Sunshine, speed and the beautiful South with Porsche’s 718 Boxster
Jonny takes Porsche’s famous convertible sports car for a spin around the South West.
You’ll have to excuse me for a paragraph or two here because I need to put some words aside to give myself a big pat on the back. This time, I’ve nailed it. The location, the car, the weather – it’s all come together and produced one of the best driving excursions of my life.
According to General Douglas MacArthur, “The best luck of all is the luck you make for yourself.” So, by borrowing a car with a soft top in February, I was actively relying on the good Lady Luck having a quiet word in the ear of Mother Nature. Of course, nobody really borrows soft-tops this early in the year. After all, when you’re testing a car like this good weather is crucial to get the full flavour of the experience it offers. February traditionally only offers us grey skies, bone-chilling wind and misery, but, as Gen. MacArthur also said, “You are remembered for the rules you break.”, so myself and the 718 linked up and headed down to one of my favourite parts of the UK for what promised to be a corking weekend of driving – if the weather was good.
To say it turned out ‘good’ would be an understatement. Nobody will ever know what Lady Luck said to Mother Nature, but 15-degree heat and several straight days of bright sunshine freakishly appearing in February suggests the former slid one almighty bung into the pocket of the latter. The roof was down for practically the entire weekend, and though it felt odd for the time of year, the mild wind flowing through my hair and the theatrics of the 718’s sports exhaust was putting a substantial grin across my face.
Bath serves as the headquarters for our little excursion away in the Boxster, but it’s the surroundings of this picturesque city that we’re really interested in. Around Bath and beyond, you’ll find some absolutely superb driving roads and destinations across Somerset and Wiltshire, and in these conditions, the little Porsche just might be the perfect machine to get out and explore them in. At 300 horses or so it isn’t too fast, just fast enough, and usable power often proves to be more enjoyable than the unusable variety often found in Porsche’s top-end offerings.
The 718 is a car you’ve probably heard all about by now. You’ll probably be aware that it has the new generation of 4-cylinder turbocharged ‘boxer’ engines and you’ll probably have heard they’re not as good as the old 6s. Well, yes, the 4-cylinder engine obviously doesn’t sound as good as the old units, but rock music doesn’t sound as good as it did in the 1970s, it doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy the odd modern track. Besides, the engine really isn’t the thing you pay much attention to here – it’s the 718’s relationship with corners that really impresses.
Like a real Lothario, the 718 goes from corner to corner with an undaunted, relentless eagerness. There isn’t a corner it doesn’t enjoy, whether it’s the flowing curves of the roads from Bath to Glastonbury or the tight twists of Cheddar Gorge, it just can’t wait to get to the next one, always wanting and craving more. From the perspective of the driver, this gives you a wonderful sense of rhythm, confidence and connection. Ironically, the more the 718 loves and leaves the apexes, the more your personal bond with it strengthens.
You could quite easily spend hours behind the wheel of the 718. In my case, it was around 7 a day and that tends to leave you requiring a nice bite to eat and drink in the evenings. Bath is a city that really shines in that respect, with an array of great places to eat and drink and comfortable, plush hotels for the nights. Due to its small size, it’s also not too much of a pain in the arse to get in and out of during busy times, though any one of Bath’s numerous coffee shops often provide a great place to fuel up in the morning while the traffic is at its heaviest. The region also boasts some excellent country pubs, useful pitstops for hungry drivers.
Aside from the roads of Somerset and Wiltshire, it’s also worth keeping in mind that from central Bath, some of Wales’s finest driving routes are just an hour’s drive away. It was there my time with the 718 concluded, on the sun-drenched mountains of South Wales, not far from where we filmed the Caterham piece for Influx almost exactly 12 months ago. What a difference it was, being below zero that day, but almost summery this time around.
Out there on the twisting peaks of Wales, the Boxster was at its best. After getting to know it for the previous couple of days, confidence was high and the recipe for the day couldn’t have been more perfect.
While I might take the plaudits – admittedly only from myself – for making this trip happen, Porsche deserves every credit for producing this beautifully balanced sports car. It’s well priced, high in quality and fabulous to drive and if you rule it out for the engine alone, you’ll be robbing yourself of a very special driving experience.
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