Not a 911?

by | Nov 21, 2018 | Lifestyle

Reading time: 6 minutes

We find out if the Carrera sisters are as good as the Icon

The Carrera 911. Are its sisters a threat to the Queen?
(In this picture the Turbo 930 Series)

If you were as car racist as Someone, my “IN” partner, you’d read this article with much interest. It’s a parallel test among what Porsche offers other than the good old Carrera. David says that the 911 is a walking non-sense, the engine is in the wrong place, the back seats are ridiculous, the project is redundant. Instead, I was personally shocked when I saw the first shape of the 2009 Panamera. Nearly as much as I was last week when the new Ferrari SUV was announced.

I thought an icon was selling its soul to the devil for the mere taste of money, and this has happened so many times with most of the manufacturers my soul hurt. In Porsche, my beloved 911 hasn’t remained the brand’s only child for quite a while now. Her first sister was actually born in 1996. The Boxster was a very welcomed sibling. I remember. A smaller, sexy, cheaper, mid-engine, two-seater machine that could satisfy smaller wallets without taking any pleasure off the passionate drivers. The “Carrera only” brand was entering a new era.

Today, Porsche is present in the watch market, the pen market, the phone market and the piano market. But always in the up-market side of these markets. But for our car review purposes, we have decided to test the two most interesting cars Porsche produces outside the 911. Quite distant from it, actually, for a variety of reasons

Starting with the Panamera 4 E Hybrid Sport Turismo, a luxury “coupe” four doors sedan, equipped in this case with the new version of its Hybrid Technology and following with the new Boxster GTS, a marvelous two-seater for young enthusiasts.

It’s not easy to compare these two machines, but the objective is to drive them with the 911 in mind and find out if any of these two can justify not to go “mainstream” anymore.

Balanced, pretty, fast and reasonably priced. The Boxster is a threat to the Carrera

I started the test with the Boxster GTS, a car I know well since I owned one, the 987 Generation 1. The dynamics haven’t changed. The chassis has remained possibly one of the best units available in the market. Extremely neutral, balanced, quick to turn at warp speed, pure fun. Since the Model I had, it has improved everywhere. The interiors have become very 911ish, focused, very well refined and the sitting position is still as low as you can get, in order to become a real part of the car. It’s easier to drive than a 911 at the limit because of its weight distribution and its central engine position.

The modern 911s have become very easy to drive but the physics characteristic of the rear engine still remain the same, when at a certain point, the tail prefers to continue in the direction of the oversteer, instead of coming back straight. That mass (engine and gearbox), installed so far away from the center has been the reason for a very special character for over 50 years. The Boxster doesn’t have that thrill but it is such an extreme situation that I can sleep at night without it.

However, its suspensions/steering/geometry package is incredibly well-honed in a way that any driver at any speed always has the perception of being in control. Under and oversteer are always communicated to my body with such a precision that it becomes a game to control it.

The interiors are as good as a Carrera

The New Boxsters also share the new “turbo only” engines (2 and 2.5 Liters, 4 cylinders), losing the original naturally aspirated motors’ character. It’s a shame, a real loss in terms of soul. If you have never driven a naturally aspirated Porsche 6-cylinder engine before, you’d find this one sublime, full of torque, prompt but with a power delivery so linear that, with my eyes closed, I could be in any car. I could not say “oh yes, this is a Porsche”. It must be said, however, that the 911 is now also a Turbo only proposition unless you get the GT3…

The road driving is excellent. The Boxster GTS, as are any other of its versions, is a wonderful everyday machine, for lonely travels, that is. It has two boots, a creamy engine at legal speed, a good visibility, it’s easy to park, the new PDK gearbox is fantastic and the overall comfort is very good.

Furthermore, it’s convertible by birth. At the touch of a button, it becomes a great “barchetta“, that can cruise in Portofino or can blast through the twisty roads of the Dolomites. It truly is a contender to the Carrera in every aspect. Especially considering that the entry price is 63,600 USD for a basic Boxster against 105,500 USD for a basic Carrera 911. The equipment, both technical and cosmetic is not short of its bigger sister and the pleasure of driving is perfectly in line, if not even better for most drivers.

We are still shocked to see a Porsche connected to an electric socket but maybe the next Carrera will be Hybrid too?

At the same time, Someone and I were driving the new Panamera Sport Turismo Hybrid, a planet away from the Boxster. This is the new version, with a higher back, making it look like a proper Sports Estate and losing some of the elongated “soap” shape of the standard model. I have liked this shape over the standard from the beginning and, apart from the pure aesthetic appreciation from the outside, this solution has allowed for more space inside, with big advantages for the rear passengers and for boot space. I personally would scrap the original version, because this one offers the same capacity of a Cayenne, the same luxurious interiors and it’s a proper road car, made to munch thousands of kilometers in total safety and comfort and with the superior dynamics of a sedan. Does it have any of the Carrera character? No, not one bit.

It’s a front engine car, it’s made for four people, it’s heavy, hyper-technological, elegant and likes to travel in first class. This new version is extremely interesting too. It’s a four wheel drive and it has the latest upgrade to the Hybrid technology (a plug-in system with a 14.0-kWh lithium-ion battery), which allows a mix of traditional power with electric energy. The system is smart and intelligent. It charges while driving, it can store the energy for later use, it can travel on electric only (not for long) and it increases the range to nearly 900 km at normal speed.

The interiors too are a gem and you’d like to enjoy the front as much as the back seats, even if Porsches are still drivers cars. The attention to detail has become superb and the materials are top quality from every angle.

The Turismo 4 E Hybrid is capable of 0-100 Km/h in only 4,8 Seconds
Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode
Is this an alternative to a Carrera? Not at all. It has its own Nature and we liked it

Dynamics are good too. You cannot feel the extra 250 Kg of the batteries (in comparison to the fuel only motor version). These are well-positioned as low to the ground as possible and the dynamics are still very good for this class. The rigidity of the chassis, the superb suspensions, and the electronics are always at work to make you feel the car light, agile and secure in any condition. It will not give you the thrills the baby Boxster or the mature Carrera would, but you will reach any destination still very quickly and with zero stress.

There is less interaction with the outside than with the sportier sisters, the steering is filtered but I still think the Panamera platform is the best in its class as far as driving enjoyment. 

This Hybrid model starts at 135,000 USD and for a basic Panamera, you’d still need 121,000 USD. A big chunk more than a Carrera, but the two cars are not comparable. They belong to different worlds even if they carry the same badge. I don’t think we could call any Panamera the 911 for the grown-ups with kids, as much as we could call the Boxster, the 911 for the adults who haven’t grown up yet and want to save some money for some semi-slick tires and a few track days.

Performance of all these machines are excellent on paper but the point here is to understand whether the bigger and the smaller sisters of the 911 are alternatives to the icon. Well, only the Boxster is a better deal, with its better value for money and its superlative driving skills. However, if money wasn’t an issue and if driving thrill and fascination was my only criteria of choice, I’d still splash my cash for a Carrera. 

Price Comparison:

  • Boxster: 67,102 USD
  • Carrera: 105,508 USD
  • Panamera Sport Turismo: 121,176 USD

Performance Comparison:

  • Boxster: 0-100 km/h 4,9 Secs and 275 km/h Top Speed
  • Carrera: 0-100 km/h 4,1 Secs and 306 Km/h Top Speed
  • Panamera Sport Turismo: 0-100 4,6 Secs and 276 Km/h Top Speed
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