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Boxer vs. Countach vs. 911 Turbo (CAR archive, January 1976)
01 August 2012 11:00
And that figure is considerably quicker than the one in a set recently offered by Another Publication, a set of figures that must be rejected out of hand as unrepresentative of the BB. The first time we drove a Boxer in Italy we believed it to be superior in initial acceleration to its opponents. It is almost 100lb heavier than the Countach, and only has 5bhp more, but it is lower-geared in first and has a lot more torque, and at lower revs. It should be quicker to 60mph than the Lamborghini, if not right through the range. And indeed, when we took some readings on the BB that even Maranello Concessionaires had said was an extremely good example, we recorded a cool 5.3 seconds to 60mph and a staggering 11.3 to 100mph. The point is that all this is achieved with none of the wheelspin and drama that the others seem to imagine is necessary (you’ll only succeed in blowing the clutch on a car as heavy as the BB, and with such weight transference onto the rear wheels, if you try that trick). It needs a normal, everyday briskish take-off to get the car moving and then for the throttles to e flung wide open. Like this, the BB will record such awesome times all day, everyday; and soon you find yourself entranced by such mammoth but controllable acceleration and you tend to let the car have its head at every opportunity. Blasting full-bore out of motorway service areas is perhaps nicest of all, and since the fuel consumption when all this is taking place is just over 10mpg, that chance occurs fairly frequently.
But while one is full of nothing but respect for the creators of such a magnificent engine – we believe it is the finest on this earth – and the providers of such outstanding performance, controlled as it is from a cabin of such civilisation, it is hard to not to feel that they have perhaps gone too far in their efforts to make the Boxer so undemanding, so painless. Indeed, the ride is excellent, admirably pliant whatever the road surface, and more comfortable than the firmly-set Porsche and Lamborghini. But the softness of the suspension, no doubt in league with the results of having the engine weight placed well towards the rear, permits the front to rise a good deal under acceleration and to make the car feel…well, not unstable but not really stuck down. When cruising in a straight line this shows itself between 100 and 120mph as a slightly wayward feeling: the car does not feel as rock steady as you would expect. This condition disappears with more speed, and upwards of 140mph the Boxer really tightens up and gains the feeling of purpose that it lacked earlier on. The impression of insecurity – remember, we are talking in degrees of comparison with other supercars here, including the BB’s own little sisters and its predecessor the Daytona, and not in the more usual application of the term – manifests itself rather more on narrow, bendy roads,: especially those with crests.
Unless the driver really wants to press on, the Boxer will glide along such roads at very fast cruising speeds; it is smooth and well-balanced then, swinging steadily from lock to lock as the bends are negotiated. Even in the wet a great deal of the power can be put down (not from a standstill though; you must get underway first, and still be on the look-out for sudden wheelspin even in third if you prod the throttle too hard. ) The Ferrari in these circumstances is a delight to drive, gathering in the miles in a very relaxed and comfortable fashion. The air of calm is lost, however, when the driver wishes to use more of the performance. Despite the light and smooth steering, it is never possible to forget that the Boxer is a very meaty two-seater indeed, and when you endeavour to travel along these backroads as quickly as you think the car will go there are times when it appears that the weight is going to take over and wrest control away from you. It’s just an impression – in hundreds of miles of very hard driving the car never betrayed me – but it is an impression that never gives you 100 per cent faith in the car; it has the hint of a certain unruliness. And there are instances when your reserve pays off; coming quickly into bends where there is very slight vertical curve to the surface causes the nose to nudge into sudden understeer that calls for instant throttle shutdown, a more abrupt answer than one would like. At other times bumps in a bend will upset so upset the balance that the tail will snap abruptly out of line, really testing your reflexes and your courage, for the weight in the tail means that a wayward Boxer is not easy to catch. Does one then surmise that the Boxer’s suspension – upper and lower wishbones, coil/damper units and an anti-roll bar at the front; upper and lower wishbones and an anti-roll bar at the rear – is inadequately developed for the vehicle’s performance level? It is more likely that one will readily understand that the Boxer’s engineers have chosen to do it this way; to take the razor sharpness off it and compromise in favour of a superb ride. Thus, until you want to push it very hard the BB is extraordinarily mild-mannered considering its performance; it is undemonstratively but sensationally quick. But beyond that a driver who intends to use all the performance as often as possible might have preferred a different compromise.
So you learn to use the BB as a point-and-squirt machine, blasting along the straights – however brief – between the bends and then slowing (again, relatively speaking) to enter them. You then go around on the mild understeer side on neutral, gradually pressing the long-travel throttle open so that the car tightens its line and maintains a pleasing balance. As the exit comes clearly into view you can let it all go – and grin with delight as that masterpiece of 180degree engineering whoops out its power to lift the nose high and press you back into the seat. You storm ahead, keeping it flat through the range for as many gears as the road will permit, soaking it all up (for it is addictive to the extreme) and then peering carefully at the next bend to pick the smoothest surface for your entry as you brake hard and go chonk-choonk-choonk down through the gate and getting yet more pleasure from the feel and sound that comes when the changes are fast and perfectly timed. The Boxer, like this, is magnificent for it is conceivable to own it for the pleasure of that engine alone, and the big-hearted, relentless character it gives to the BB.
An annoying anomaly about the car is that although the cabin is so refined and reasonably roomy (there is a little space for coats and bags behind the seats and good oddments space in the door pockets) and vision that’s really quite good for city work, the luggage space in the nose is so small. Two modest overnight bags and a briefcase are just about all it will take, and should the space-saver spare need to be replaced with a punctured roadwheel you’ll have to shift the bags inside. And the penalty for using the car hard (you can come up with about 14mpg with quiet driving) is that even with 26,4 gallons in the twin tanks you’ll be stopping every 250 miles or so.
Boxer vs Countach vs 911 Turbo...click here to continue reading