James May

Specced up Porsche illustration

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Hello readers. I must warn you that I’m going to be rather boring this month, so if you’ve got any ironing to do I suggest you get on with it while you’re waiting for the next column to start.

The thing is that for the very first time in my life I’ve bought a brand new car, and unfortunately it’s made me jolly cross. With Ferrari.

And no, I haven’t bought a Ferrari. But this all began when Jeremy started investigating the options list on the new F430, and discovered a few examples of the unexplained. If you want red brake calipers, that’s an extra £500. Maybe that’s fair enough. Maybe special heat-resistant red paint is expensive and difficult to apply. But if you want yellow calipers, that’ll be £560.

Why is this? As far as I can see, painting the calipers yellow instead of red involves nothing more than the caliper-painting man reaching for a tin of yellow instead of a tin of red. So where does the extra £60 come from, eh? I suppose if you’re spending around £120,000 on a car the odd £60 is neither here nor there; then again, if you’re charging £120,000 for a car it’s neither here nor there either, so that’s no excuse.

And then there’s the seat stitching. One way or another, the seats have to be sewn together, otherwise you’d soon end up with a pile of useless leather in the footwell. But if you select a special colour for the thread, it costs you £260. Now – as far as I can make out, this involves nothing more than the seat-stitcher inserting a different reel of cotton into the sewing machine, and that operation simply cannot be worth £260, even at Ferrari. Just to be certain of my ground here, I’ve been to John Lewis and can confirm that £260 would buy enough thread to sew Guy Fawkes and all of his chums back together.

When I thought about it, I realised this sort of thing has been going on for years. I remember a time when BMW charged extra for something called, I think, the ‘smoker delete package’. This involved removing the ashtray and lighter and blanking off the resulting holes, which is a bit churlish really since those bits they took out could then be used on another car. So not only were they relieving you of the money you’d saved by not buying any fags, they were also saving themselves a few bob into the bargain. That was a dopple whammy for Bavarian book-keeping.

And so it goes on. To get to the point: I’ve now ordered a new Porsche Boxster S, because Porsche is upfront and its option pricing is transparent. The Boxster is the best mid-priced roadster and my faith in it can only increase given those halfwits Hammond and Clarkson think the Mercedes SLK is somehow a better car.

“The completely standard Boxster S exists only in theory. It should be considered in the way that Spain is; unfinished”

I know what you’re thinking; you’re thinking, (I bet he did a deal with Porsche because he works for Top Gear and they gave him a big discount), but you’d be as wrong as the big gay one and the irritating little sod are about German sports cars. I went into my local dealership like anyone else and ordered it at the full price.

(The honest truth is that I went into my local Porsche shop to buy a replacement light bulb for my old 911, but was seduced by the charming lady with the tea and biscuits, the brochures and every other device used by the salesman to part the fool from the money he doesn’t even have. But anyway.)

This is where the whole thing becomes... well, I was about to say interesting, but then I remembered that I’ve already admitted how boring it is. (Still ironing?) Bear with me here.

The completely standard Boxster S is something that only really exists in theory, a little bit like hyperspace. What we think of as ‘the Boxster S’ should really be considered in the way that Spain is; ie not finished yet. This is because it’s designed to be ‘personalised’ by the buyer.

So I ordered the full leather interior, which cost me £1,150. Then I ordered a special, non-standard leather colour, cocoa brown, which added another £1,395. But I said I wanted the steering wheel in black. That’s what I would have got if I’d just ordered the standard black interior, and it wouldn’t have cost me anything. Fair?

I never said this was going to be gripping and, to be frank, it gets worse.

Now Porsche says it wants another £500 for the black steering wheel. How can this be? It’s the steering wheel they would have been obliged to put on if I hadn’t said anything, if you see what I mean. Unless they’re going to admit to the folly of producing a brown steering wheel and then re-trimming it in the black it would have been in the first place, I should really be given a small discount for saving a bit of brown leather.

I have to say that the dealership has been perfectly charming about all this and its staff are clearly as embarrassed as I am perplexed. So eventually I rang Porsche myself. Someone there told me it was something to do with an XP90 ordering code which is completely meaningless to me. They say if I don’t want the brown steering wheel then I have to shell out for an optional sports steering wheel. In black. But I don’t want a sports steering wheel; I want the unused one gathering dust in the parts bin. They’re asking me to pay to remove an option I’ve already paid to have in the first place, which is a bit like ordering a pizza margarita with extra anchovies and then quietly slipping the waiter a quid to get rid of the anchovies and put more cheese on the top instead.

The whole thing is so boring I’m beginning to bore myself, but at least I’ve finally come up with a case for the Nissan Murano. This is a very good car but one I don’t particularly like – it’s too brash, and its teeth are too chromed. What I do like, however, is that there are no options to be had on it. Everything is standard, and anything that isn’t standard can’t be had at all.

You either buy it, or you don’t buy it. In fact, it’s the best car on sale in Britain today.



James May, Column, Porsche Boxster, Ferrari, Nissan

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