneous tractability.
Interestingly, the Boxster has 10hp/10Nm lesser than the similar-engined Cayman (265 bhp/300 Nm), while the Boxster S is also denied of the 10hp/10Nm extra output found in the Cayman S (320 bhp/370 Nm). That's exact science of engine tuning and ECU mapping at work from Porsche's best engineers. And clearly, clever sleight of marketing wand at work too.
Prices for the Porsche Boxster 2.9 is RM515k, the Cayman 2.9 goes for RM556k while the Boxster S retails for RM612k. The top-of-the-series Cayman S can be yours for RM668k. Prices quoted are without insurance and roadtax. Every new Boxster and Cayman comes with manufacturer's warranty for 2 years standard + 2 years extended.