Is Porsche’s Boxster worthy?

7 March, 2013 | by Lance Branquinho

A roadster won the 2013 South African car of the year. Yes, a roadster. With only two seats. And a stowage bin under the boot.

The question at hand is whether Porsche’s Boxster is a worthy winner or not. So, let’s unpack the issues…

Well, the first issue at hand is Boxster’s configuration: not really practical, now is it? In mitigation of this criticism, Toyota’s 86, a fellow finalist (favourite, even) and our TopGear car of the year 2012, is also effectively a two-seater with negligible stowage space. If four/five-person family portability was a make-or-break judging criteria, surely an MPV would win each COTY?


The most vexing issue, it would appear, is price, or perhaps more accurately: the perceived value offering.

Boxster, many pertolheads have social media posted in lieu of its COTY victory, is simply not a car most South Africans can aspire to own as it’s too expensive. That’s a bizarre logic, dictating – with deductive reasoning -  that most of the BMWs that have won COTY should not have. Truthfully, how many South Africans could afford a 735i in 1988, the 525i in 1990, 528i back in 1997 or even a 530d in 2011?  Do these cars represent better value simply because they have rear seats?

When you do a more direct (segmented) comparison, then the fallacious reasoning of Boxster being out of touch in terms of its marketed price is even more obvious. Porsche’s Boxster retails for R639k, with a PDK transmission as standard. BMW’s Z4 sDrive28i in mid-range specification is R629k and Mercedes-Benz’s SLK350, well, it’s R770k…Quite plainly, it’s priced quite competitively in its segment.

South Africa has a strong aspirational market for what the general public perceive as elitist cars. The Johannesburg McLaren dealership has been a global sales leader. Rolls-Royce do about 20 units a year. Aston Martin? We are a top four market for them. For AMG products too. Ferrari does well here. Why should South Africans be reduced to reason along a thread of ‘bakkie-nation-only’ logic?

So, configuration can’t really be the issue, for if it was, then hatchbacks (the most practical of all automotive designs) would win each and every COTY. And even these can be oddly frustrating, as anybody who had bought the 1998 winner, Ford’s three-door Fiesta, could attest. Family motoring in a three-door hatchback; ingress and debussing with those folding seats – it was not really fun for rear seat passengers, now was it?

Price too, has never really been an issue until the 2013 award, because Porsches are perceived to be too elitist, whilst most of the BMW winners over the years, inflation adjusted, were in fact more expensive than the Boxster. The value issue is one of perception.


Car of the year is exactly about that: a car. An excellent car. Dominant in its (the roadster) segment. Excellent in many ways. And this is rather much what the Boxster is.

Yes, the mid-engined configuration is a frustrating package to engineer around and expensive to produce, yet guarantees a level of dynamic agility nearly peerless below R1m. Consider that you would have to pay around R800k more for the next cheapest mid-engine car, Audi’s R8 – and suddenly that R639k Boxster retail price appears to be representing good value.

Then there’s the engine, again: it’s a flat-six. It’s special. It’s not a mass production engine found in all manner of other model ranges like most of Boxster’s rivals. The low centre of gravity resulting from those horizontally opposed cylinders aid the mid-engined configuration’s quest for dynamic agility and fluidity. Don’t forget the PDK transmission either. Boxster’s chief rival, the Z4, does not offer a dual-clutch transmission comparative model to the Boxster 2.7 that won and remember: Porsche engineers are masterful at gearing these PDK units to perfectly tempo between trundling in traffic and downshifting for mountain pass hairpins.

Finally, consider the Boxster’s inherent Porsche quality control. This is a German car built in Germany. Not America. Or South America. Or South Africa.

It’s built in Osnabrück, by impeccably skilled and disciplined German labour. You can feel the tightness of the cabin trim, its seams, perfectly stitched. Incalculably perfect panel alignment; there’s dotingly tidy detail in the pride these Boxster assembly line personnel take in their task.

If a pacemaker for you, or delicate surgical instrument to be used upon your child, or a crucial aviation component to be replaced on a plane you were to fly in were to be sourced, you know you’d prefer it to be German. Produced in Germany.

So, then. Back to the original question. Porsche’s Boxster. Worthy South African COTY winner or not?


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