Porsche Boxster 987

A Porsche Boxster over a Honda S2000? Who’d have thought

This post was supposed to be about the Honda S2000, a good-looking two-seater that I thought would be easily within reach now that the better examples are some 8 to 10 years old. Well put together with Honda’s track record for reliability still intact, it certainly appealed to my sensibilities. It wasn’t as good as Merc’s SLK nor Porsche’s Boxster, but then it wasn’t as expensive, about half the price in the case of the Porsche.

Originally priced around AUD$73k, Red Book suggests an S2000 from 2008 should be between $20-28k. So I was somewhat surprised to find only two 2008 examples offered for sale at an eye watering $49k and $54k respectively. Not only was this twice what I was expecting, but I could get hold of a similar mileage Boxster for less. Either I am missing something and this is a car to keep, or there are some pretty greedy sellers out there. Supply and demand I guess. Nonetheless, bugger the Honda, I’ll go for the Porsche thank you.

Yes, I know all the car mags suggest that you buy a Porsche Boxster only because you can’t afford a 911, and no doubt that is true. The benefit, however, of the Boxster’s flat six mid-engine layout means there’s no surprises for the driver when you push it that bit too far, or when you take your foot off the pedal mid-corner. Something most 911 drivers will know about, and at my age, one less risk.

The 987, available from 2005-2012, was more powerful than the first model, with increased capacity to 2.7 litres and 176 kW in the standard car. The S had to wait a couple of years before its power plant increased to 3.4 litres, pumping out a very useful 216 kW.  In 2009, Porsche upgraded it again, beefing up the engine to 2.9 litres, and 3.5 litres in the S. This meant the 0-100 dash could now be reached in a mere 5.9 seconds in the standard manual, whilst the S dispatched it in only 5.3 seconds.

Interestingly, 2009 was the year that electronic gear changes finally broke the back of the 6 speed manual with the introduction of the new PDK transmission. A far better system than Porsche’s old Tiptronic option, the 7 speed double clutch box eclipsed its stick shift rival to 100 km/h by a fraction of a second only, but it was enough for most buyers to begin to ditch the manual. As you’d expect, power increased too, up to 188 kW for the standard car, and 228 kW for the S.

Courtesy of en.tugbit.com
Courtesy of en.tugbit.com

So, are you buying a villain or a hero? Well, by most accounts, the Boxster has proven exceptionally reliable. Data out of the UK suggest that MOT passes, their equivalent to the Aussie pink slip, stand at 82% for early 2005 examples and a brilliant 91% for cars built in 2010.

It seems that you are also better off looking for a higher mileage options. Boxsters prefer to be used regularly, otherwise can suffer oil leaks, failed batteries and corroded brakes. On the outside, they are very well-built as you’d expect but if you notice any blemishes, take it as a sign it has not been looked after and it will most probably run more than just skin deep.

Ensure that the car has been maintained by a qualified Porsche technician, as they do require a reasonable level of expertise. So factor this in to your considerations, both for the future and over its history. It’s more expensive but likely worth it.

Porsche Boxster S
Courtesy of freefoto.com

So let’s take a look around.

First up the roof.  It should work smoothly, but broken push rods can be a common problem. They are not too pricey to replace, certainly not if you go for an after-market option, but it’s a pain nonetheless. If you see any water damage around the base inside the car, be aware that a leak may have reached the ECU, and this will not be cheap if it needs replacing. Whilst you are at it, ensure all the lights and indicators are working too, as they seem to be the most common vehicle check failures.

Check the cooling vents and ducts at the front of the car as they often get overlooked and can collect a lot of gunk. If not checked and cleaned out regularly, the airways can get blocked and you’re left staring at a bill to replace the radiator.

The transmission is generally very reliable, but you’ll know there is a problem if the gear change and clutch is stiff in the manual, or you hear a humming or clicking sound coming from the rear in the auto models.

Porsche Boxsters do seem to chew up its coil springs though, so listen out for any suspension knocks and check that the car looks nice and level.

More expensive issues can be an RMS (Rear Main Seal) failure – an oil leak from the gearbox which, in itself, isn’t too much of an issue but it requires the box to be removed in order to repair it. A potentially more damaging issue is an IMS (Intermediate Shaft) bearing failure which can kill the engine if left unchecked. Luckily, this seems to be more of a Cayman issue, with only a few early 987’s affected. Subsequently, Porsche remedied the problem in 2006 by moving the bearing inside the crank case and this has proven a far stronger set up.

So what do owners consider the costliest aspect of enjoying this car?

Maintenance by a qualified Porsche technician, the cost of decent tyres and ancillaries such as the water pump bearings or an IMS upgrade.

Most forums suggest that, if maintained regularly, a Boxster is a very friendly daily drive. If you budget AUD$2000 – 3000 per year for maintenance you should be enjoying open top driving for a long time to come.

More Information & Forums:

Revolution Porsche in the UK goes in to more detail should you need it.

Cost of Ownership of a Boxster S

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Range Rover Evoque SD4

A little something for the weekend, Madam

It would not be hard to fathom that I like Land Rovers. I own one and weep constantly at the bills that arrive whenever the word “service” enters the fray. They are both excellent and extravagant, particularly if you live in a city and rarely take it into the rough stuff.

But I have never bought into the baby Range Rover, the Range Rover Evoque. I’m not sure why? It looks unique enough, it has been well put together and, as James May discovered, even the two-wheel drive version can handle some pretty slippery slopes. But it’s a car for the DINK’s of Paddington, hipster types who quaff wheat grass and order soy decaf mocca frappacinos, and spend as much time on their hair as some of us do in the garage. Hardly any of the cars will see a muddy lane, let alone a remote track visited only by an indigenous elder. So it’s surprising to note that Orson, my friend and current owner of this Evoque SD4 Pure Tech, has two children, no dress sense, unless you regard black t-shirts fashionable, lives in the Hills district and has no hair at all.

Why would an apparently sane – no scratch that, he does have a penchant for pinball machines, 1970’s US muscle cars and Japanese people movers – a slightly insane then, successful, driven young father choose to spend $70,000 on a car that does nothing for his image? Answer: His wife liked it.

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Up close and personal, I can see why. Its lines are eye-catching, particularly dressed in pearlescent white with black roof. Its 18 inch wheels fill the arches aggressively and it does have that chic touch about it, that posh image that only a Range Rover can portray. People will invite you to their club for the weekend, organise pony trials with your daughter and make you the golf club captain. You don’t get the same reaction if you tell someone you’ve a Toyota, a Volkswagen, even a BMW. No, only a Rangey can do that.

But is it? Is it really a Rangey?

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Well yes, in many ways it is. It is very comfortable. It has five seats, all be it quite small ones. It can drive almost anywhere, and it is expensive. Even more so if you buy it new. After 3 years of trouble-free motoring however, this 27,600 kilometre example will save you almost $20,000 off list price, just about enough to get that horse-box your youngest will be needing.

For a car that weighs 30kg short of 1700, its punchy little 2.2 litre turbo diesel engine, the smallest in the diesel range, produces a reasonable 110kW (nearly 150 bhp) and gets you up to licence loss territory quicker than you think. Thanks in part to the weight saving properties of its aluminium bonnet and roof, its composite plastic tailgate, and its 6 speed auto box that becomes more responsive still when you use the paddle shifts behind the steering wheel.

Out on the mean streets of the Hills, I find I’m taking corners sharply and speed humps with aplomb. It is certainly a nippy little thing, but the engine note could be a bit more, what’s the word? Manly?

Switch on the sound system, and Orson’s choice of head nodding hip hop accost your ears like a low flying jet plane coming into land, and in the dark, the mood lighting adds a touch of bling to the atmosphere.

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The plastic fascia looks good but to touch it feels a tad low rent, akin to the disappointment of thinking you’ve bought leather shoes only to find out they are made of PVC. At this price a bit of Alcantara wouldn’t go amiss. The rest of the Tech options are nice to play with though, as is the All-Terrain system, a system I am used to in my Discovery. Though I may scoff at its off-road pedigree, it does have class leading ground clearance and with its decent approach and departure angles, this thing will probably follow my Disco with ease.

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So what’s wrong with them? Well after first appearing in 2011, there was a spate of software glitches and the odd one had poor build quality. But in the main, they have been well received by buyers. Orson tells me he has not had any issues with his, he’s not even had to replace the tyres.

So would I buy one? Errrm …. Probably not. But then I have four kids.

So who would? Well that bit is obvious. It was not voted 2012 Women’s Overall World Car of The Year and Women’s Top World Luxury Car of the Year for nothing. Your wife will.

Orson’s Evoque is available for sale on CarSales by clicking the following link:

http://www.carsales.com.au/private/details/Land-Rover-Range-Rover-Evoque-2012/SSE-AD-3684470

 

Range Rover Evoque

Tomcar

Safe, fun and I want one

Is driving for fun all about speed? In many cases it is for me, but by no means all. Take four-wheel driving, I’d be nuts if I thought I could tackle a steep slope by just putting the pedal to the metal. Granted in some cases it is warranted, but driving off-road is just as much fun at low speed, marveling at the ability of the vehicle you are in, and let’s face it, it generally is the vehicle these days and not the driver, amazed that you can chug through thick gloopy mud, waist high water or wafting over soft sand dunes, all at sub 40 km/h.

David-Brim-Co-Founder-CEO-Tomcar-Australia
David Brim, co-founder and CEO of Tomcar Australia

Australia is one of the best places to go off-road simply because there is so much of it. So it got me thinking about cheaper alternatives than potentially damaging the only vehicle the family has. Should I consider a bike say, which is great for me, but useless for any one else in the clan keen for a bit of an adrenalin rush. What about a quad bike? They look great fun and it’s possible I could take at least one other with me.

But then the dangers were starkly pointed out to me. In the States 700 people are killed on one of these things every year. In Australia, there have been 62 quad bike related deaths on Australian farms since 2010, with a total of 15 quad related deaths reported in 2014 alone, along with an additional 86 non‐fatal quad related injury events. According to Dr. Tony Lower from Sydney University’s Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety, rollovers account for 75% of on-farm deaths. 18% of quad bike fatalities involve children under 16 and with over 300,000 ATVs in current use across Australia, you can see how big the issue can get. Most are associated with agricultural use but increasingly it is for recreation.

So not wanting to be one of those statistics, I considered the much more safer looking side-by-sides. Essentially these look much like a quad (or ATV) but come equipped with a roll-bar and a passenger sits next to you, hence the name. They have tough looking suspension set ups and appear the obvious choice. But yet again, they have issues with roll-overs, and perhaps due to the perceived extra safety, drivers are a little too blasé. They are just as narrow as an ATV and are top heavy, so could very well be an accident waiting to happen.

Is there another choice out there? Well for a little more money than a side-by-side, there is the Tomcar. It’s wider, with a lower centre of gravity making it a safer option with less chance of a roll over. It is made of high quality components and designed to withstand even the toughest work out. And it’s built right here in Australia, Victoria to be precise. Bingo.

Tomcar TM5

In fact, it’s a fantastic story. The original Tomcar was, and still is, built in Israel and was designed for military use. They needed to be tough and easily repaired in the field and the concept took off. Though designed for off-road use, Tomcars are rear wheel driven, precisely for the reason I mention above – they have less expensive and fiddly components to fix.

David Brim, CEO of Tomcar Australia, originally from the UK, saw the potential a few years back and negotiated a license to manufacture the cars here in Australia.

Why Australia? I ask on a recent call, recognising David’s London accent? “My mum is from Australia, and though I was brought up in the UK, we always promised to return.”

I’ve seen a few second-hand Tomcars for sale in Canada, but none here. How so? “The original company is Israeli and they still manufacture over there for the Defence industry. The second-hand Tomcars you’ve found are ex-military vehicles made in Israel. Tomcar Australia manufactures here for the Australian, New Zealand and Philippines markets.”

“We’ve sold 200 so far in Australia. They are built to order and, if necessary, can be put together in as little as a week. But ordinarily, from initial order, owners can expect to pick up their vehicle in 4-5 weeks.”

“One of the reasons there is not a second-hand market here is that Tomcar’s are designed to be cheap to fix. For instance, the front tyre rod is designed to snap under pressure, before a far more expensive problem occurs. They cost $45 a piece so many customers drive around with a spare or two, and just replace it if needed. We also offer a service called Tomcar Reloaded. Owners can bring their car back and for $15k we will strip it down and rebuild it, so essentially they receive a new car back. It is very modular with no expensive components.”

Who are buying them? Mostly guys like me, looking for some cheap, safe fun?

“Agriculture is our biggest market,” David continues, “with 5% recreational, another 5% emergency services, the rest is for defence.”

How does the press regarding the dangers of ATV’s affect you?

“It’s terrible the stories you hear. Obviously the industry won’t tell you how dangerous they are, and those who have had one for years will say they are fine, but then you hear of a farmer who has ridden an ATV for 15 years gets killed. Yamaha and others now make side-by-sides these days, but certainly many of our customers have bought a Tomcar instead of an ATV quad bike because of the safety factor.”

You offer 2 engines, a 1 litre petrol and 1.4 diesel variant, which is the most popular?

“Its pretty much 50/50. Both have a 26 litre fuel tank, with an optional extra tank if needed. Some customers will go through a tank a day, others will take them a week, depending on the usage.”

Can you drive a Tomcar on the road? “No they can’t be registered as yet. So only for off-road, private trail use.”

I see some are racing them, how has that been going? “Yes, racing is becoming a growing side of our business. In fact we are planning on a Race series for later this year so watch this space.”

You can get hold of a Tomcar from around $25k for the TM-2 model. The larger TM-4 model is out later this year and will fit a nuclear family. There is also a ute offering called the TM-5 which is a great option for those needing to shift stuff about, and I am tempted. Not sure the wife will let me strap down four kids though.

For more information visit Tomcar’s website: www.tomcar.com.au

 

BMW E39 M5

How to cure a cold in only a few minutes? Just add power

Used Price – E39 (1998-2003) – $38,000 – 60,000

Current Price – F10 M5 – $230,000

It’s been 2 years since I was introduced to James. We’d met at the auction with a common goal of trying to get the best price for a Quattro I’d written an article about some weeks before. James was in the enviable position of being a previous owner of many auto exotica, including two quite beautiful Ferrari’s, but he had always owned a BMW, “because they just work.” His current Bimmer, as then, is quite probably the best sporting saloon car ever made, the BMW E39 M5 but he hasn’t been ready to show his pride and joy off until now.

 

The E39 M5 was the first to be produced at BMW’s mainstream production line in Dingolfing, Germany, highlighting that it was intended to be the most useable drive on a daily basis, but with a kick when you really needed it. That kick came in V8 form, normally aspirated, producing 294 kW (394 bhp) and 500 Nm of torque, via a 6-speed manual and it’s rear wheels. 100 km/h came up in a mere 4.8 seconds and if delimited it had the potential to reach 300 km/h.

Impressive right? Well not quite enough for James. Whilst not a racer, he does enjoy a track day and he needed something a little extra. A supercharger would do it, along with Supersprint headers, Schrick cams, a reinforced differential brace, adjustable Koni shock absorbers, adjustable sway bars, a lightweight flywheel and a race clutch. But being an accountant he didn’t like frightening the neighbours, so also installed Milltek exhausts with vacuum operated valves to keep it quiet around town. A short shift gearbox was next because the standard one was just too long and slow to snick in, and he followed this up with an enlarged radiator and oil cooler to keep the extra heat in check. Custom made wider wheels, front and rear, topped off the package and once he’d debadged the car as much as he could – because he is not a show off – he was almost ready.

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“There’s a little surprise,” he said, holding a plastic watering can and unscrewing what I thought was the washer tank. “Methanol burns really cold, and helps to cool things a little more.” Just cooling James? “Well maybe it helps add about 10% more power.”

That ‘help’, according to James’ mechanic, brings torque up to around 700 Nm and 466 kW (625 bhp) and bothers even V8 Supercars out of the way down Phillip Island’s straight.

After warming the oil and driving sedately around town to get some heat into the tyres, we find a nice little loop that includes a relatively traffic free entrance and exit to the freeway in order to test the accelerating powers of his teutonic project.

“Don’t be frightened of it Mike,” James says, obviously aware that I am feeling a tad nervous about wrapping his car around some lamp post, “it’s meant to be floored.”

 

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The noise alone is intimidating enough, but flooring this thing to it’s red line, a red line that goes all the way to 7,300 rpm (as opposed to the standard 7000) is sweaty palm time indeed. My first attempt is anaemic by James’ standard and I excuse myself by explaining I just need to get a feel for it. Rolling around again, I steel myself and begin accelerating hard at the apex of the first corner and bury my foot into the carpet as the straight comes into view. Out of the corner of my eye, I see James grab for the roof handle, nervously perhaps, I am not sure, but with the red line fast approaching I just have time to change up into third and be pushed into the seat as hard as anything I have ever driven before. The car in the distance is quickly reached and I slam on the brakes before any damage can be done.

“I think I am getting the hang of it now James,” I say smiling from ear to ear.

Third time around I get on the power even quicker and this time I feel the wheels squirming, desperately searching for traction in both second and third gears, and we snake up the road in a fiendish bellow of noise and smoking rubber at wharp-like speed. We are both laughing hysterically as the adrenaline kicks in and I never want this day to end.

Though power is what this car is all about, I am somewhat in awe with how well composed it is at normal speeds, on rickety roads and over speed humps. It is supple and compliant and you can quite literally take your granny to church in it without her ever feeling uncomfortable.

“I took my dad out in it once for a decent drive up a mountain, and all he had to say was that it was a little bumpy in the back seat, as we bottomed out around the bends up the hill. We’d been doing speeds of up to 230km/h but he apparently didn’t notice or care”

After a couple more loops, I feel I have got some measure of this monster. Its tyres are now properly up to temperature and that snaking from earlier under hard acceleration transforms into grippy, mind-bending shunts up the hill. Please omnipotent deity, if you exist, let this road transform into a track so that I can taste the remaining 3 gears and then add a few corners in for good measure. Eastern Creek would be nice. But all good things come to an end and I sadly, but contentedly, turn for James’ home, happy that I still have my licence, and hoping that I have not disappointed James with my driving.

So what does all this machinery cost? James bought the car some years back with only 19,000 kms on the clock for around $125k. He spent a further $25k or so getting it to where it is today, so it is certainly not cheap. That said, you can find an E39 M5 for around $40k these days and James recommends that you spend around $15k to improve its brakes, the exhaust and cooling systems. You might not get as much power as this example, but you will certainly find joy and excitement, safe in the knowledge that it is designed to be used everyday.

James did admit that the engine had to be changed 30,000 km’s ago. It’s a common issue among M5’s that it’s big end can go every 50,000 km’s or so, if driven hard. And let’s face it, why have one of these cars and not drive it energetically. The forums, such as M5board.com, provide some great advice and suggest installing stronger big-end bolts and replacing the rod bearings every once in a while. James was told that a new donk would set him back some $45k and a rebuild a wallet wilting $65k. He rang BMW and because he is such a nice man, going about it in a nice way, BMW agreed to supply a new engine for only $22k. When asked why he was given such a discount, he was told that as he approached the matter in a professional manner, they do have some flexibility with the cost. So there is a lesson there for us all, I think.

Other BMW bargains can be found in the US. The rear view mirror for instance contains some trickery for dimming, and will set you back over $700 to replace. A bloke in Texas builds replicas and charges only $99 plus postage. So owning a car like this need not be for the super-elite, if you do your homework.

For me though, I woke up with a stinking cold but after an hour of heart pumping hilarity, I felt 100% better. Thank you James, thank you very much.

Forums:

M5Boardwww.m5board.com

Bimmerfestwww.bimmerfest.com

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