Sunday, May 30, 2010

Porsche Boxster is Back


This Boxster, the basic 255bhp, 2.9-litre, entry-level model (as opposed to the more powerful S) provides perhaps the purest Porsche experience you'll find anywhere in the range. With a list price of £35,510 the Boxster is the cheapest car in the line-up, though Porsche's press fleet people haven't been able to resist adding £11,000 of options to it - extras that are all arguably surplus to requirements. All but one that is, with the sports exhaust a must if you're going to enjoy your Boxster to the maximum.

What are its rivals?

The Boxster's obvious rivals include Audi's TT, BMW's Z4 and the Mercedes-Benz SLK, though to that you can add Nissan's 370Z and a whole lot of big-power hot hatches, many of which have power and performance figures to better the Boxster. Few are as aspired to though, that Porsche badge meaning a lot, even when it's stuck on the bonnet of the most inexpensive car in the range.

How does it drive?

Forget the raw performance figures and concentrate on the purity of the driving experience and none of the Porsche's roadster rivals can come close to the Boxster. Something like a Nissan 370Z Roadster delivers more brawn, but the Boxster's balance, beautiful feel and feedback make it a real joy to drive. It's not savagely fast, instead the Boxster gaining momentum with an easy, forceful linearity that has you reaching for the redline before every slick gearchange. With pedals positioned perfectly for throttle-blipping heel-and-toe downshifts the real enjoyment to be had driving the Boxster is making the most of its output and revelling in its brilliant poise and incisive feel. The optional sports exhaust is a must here, as it adds a layer of sound to the experience that's just delicious, with a more assertive rasping tone overlaying the flat-six engine sound.

The steering is sharp, well weighted and rich in feel, while the standard suspension copes with all the vagaries of UK roads with little fuss. Strong brakes with lots of feel through the pedal and a gearshift that's one of the best out there combine with the Boxster's other qualities to make it a hugely entertaining driver's car.

What's impressive?

The feel and feedback. Most modern cars lack any real information through their controls, with responses muted by the electronic assistance thanks to manufacturers' endless pursuit of safety, refinement and comfort. Porsche is different, and the entry-level Boxster demonstrates that better than anything this side of a 911 GT3. The steering is fantastically crisp, while the accelerator, brakes, gearshift and clutch all operate with a rare unity that makes driving the Boxster such a pleasing experience. Porsche achieves this without making the Boxster edgy or difficult too, its thresholds of grip high, its safety systems extremely competent and refinement and comfort exemplary, too.

It's also practical thanks to a deep front boot and a wide and flat rear one. The hood operates quickly and easily and economy and emissions are respectable - at 30.1mpg and 221g/km on the combined cycle - for a car that's able to reach 62mph in 5.9 seconds.

What's not?

It's disappointing that to really enjoy the 2.9-litre's sound you need to spend an extra £1,434 on the sports exhaust.

The hood is quick and easy in its operation, but the need to manually unclip it from the header rail before the electrics take over is disappointing. Porsche cheekily asks £218 for the necessary wind deflector, and solidly built as the interior feels it's not exactly the most stylish driving environment.

The optional satnav with Bluetooth failed repeatedly to connect to an iPhone - something we've experienced before with the £1,995 option on other Porsches.

Should I buy one?

Absolutely. The more powerful S is tempting, but on our camera-strewn, speed-restricted roads the additional performance it brings is of little use. A standard Boxster with that Sports Exhaust option is all the sports car you really need in the UK. Forget the 'poor man's Porsche' or 'couldn't you afford a 911' jibes from the uninformed and enjoy the brilliant feel, feedback and excellent poise that the Boxster delivers. Experience it once and you'll not care what anyone else thinks - as you'll know better.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Six tips to spot a clocked car

Clocking is one of the biggest threats to used car buyers. If you've never heard the term before, it's when a crafty seller tinkers with the odometer to make it look as though a car has covered fewer miles, which increases its value.

What's worse is that it's almost impossible to spot, so you could be paying well over the odds for a car that's a lot more tired than it looks.

A BBC 'Watchdog' investigation recently uncovered serial car clocker, Ashley Singh, who sold such cars from home via used car sales websites. Singh used fake identities and doctored service histories to keep buyers in the dark, and it was only when he bought a car from the 'Watchdog' team that he was discovered.

Journalists from the programme sold Singh a car with 128,000 miles on the clock for £2,300, but later found him selling the same vehicle for £6,000 with a claimed 47,000 on the clock.

With that in mind, it's essential to be as knowledgeable as possible when you're buying your next second-hand car. Our top six tips for spotting a potentially clocked vehicle will keep you in the know and dodgy dealers at bay.

Check the service history

It's tempting to just skim through the service history when you get caught up in the excitement of buying a car - but don't. Inspect every document thoroughly.

Not every car will have a full service history, but the more documents, the better. Look for stamps from a genuine dealer, as these are good signs that the work has been carried out by a professional - and you can trace each fix, MoT or service back to an individual garage.

Get an HPI check

Vehicle history specialist HPI reckons that one in 12 used cars has a mileage discrepancy, so it's well worth shelling out the nominal cost for a comprehensive history check. Single HPI checks start at £19.99 and the company has a database of 135 million mileages. If you're paying a four figure sum for your next car, £20 for peace of mind seems worth it.

Double check the mileage on collection

A common trick by cheeky fraudsters is to wind the mileage figure back to a lower level when the buyer first comes to view the car, then change it to its correct level shortly before the car is collected.

Make a note of the mileage - and the general condition of the rest of the car - during your first viewing. On the second visit, give it a quick once over to make sure everything matches before you hand over your cash.

Talk to the previous owner

If you're buying the car from anyone other than a private seller then it's worth contacting the previous owner. Their details can be found on the front page of the vehicle's logbook - write them down and contact the last owner before you buy.

See if what the previous owner says matches the service history. They're not likely to know everything off by heart, but if there are any glaring differences then it could be time to walk away.

Look for wear and tear

Clocked cars are hard to spot, but if a vehicle has covered a lot more miles than the seller claims, then there are telltale signs. Worn steering wheels and seats and damaged or loose interior trim suggest that the car has been used heavily.

Look for new but easily replaceable parts too, like wiper blades hub caps. This could mean that the seller has shelled out a small amount to get the car looking tidy, when in fact, it's not up to scratch.

Trust your judgement

Check out the front page of the logbook. If the previous owner was a fleet or business then the mileage will usually be quite high. If the car was for business use only and it has only covered 6,000 miles in a year then you have reason to be wary. Stay savvy and keep your wits about you and you have far less chance of buying a dud.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Car auction world record smashed

A 1936 Bugatti has sold for at least $30,000,000 (£20m) at auction, making it the world's most expensive. It dwarfs the previous auction record, set at £15.7m for a Ferrari 250 GTO in September 2008.

The Bugatti Type 57C Atlantic was bought by the Mullin Automotive Museum in California, which means it will now be seen by thousands of enthusiasts. It had belonged to Dr Peter D Williamson, a neurologist and car collector who died in 2008.

It was sold by auctioneers Gooding and Company on behalf of Dr Williamson's family - though the actual price could be anything up to $40m.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Gooding and Company President David Gooding said the car is "one of the world's most significant and valuable automobiles."

Mr Gooding would not reveal the final sale price of the car, though a source 'close to the sale' confirmed it was between $30- and $40m, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The car was first unveiled at the 1935 Paris Motor Show, with a 200bhp engine and a 123mph top speed - quite incredible statistics at the time. Dr Williamson purchased the car in 1971, reportedly for $59,000. Fashion designer Ralph Lauren owns another of the few remaining Type 57C Bugattis.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ferrari Superamerica sells for £2.4 million

Top auction house RM made its way into the record books yet again when it sold a 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica Cabriolet Pininfarina SWB for £2.4 million at a prestigious auction in Monaco in May 1 - the highest recorded price for a Superamerica.

The Sporting Classics of Monaco sale, held at the Grimaldi Forum, was packed with rare and exotic classic cars, five of which sold for over €2 million (£1.7 million). Four of the top five sellers were Ferrari 250s from the 1950s and 1960s, along with a 1960 Maserati Tipo 61 Birdcage, which sold for £2.11m.

A total of 105 cars went under the hammer, 88 of which sold at auction to produce an 86 percent sell-through rate and total sales of over £28 million. The sale's cover car - a 1937 BMW 328 MM Bügelfalte - failed to sell at auction, but it was bought after the event for an undisclosed sum.

Bidders from 33 countries fought it out over the telephone, online and in the standing only venue. RM estimates that around 3,300 people watched the live steaming footage of the auction online.