ANCONA, Italy - The new Porsche Boxster S significantly closes the gap between the Boxster and 911 ranges in terms of both performance and price.
The new S roadster - priced at DM81,810 (euro 41,380) before tax in Germany - delivers 252hp from its six-cylinder engine, which has been upgraded from 2.5- to 3.2-liters.
'We always intended to create a model range that would enable our customers to climb along the price ladder of Porsche products,' said Wendelin Wiedeking, chairman of Porsche AG. 'We have achieved that goal with the introduction of the Boxster S.'
Only subtle body modifications differentiate the more powerful Boxster from the basic version. The most obvious signs are an additional air intake scoop, twin tailpipes replacing the usual oval pipe, and 432mm light-alloy wheels emblazoned with the Porsche logo in black.
Porsche customers had been asking for a more powerful engine since the Boxster was launched in 1996, said Wiedeking. The new 3.2-liter unit delivers a 48hp boost to 252hp and, with 305Nm at 4500rpm, significantly more torque. This helps the car accelerate to 100kph in 5.9 seconds.
The Boxster S has a top speed of 260kph, while fuel consumption is 10.7-liters per 100km, according to Porsche figures. The car complies with the strict LEV (low emission vehicle) standard in the USA and D4 legislation in Germany, which means it benefits from a reduction in road tax.
The car features a six-speed manual gearbox and a five-speed Tiptronic system operated via the steering wheel.
There is a lengthy waiting list for all Porsche cars, including the Boxster S. Delivery times can vary from six to 12 months, depending on the country.
'We want to get waiting lists down to an acceptable six-month period throughout the world,' said Wiedeking. 'We won't be able to reduce times much further, because more than 25 percent of Porsche customers order their cars through our Exclusive Program. This offers individual colors, trim and specifications.'
About 40,000 Porsches will be produced this year, 20,000 of them Boxsters. Half of Porsche's total production is sold in America, where the model mix is slightly in favor of the Boxster.
Wiedeking said production capacity at Porsche's Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen factory is limited to 30,000 units per year. Valmet Automotive's plant in Uusikaupunki-Nystand, Finland, offers Porsche a capacity of 25,000 units, of which 11,000 is presently used for Boxster production.
Porsche could utilize the extra capacity at Valmet to reduce waiting times, but Wiedeking said: 'Our suppliers have been contracted to supply a certain number of parts, and may not be able to satisfy extra demand. Ordering more parts may not be possible without additional supplier investment.'
Although Porsche's flexibility is limited by its supplier contracts, Wiedeking said there are many advantages to such a lean, independent position. Porsche is, for example, less dependent on in-house investment than many automakers.
'We are more Japanese than the Japanese,' said Wiedeking. 'We refuse to tie up investment in buildings and production sites. This 1/8virtual fabric' works well for us - we just use excess capacity from our partners.'
The same strategy will be used for Porsche's new sport-utility, due in 2002 (see separate story). The sport-utility is a joint venture between Porsche and VW.
Wiedeking said this approach will guarantee Porsche's future independence.
'I am convinced that the future will not necessarily belong to the giants or the seemingly fast-moving companies, but rather to those who are the cleverest and who have the right strategy,' he said. 'That's the group of companies we want to belong to.'