Imagine that you along a country road at the wheel of a Porsche Boxster. A second, there is the beautiful sound of a flat six-cylinder engine – a weak mechanical spanking covered with a bass exhaust thrum – behind your shoulders.
The next second, nothing. No engine noise. No exhaust. Nothing.
This is what happens when you Active Sound Management (ASM) to deactivate the Porsche Boxster E. consists of a digital recording and two speakers – one mounted in the cab, the other in the rear assembly – ASM is designed to provide plug-in electric prototype version Boxster with a simulated sound of the more conventional petrol sibling.
You may have heard about the Porsche Boxster E. Created as part of the Intelligent Performance program that has already led to the 911 Spyder and 918 GT3 RS Hybrid, the new two-seater is described as a toe-in-the-water training.
Like the various testing tasks, the new car is also exhibited as part of an electric mobility initiative is carried out by Porsche’s home city of Stuttgart. Now, after some persuasion in recent months, officials in Zuffenhausen finally decided to let us sample all-electric roadster.
According to the midengine Porsche roadster offers the best packaging solution for one of its existing sports car models. It allows the battery to be mounted low down in a central position to the center of gravity to get down. The Boxster’s low curb weight was a deciding factor in giving the nod over 911, according to Dimitrov. “The lighter the base car, the more space you have in terms of performance and range,” he says.
The switch from conventional gasoline power to electric drive has not changed basic architecture of the Boxster is in any obvious way. The inner body structure is virtually unchanged, like the complete package. If it were not for the silver and orange “Intelligent Performance” graphics Porsche’s marketing department saw fit to bang on the car, not the lack of exhaust pipes on the back to mention, you’d be hard-pressed him to pick apart the regular model.
In the rear-wheel-drive prototype we drove, the electricity is stored in the battery used to power an electric motor mounted on the back as part of a modified rear axle. Derived from parent company Volkswagen, the same brushless unit used in the Gulf e-motion, it develops a maximum 121 horsepower – or less than half of what 2.9-liter engine of the Boxster’s throws. Maximum torque is rated at 199 pounds-feet, all available when you enter your foot on the accelerator pedal.
There are a number of low-cost measures aimed at keeping the pounds off, including the use of carbon-fiber shell-backed seats, lightweight 19-inch wheels and carbon brakes – all offered as optional equipment on the Boxster. Still, there is no concealing the fact that it tips the scales some 408 pounds off its petrol sibling.
We have the Porsche Boxster E on the streets of Stuttgart and then some more challenging roads through the surrounding countryside. In general, it is not unlike many other electric cars we’ve driven of late – smooth, efficient and easy to ride. But with a limited number of only 106 miles on a fully charged battery, you always have one eye on the miles-to-empty to gauge.
Even with a modest amount of gas, the new Porsche accelerates away from the traffic smart, save posted boundaries without feeling tense. There is ample torque at low revs the engine in the back to the zero-emissions two-seater to give a nice flexible delivery, ensuring that it never left at urban speeds.
In the end, though, the rear-wheel-drive E Boxster just do not really possess the power to overcome its weight. More than 50 kilometers per hour, the level of acceleration begins trail off rather dramatically as the efforts of the electric motor to meet their physical limits. Porsche claims zero to 62 mph in 9.8 seconds and a top speed limited to just 93 mph – though the prototype we drove was limited to an even lower 75 mph.
More than performance, though, it’s the completeness of E Boxster most satisfactory. It could be a prototype, but we drove the car felt extremely well built. Dynamically, it lacks the intense communication that you receive in the gasoline-engine Boxster, but it is still more attractive to electric cars we’ve ever come across – there with the likes of the Audi R8 E-Tron, sure.