Bobby Cheetham Coty jury member
THIS year's WesBank/ South African Guild of Motoring Journalists Car of the Year competition has come and gone. But what's the winner really like?
Firstly, the Porsche Boxster entered record books in South Africa by becoming the first Porsche model in the history of the competition to win the prestigious title.
The 2013 competition was also the first year in which Porsche was included as a finalist.
There is only one winner but the scores are published of all finalists.
The Boxster entered the competition as a vehicle that has redefined its market segment and raised the bar for performance, dynamics, quality, value and desirability.
All the vehicles were rigorously tested over two days at the world class Gerotek facility outside Pretoria. The Boxster was tested on the high speed oval track, on and off-road, in dynamic ride and wet handling conditions, skidpan, long straight and finally the vehicle-destroying suspension track.
It came through with top scores on most sections except the suspension track where, understandably, it fared poorly. This super slick sports car was never built to handle those sorts of conditions.
The car that topped my score sheet on the suspension track, was the Lexus GS 350 EX. The Lexus glided over the bone-shaking track with superb ease and comfort.
But back to the Boxster.
The latest generation Boxster embodies Porsche Intelligent Performance. Lower weight, longer wheelbase, wider track and larger wheels significantly enhance the mid-engine sports car's driving dynamics, supported by the new electromechanical power steering.
Increased performance from the 2.7l boxer engine with 195kW driving the rear wheels, coupled with the standard seven-speed Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) gearbox results in 0-100km/h acceleration figures of just 5.7 seconds, and a top speed of 262km/h. Fuel consumption is reduced to only 7.7l/100km (NEDC) and CO2emissions of 180g/km.
The Boxster's mid-engine concept is a distinctive reason for its outstanding agility. A flat-six-cylinder engine, featuring direct injection, thermal management, electrical system recuperation and auto stop/start function makes this two-seater a model of performance and efficiency.
In developing the chassis, engineers attached particular importance to, not only driving dynamics and agility, but also enhanced comfort. The chassis has been completely redesigned with conventional gas-filled dampers. Redesigned lightweight McPherson spring struts for the front axle are more compact, making them stiffer and more precise in maintaining camber. The front axle cross members have been redesigned for optimised crash strength and rigidity – improving the "anti-dive'' characteristics reduces the degree to which the body front section "dips'' during full braking, significantly shortening braking distance as we experienced on the braking section at Gerotek.
A more powerful braking system with new, stiffer brake callipers on the front axle, optimised brake pad control and a larger brake surface match superior deceleration ability to enhanced power.
Brake cooling has also been improved. New air deflection vanes on the front and rear axles ensure additional brake ventilation for optimal thermal conditions at all times.
In a clear illustration of the Porsche Intelligent Performance principle, the new generation Boxster is the lightest sports car in its class.
Due to intelligent light-weight design, the gross weight of the vehicle is reduced by up to 35kg, compared to the previous generation.
More than 46% of the body-shell is made of aluminium. The result is reduced fuel consumption because it requires less power for day-to-day use.
The shape is not only more striking, but also more aerodynamic (0.30 cd).
A redesigned front spoiler lip and additional air guide element in front of the wheel reduces lift on the front axle for greater driving stability at high speed, as we were able to experience on the high speed oval at Gerotek.
The convertible top incorporating a magnesium roof frame can be opened within only nine seconds at speeds of up to 50 km/h.
The Porsche Boxster – priced at just on R600000 – is, and will continue to be, the benchmark in the roadster segment.