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Sicilian adventure

Sicilian adventure
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First Published: Wed, Feb 11 2009. 12 36 AM IST

Updated: Wed, Feb 11 2009. 12 36 AM IST
The Targa Florio. The name is enough to give auto aficionados goosebumps. A historic race that first took place 103 years ago in Sicily under the patronage of Vicenzo Florio, it defied all logic at the time for the automotive community. A tough endurance race, it saw Europe’s best cars compete over 148km with 6,000 bends, narrow bridges. What’s more, the roads were never closed for other traffic.
Porsche has the distinction of being the most successful manufacturer at the Targa Florio, and though the race was stopped after multiple accidents in 1977, the legacy of that heritage has stood Porsche roadsters of the future in good stead.
So it was with a sense of excitement that I boarded my flight to Palermo in Sicily to experience not just a taste of that historic race route, but also to check out the latest mean machine from the Porsche stable—the all-new third-generation Boxster.
The car maintains the proportions and overall styling appeal of the Boxster we all know. But look closely and there are hints of more contemporary design cues and a wider look which makes the car more appealing. Mechanically too, the suspension has been reworked and there are new engines and transmission. Buyers have the choice of a “basic” 2.9l, 255bhp engine or a 3.4l, 310bhp unit in the Boxster S. The new gearboxes include a six-speed manual and the exciting new seven-speed, dual-clutch PDK system.
Touchdown at Palermo and trepidation took over. And then the bad news—Sicily was smack in the eye of a massive storm raging across southern Europe. So, as we took a 90-minute bus ride to Mazara del Vallo, my notions of driving through the famed and dramatic terrain of Sicily with the top down were quickly washed away with the incessant rain.
But the next morning, there she was. A beautiful-in-blue Boxster S, with the legendary Targa Florio paint finish and the black fabric roof. We were lucky to get the car with the special edition paintwork and didn’t waste a minute getting her on to the road.
What followed was exhilaration and challenge all rolled into one. There was very heavy rain with fleeting glimpses of clear skies which gave us a now-there, now-not view of the gorgeous countryside. The car itself performs like a dream—the handling superb, the new PDK transmission a sheer pleasure. The new Boxster not only swallows the miles with élan, but also begs for tight corners and hairpin bends. The roof system works well and is quick!
The bad news? The Boxster just got more expensive. But with this model retailing far below the 911 and more Indian buyers slowly accepting the sports cars from Porsche besides its SUV the Cayenne, the new Boxster holds promise in India too. With the reported base price expected to be Rs53,64,000 (ex-showroom Delhi), sure there will be limited numbers. But Porsche expects these numbers to grow soon.
Since its first generation debuted in 1996, Porsche has sold 265,000 Boxsters worldwide. With the new third generation, that figure is expected to inflate at a much faster rate. As for Sicily, I plan to visit soon to experience its sunny slopes and breathe in the citrus-laden mountain air. For now, I can’t think of anything else but the new Boxster.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is editor (auto), NDTV. Write to us at roadrunner@livemint.com
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First Published: Wed, Feb 11 2009. 12 36 AM IST