Vail Valley: Is the new Porsche Boxster too hot for Toronto
Special to the Daily
TORONTO – In a city of nearly 5 million people, one of the most green-minded and multicultural communities on the earth, opportunities to put the new Porsche Boxster S to a full test were … well, a little different than those here in the Vail Valley.
While Toronto is a beautiful, fantastically planned and culturally intriguing place to visit, it’s also about as performance-driving friendly as mid-town Manhattan, Chicago or Boston, with streetcar tracks, hordes of pedestrians and plenty of measures to dissuade you from getting too crazy. Especially with a bright yellow, 310-horsepower German convertible.
The most prudent advice my Porsche liaison had for me on my arrival was a warning of the province’s slightly draconian new measures aimed at “street racing.” Anyone caught exceeding the posted limit by 50 kilometers per hour (about 30 mph) is subject to huge fines, license suspension and the immediate roadside impounding of their cars.
This, of course, seemed like an immediate challenge, so, tucked into the reconfigured and powerful 2010 version of Porsche’s “entry level” racing machine, I set out to spend a weekend pushing my luck.
In the process, I also managed to impress a group of friends I hadn’t seen in a decade (who regarded me a little like Marty McFly, rolling up in his 1950s hometown in the DeLorean with the flux capacitor). Canadians generally have a low opinion of American-styled excesses such as yellow convertibles, but they all wanted a ride.
There are no curving mountain roads in Southern Ontario, just a stretch of busy blacktop about the same size as Connecticut, so we had to make do. And let me report, categorically, that this updated Porsche ragtop does all that one would expect it to do, and more, enhanced by the amazing but borderline-overwhelming technology of the PDK transmission.
Porsche Doppelkupplung – rolling off the tongue as German tends to do – is the company’s variation of the new twin-clutch semi-automatic transmissions found in Volkswagen, Aston Martin and Mitsubishi racing machines, capable of lightning-fast gearshifts.
It’s not so pronounced in standard drive setting, but move the car into Sport or the jarringly high-revving Sport Plus and, boy howdy, the shifts become razor-sharp. Porsche’s wheel-mounted buttons don’t quite have the same efficiency as the paddles on competitors’ systems – I found simply letting the PDK doing its own magic was sufficient.
The Boxster S sucks its 310 horsepower out of a mid-mounted six-cylinder, effectively hidden underneath and just behind the leather-covered race seats, making accelerator-happy motoring a joyfully noisy experience, especially with all of that thick oxygen down at 600 feet above sea level.
In highest performance mode, flooring the gas pedal can get you up to 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds. The resonating howl and crackle is absolutely fantastic, especially if you’re rolling underneath the decaying concrete monstrosity of the Gardiner Expressway.
As much as I would have like to have tested the 170 mph top speed, this again would probably have been a bad idea in Toronto the Good; suffice to say that the Boxster does go “really fast,” and get there “really quickly.”
Boxster’s inherently light-footed nature (3,042 pounds and only 95 inches of wheelbase) and rear-wheel drive can also make for a slightly squirrelly feel when taking corners under heavy throttle, but the Boxster’s wide range of electronic stability management subroutines help reign in disaster. Ride is very, very sporty, making you occasionally wonder if the 19-inch wheels are simply welded to the frame, the tradeoff being intense drivability.
Looks remain the same curious blend of 911 nose and oddly curtailed back end, with integral side air intakes sucking oxygen for the engine; the effortless operation of the one-touch power roof is now deployable at speeds up to 30 mph.
A new 3.0 version of the communication system, complete with a touch-screen navigation system (programmable while driving – thank you, Porsche) and an excellent sound system, was useful in navigating a challenging system of crowded streets and byways.
Other 2010 model tweaks include glowing LED running lights, a la Audi, an improved Plexiglas airflow buffer between the twin headrests (one can move into car-impound speeds on the highway and still have a conversation) and new dynamic cornering bi-xenon headlamps.
So … back in one piece, hoping the Boxster is not retroactively impounded by the Ontario Provincial Police, it’s an experience I can fully endorse. It’s just a little better-suited to the Autobahn or a hidden North Park highway than busy Cabbagetown.
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