Dampness clings to every surface, rendering the fabric convertible top of the 2013 Porsche Boxster S a tilt-shift photograph of glacial rubble.
It could be metaphorical: a Porsche blunted and made indistinct by this soft-focus miasma. Once, Porsches seemed uniformly svelte and nimble, single of purpose. In the past decade, however, the German automaker has been in the cash-cow business, hawking larded-up machinery like the Panamera full-size sports sedan and Cayenne SUV: vehicles as extraordinary for their physics-defying abilities as for their relative ugliness. The coming Macan mini-SUV, expected to squeeze beneath the Cayenne in the model line, could just as well be called “The Golden Egg”.
A whir, a thrum, a characteristic bark and the S’s flat six-cylinder engine has come to life. The chittering from its high-pressure direct fuel-injection system has the aural quality of metallic spiders scurrying beneath the sheetmetal. Boxsters in basic guise receive a 2.7-litre motor with 265 horsepower; the flashy chrome “S” designation on this Guards Red machine (and its gruffer voice) indicates the presence of the same 3.4-litre unit found in the base specification of the august 911. In its Boxster S application, this engine makes 315 horsepower compared to the 911’s 350 – a gap which sticks in the craw somewhat, even given the relative price difference (pricing for the 911 begins at $85,000 and quickly spirals above $100,000).
As the defroster blasts the sheet ice off of the S’s windshield, there is much to admire in a walk-around. Whereas the new 911's extended look and fussy ornamentation are still being digested by the Porsche faithful, the more modern Boxster has grown up. Gone is the double-ended lozenge of the past, replaced by a machine with broadened haunches and squared-off lines. The littlest Porsche has a demeanour all its own, compact but coherent. Viewed in profile, it almost resembles a miniature version of the limited-edition, $400,000 Carrera GT hypercar of a decade ago.
For January driving in British Columbia, the S wears 19-inch alloy wheels shod with winter tires. (The options list shows a $1,790 charge for charcoal-grey 20-inch alloys, but the Porsche press fleet in Vancouver could not get snows to fit them.) The swap necessitates dark centre caps that sit in the middle of the wheels like Blind Pew's Black Spot; bling obsessives who would ruin the aesthetics of their Boxsters with wagon-size alloys would surely rather leave their cars parked over the winter.
Pity on them. Porsche loudly trumpets the flexibility and relative practicality of their sports car range, and as the “poor man's Porsche” – $61,850 to start, mind – a Boxster S is more likely to see year-round use than a 911.
With the windshield cleared, it is time to start pushing more buttons. The Boxster’s centre stack resembles a TV remote less than other Porsches, but it is still loaded with tiny things to press.
The S hits an acronym jackpot with PSM, ABS, ABD, PASM, PTV, ASR, TPMS and DFI. Memorising them all could leave you with PTSD. Surveying the most readily appreciable dynamic features of this car, intelligent stability management works to keep all four wheels planted on the road, a must on this frosty morning; Sport mode is engaged for a slightly sharpened throttle response; adjustable suspension is tuned to softness; heated seats are set to reduce fertility – and the top is down, of course. Remember what your favourite settings are, as you will have to reset virtually everything every time you start the car.
One option left unchecked on this model is the much-vaunted Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) dual-clutch automatic transmission, and thank goodness for that.