2013 Boxster and 911 Cabriolet

2013 Porsches

2013 Porsches

The “Intro”.

14-15th September. Porsche Leeds held an open driving weekend, whereby you could take as many cars as you wish for a test drive. Throughout the weekend, OPC Leeds had an extended demonstration range covering a large portion of the available trim levels throughout the different models.

I had particular interest in two cars – The 991 Cabriolet and the 981 (either Boxster or Cayman), 2.7 PDK.

The “long meandering background diatribe”.

The rationale for this choice is that I currently own a 997 Carrera S Cabriolet and there are a number of things that don’t hold this car as ‘perfect’ in my eyes. It is quite fidgety, the sports exhaust is always loud, even when not enabled, the switchable sports suspension is all but unusable on the UK roads as it is far too harsh and the car has the occasional rattle like every cabriolet seems to. So a lot to dislike then? Well, in perspective these things are all relatively minor – as a package the 911 is hard to beat and the back seats are a real boost for me as it allows it to be used as a family car.

I wanted to see if the 991 really was ‘that’ good – and did it address all these issues? The 997.2 I tested didn’t and was much the same as my Generation 1 model, so could the 991 really be the giant leap that the new inflated prices suggest, or just marketing gimmick?

2013 Porsche Cayman 981 Guards Red

Lovely 981 Cayman

My second option was the 2.7 981. I’ve had a Cayman 2.7 before and loved that car. The power delivery was smooth and fast without being rapid. It felt like a great drivers car. The new Cayman looks like a wonderful thing. They had several in red at the dealership and that would be the colour I’d buy. It looks fantastic. Whilst waiting for my salesman, I was inspecting the Cayman closely and also noticed some more of the finer details of the design – such as the way the lines below the door handles almost concave in a sharp angle. I am still a big fan of convertibles, but the Cayman really looks the business.

Why not the “S” then? Well, simply put, the S models are too close to the price of a used 991 and in all honesty, the 991 would be the choice for us for practical reasons. However, the 2.7 I could afford to buy now if it was good enough to warrant a change from my current 997. So I guess I’m saying I’d have one because I couldn’t afford a 911. And yet I have a 911. Weird huh? Anyhow…

I was greeted at the showroom by a very friendly young whipper-snapper by the name of Will. A very sharply dressed chap who had just started at the Porsche dealership, having been offered the job from VW and (I think) makes him the youngest salesman in the OPC network. He had a refreshing honesty about him and made no illusions that he was new and still in training, but equally would have no issues in referring me to one of his seniors, should my questions exceed his knowledge. As it happens, this wasn’t necessary as I know enough about these cars and I knew what I wanted out of the day – the objectives where; Is the 991 better than the 997 and is a 981 a worthy contender for my money over the 997 Cab? Simple questions which required a simple drive and several blasts of a few buttons and the go pedal to determine. I’m nothing if not easy to please.

The “Experience”.

First up, the 991. I couldn’t tell you much about the optional extras as I was more interested in the drive, but it did have the sports exhaust, sports chrono and the sports-plus buttons – all of which I made use of!

Immediately noticeable on the 991 is its comfort. The seats still have that great Porsche design, but they feel more supportive. It also feels like there is more room than the 997, but the cabin still retains that driver-focussed cocooned feeling. The materials used are also a step up in quality.

Porsche 911 991 Cabriolet White

Porsche 911 991 Cabriolet White

As we set off on the drive there is none of the rattle or noise that is usually attributed to convertibles. It’s quiet (as much as a sports car can be), comfortable and very refined. This could easily be a daily driver. The flat-6 hum is always there and as the car warms up I start to press on. The exhaust sounds tuneful and the PDK gear changes are predictably repaid.

This model is the auto-PDK and comes with the steering wheel buttons rather than the paddles, but I have to admit they do feel rather intuitive to me. I’ve had a car on loan for a week with these in the past and, now used to them, I think they are fine-and-dandy if you fancy some manual gear change action!

For now though, I just put the boot in and the PDK happily obliges with 3 downward gear changes in an instant and we teleport down the road. The noise is great and the speed feels much faster than my current 911 – although a lot of this could be attributed to the gearbox.

It feels much more planted than the 997. Gone is that strange rear-engined sensation and this new model feels like a car that you can really have fun in – much the same as the Cayman I owned previously.

We now enable the sports exhaust and the difference is immediately noticeable and very apparent. It sounds absolutely superb and when putting the boot in now, listening to the engine shout it best notes it feels like Christmas and I’ve just got all the toys. You can get to very, very, very silly speeds in a matter of a few seconds and still in 3rd gear. This, the 991S is how I always imagined a 911 would drive and sound.

Changing the mode to “sports plus” makes the gear changes much keener. The car remains in a much lower gear for a lot longer – driving along the motorway it didn’t want to move up from 3rd gear for example, unless I forced it. This is the mode that you’d use on a race track I expect. It also engages the stiffened suspension and unlike in the 997 which was practically unusable, it still maintains a composed ride in Pothole UK.

We shortly arrive back at the dealership after a brief tunnel run which had me completely exhilarated and giggling like a school girl. Whilst Will returns to the showroom to get the keys to the 2.7 Boxster PDK, I’m left staring at the 991S Cabriolet trying to work out how I can get my hands on £100k quickly. Nothing has sprung to mind by the time Will arrives back so we jump into the more affordable Boxster and head out.

Porsche 981 Boxster 2.7 Grey

Porsche 981 Boxster 2.7 Grey

My previous 986 Boxster was a 2.7, as was the 987 Cayman. I loved these cars, particularly the Cayman and wanted to see if that 2.7 power really was enough power, or whether I was looking back with rosy tints. The first thing I notice in the Boxster, being 6’4 is that the cabin in smaller than the 911. I’m touching the roof and the seat is pressed back as far as it will go. It’s a slightly compromised position compared to both the 997 and the 991. Those extra two dashboard dials in the 911 are immediately noticed as MIA too; I’ve got no temperature or oil gauges. A quick play with the on-board computer and I still can’t find them. Hey-ho, it’s not my car but we give it a little while to warm up anyway.

Driving the car is a familiar experience, obviously. I’ve driven enough Porsches now for this to be as samey as it gets. The Boxster looks great, the Cayman looks better – a really striking car with a supercar flair, particularly when dressed in red! But I also think the 991 looks good too in cabriolet form.

Porsche 981 Boxster Red

Porsche 981 Boxster Red

In terms of noise, the Boxster with its standard exhaust is distinctly more muted than the lairy 911. When cruising along you could be in any ‘normal’ car it is so refined and quiet. As we approach the motorway ramp, it is now time to try the pedal-stamp and see how the PDK fairs in this lower powered car. I put the boot in and the gearbox drops a few cogs and … well … to be truthful, my heart sinks. In my peripheral vision, Will’s head had not bounced into the headrest, a-la 991. My chest didn’t form part of the middle section of the driver’s seat either. It was almost one of those awkward silences when you feel you should say something. “Errrrmmm”, was the best I could come up with. “I think I’ve been spoiled by the 911”. Will laughed, “Perhaps we should have done them the other way around?” he suggested. The Boxster certainly wasn’t slow, it got to 70mph very quickly but it didn’t do it in a way that made you think “holy, holy, holy, f*ck!” The tunnel run echoed the same, it sounded nice but it didn’t scream its way through. In truth, tonking in the tunnel in the 2.7 made me feel like I was a bit ‘try hard’ to onlookers. Perhaps the sports exhaust would address the noise issue?

The plus side though is I can imagine Mrs Paul O would love the new Boxster 2.7. It isn’t as shouty, it is much more controllable to drive than the 997 and it looks very nice indeed. It is a sports car in every sense of the word.

The “Summary”.

Porsche Showroom

Porsche Showroom

You might consider this text as comparing apples with much larger, more expensive apples, but the objective here was to see if a 2.7 could be a viable alternative to the 997 and equally if the 991 addresses some of the 997 Cab’s shortcomings. As much as I really would like one of these cars, regrettably, the 2.7 left me wanting and is definitely wouldn’t be a good replacement for a 997. As a roadster, it is undoubtedly top of its class but is definitely overshadowed by its bigger brother the 991. The 997 is my preference for now – and I wouldn’t have ever realised it until I went back to try the Boxster 2.7.

That said, the 991 simply eclipses all. With back seats included to provide true family outings, this is a great car indeed and the one I want. The one I really, really want.

Time to empty the piggy bank and put it all on black…

 September 2013