Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Drop top in the land of one drop

Published:Thursday | January 5, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Flippa Mafia
The higher trim level Porsche 718 Boxster on a quiet street in Miami, USA.
The upper trim level of the Porsche 718 Boxster convertible.

So there I was in Miami, USA, in the latter part of last November, behind the steering wheel of a new model Porsche 718 Boxster (that is the convertible version of the German automaker's two-seater speedster; the hardtop is the Cayman). After tootling through quiet, tree-lined streets and applying more pressure to the throttle - with very impressive and satisfying results - on highway stretches, I kept trying to put my finger on the car's position in Jamaica.

Then it occurred to me that, like Jamaican popular music, the Porsche 718 is best enjoyed with the top down and the open skies above. I drove the convertible and hardtop versions of the car during the day, while the numerous Jamaican popular music events I have attended, generally take place at night, but the sensation is the same.

The Porsche 718 drop top is well connected to the land of one drop. The hard top, with its ultra-sexy look from behind, has an emphasis on the bottom line - like dancehall and reggae.

The BBC documentary, The Story of Reggae, speaks about the open-air Jamaican music experience, saying, "The only way to listen to reggae is at a sound system. Ideally, this would be at an open-air lawn in downtown Kingston, where it is 80?F at 2 a.m."

The socioeconomic stereotype of downtown Kingston, would suggest that a Porsche would not be the most likely of motor vehicle brands in the space below the Cross Roads clock. However, it has had at least one strong plug in the music that started with sound systems in downtown Kingston. Flippa Mafia, who was famed for splashing expensive liquor on stage and tossing out cash to fans who gathered at his performances for the manna, made a Porsche reference in his song, Dem Ya.

The man who eventually ended up as an all-inclusive guest of Uncle Sam on drug-running charges, said in the song's introduction, "weh dem a say de Porsche truck a gi dem problem, black pon black mad eh?". He expands on the reference in the song, saying, "Whole heap a Range Rover but a Porsche truck dem ya/Black on black a some mad rims dem ya." For good measure, he also deejays, "People a say me Porsche truck look crissa/Everywhe me pull up gal stop a take pickcha."




And the Porsche SUV is the brand's top seller in the Latin American market, as Tim Bravo, press and public relations manager for Porsche Latin America confirmed in a media briefing after the test drives to Key Largo and back to downtown Miami. He said two-thirds of Porsche's sales in the region are for SUVs (including the Cayenne), Bravo clarifying that the brand considers those SUV four-door sports cars.

Porsche is putting its footprint across the Caribbean, including Jamaica, where ATL is the dealer.

On the two-door side, comfort was paramount in developing the 718 at a company which Bravo said is led by engineers. In developing the 718 line agility, power-to-weight ratio and reliability were emphasised, Bravo saying nearly 70 per cent of all Porsches ever made are still in driving condition.

"This is a long-living object of pleasure for our customers," Bravo said.

That comfort, good not only for single drive, but also worth keeping, was well translated into the driving experience. Why does this small tribute to speed and style appeal to my practical nature and paste a grin on my face?

Of course, one reason is the performance, as the width of the smile is proportionate to the pressure of my right foot on the accelerator pedal - more pressure, more width. However, the more relevant reason is not how quickly the Porsche 718 goes, but how comfortable I feel trying out that acceleration. And that comfort is not only in the 718's agility and stopping power, but the ride comfort.

Despite being a two-seater, after fiddling with the ultra-smooth electronic adjustment, I find that there is enough space to recline and also stretch out the legs for the classic sports-car lean-back driving position. And I must confess that at one point I did the classic hand over the shoulder and grab onto the chrome headrest pose while tootling along the highway.




It almost goes without saying that the seats are comfortable and the cars of whatever top or trim level (which goes with the engine size of 2,000cc or 2,500cc) very well equipped. Name it, you have it within easy reach and clear sight, from electronic parking brake to sport mode selection, fully integrated infotainment system (hooked up to solid speakers) to information on the vehicle's vitals by manipulating lever behind the steering wheel and scrolling through the digital readout.

Speaking of readout, I did not get a chance to push the 718, whether I was driving either engine size of the Boxster or the Cayman to high level on the speedometer, as the lead car of the three Porsche mini-parade kept us journalist types of indeterminate driving skill in check. But I did manage the tried and proven drop-back-and-accelerate strategy, trying out the acceleration from about 65 mph to as a tad above 90 mph, before catching up to the car in front of me. Remember that grin? The Porsche is f-a-s-t.

Rolling over the rise of a bridge close to Key Largo, with the setting sun on one side and a waterway on the other, top down, is one of the standout moments on a memorable driving experience, a bit like a peak moment at a session or stage show.

One thing I did not try, though, is the launch mode, because I did not know about it until we were back at the Porsche office in downtown Miami. Other journalists called it the button of joy and must have for good highest acceleration reasons, from a standing start or while already driving.

Projected sales in Jamaica are 30 to 40 units, although the Porsche Latin America office did not put a time frame on the expected sales.

Will Jamaican popular music, dancehall and one drop, embrace the Porsche on a wider scale than Flippa's references? Chances are it will.