How would you define pure unadulterated automotive joy?
Last month, we completed 100 issues of autoX. So, to celebrate, we drove virtually the entire length of the country and pitted three different modes of transport against each other (not all at the same time of course). And after every such achievement comes a certain amount of introspection. So, I began to think about why I started this magazine in the first place. Honestly, it was for the sheer joy of motoring – for the absolute thrill of being behind the wheel. So, for this issue, we decided to bring together two machines that exist solely to set your pulse racing and plaster a smile across your face.
Now, as some of you may already know, I’m an unashamed Porsche fan – and I’m torn between my lifelong love for the iconic 911 and the sheer respect that I have for the dynamic abilities of the Boxster / Cayman twins. But if smiles-per-hour is the barometer, my vote has to go to the Boxster. But my only beef with Porsche regarding its drop-top has been their reluctance to trap an adequate amount of horses under the (in this case, proverbial) hood.
Well, now they’ve done just that. This is the Boxster GTS – the first one in the country! Porsche has thrown the entire options list at this car. It has PASM, which are Porsche’s adaptive dampers; dynamic headlights (PDLS); torque vectoring (PTV); and a couple of other acronyms that I can’t immediately think of. It also has dynamic mounts that stiffen up when you really get a move-on, so that the weight transfer of the engine and gearbox doesn’t upset the chassis. Yes, this is a serious machine!
But Arup has brought along a pretty serious machine of his own – dare I say it even looks a little deadly. You see, Arup and Jared spent some time in Pune recently trying out a slew of new Kawasaki’s – the Z800 and ER6n – and came away rather impressed. So, it seems that he still has the devilish green of Ninja on his mind. But this time he’s packing serious heat – or so it seems from the way this bike is snarling at me in the rear view mirror.
The Z1000 just looks proper – in truth, it looks as though its about to burst a blood vessel. The Boxster has an aggressive front air-dam in black, as well as a smattering of other black trim front-to-back, not to mention massive 20-inch black rims – but you have to say that it’s the Z1000 that looks the more menacing of this duo. I just love the raw aggression of naked sports bikes, and the Z1000 appears to be the best of the breed. Its shape simply contorts from one rippling muscle to the next.
Let’s just say that these two machines wear their performance on their proverbial sleeves. And it’s their respective performance that gives them immediate access to automotive heaven. The fact that neither of these machines has an ounce of flab on them is no coincidence. As cars and bikes become bigger with each new generation – as if to mirror the societies they serve – machines like these are beacons of light in a world of lumbering SUVs.
On that note, we fire up both machines and head for the horizon. Arup has the jump on me initially. Jesus, that bike accelerates like a bat out of hell! But once I thumb the Sport button and flick the gear lever to manual, I start to really gain velocity – rapidly. The GTS hits 100km/h in 4.7 seconds after all. Cross 4,000rpm and this engine really starts to sing – all the way to its 7,800rpm redline. I say this every time we test a Porsche, but there’s just something about a car in which the engine is propelling you from behind – the combined cacophony of both intake and exhaust coming from the same direction has a uniquely musical quality. It’s addictive. And so you bury your right foot deeper into the footwell.
There’s another addiction that I must mention at this point – to the aforementioned Sport button. But there are a few other buttons here that draw your attention. One has a set of exhausts scribbled on it, which opens a flap in the exhaust that adds to your aural pleasure. But there’s another, slightly more sinister one marked ‘Sport Plus.’ It should be marked ‘GTS+,’ because it just takes this car to another level. The trouble is that the ride becomes a little too choppy on our roads. Frankly, there are very few roads in our country where you can even begin to approach the limits of this incredible machine.
The manner in which this car picks up speed is completely deceptive. Before you know it you’re doing speeds that I’m not likely to confess to in writing. Fortunately, the brakes are nothing short of sensational. Porsche, after all, have long been bearers of the phrase ‘stop on a dime.’ The brakes are so good that you simply feel invincible on the road. Push the GTS a little bit, and you begin to feel the benefit of those extra 15 horses. Plus, it just feels that little bit more taut than the Boxster S. The ride height has been reduced by 10mm, and all the chassis gizmos work seamlessly to ensure that the car responds – as if telepathically – to every tiny input of the steering wheel. And that’s what makes this one of the best sports cars on the planet. There’s a purity and fluidity that’s just missing in most other machines. Add to that a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox that can actually make you abandon that fantasy of a third pedal and a manual gearbox.
The real beauty, though, of this Porsche is a character trait that it retains from all those that came before it – and that’s its usability. You can simply potter around in ‘D’ if you’d like, and the ride is actually quite liveable – even on broken pavement. We even did some mild off-roading in this car – as you can see from some of the pictures. I want to criticise this car, I really do, but the only thing that I can come up with is the fact that I still prefer the steering feel of Porsches of years past with their hydraulically assisted racks rather than the electronic power steering of this car – but even that’s on the verge of becoming a non-issue in the latest generation of Porsches.
At the end of the day, if you enjoy driving, there’s simply no way you can restrain yourself from being in awe of this machine – but not so much that you don’t enjoy every second you spend behind the wheel. Like I said, this is why I pursued this profession in the first place. Sure, the bike will give you a bigger rush – but Arup was dishevelled and sweaty on this hot day, while I was as fresh as a daisy enveloped in the alcantara and carbon fibre of the cabin of the GTS. Quite honestly, there’s no other place where I would rather be…
From the saddle of the Z1000
Personally, I don’t really fancy sports bikes with fairings. I prefer a motorcycle that reveals its sporty might with its ponies rather than with some added-on kit. My choice would be a street bike with a clean naked design – one that can flex its muscles like the Incredible Hulk. For the non-pretentious lot, Kawasaki has the Z range, which is powerful enough to keep the competition at bay – while not compromising in comfort, handling, and remaining easy to ride. Not many bikes can boast of all these qualities, and Kawasaki’s big daddy Z1000 puts its money where its mouth is as it ticks all the boxes.
I’ve ridden the ER-6n and Z800 earlier this year, but neither looks as intense as the Z1000. The grey and black war paint may not be to everyone’s taste – but, with bulging biceps, it certainly draws a lot of attention. The headlamps resemble the Predator’s helmet, and so the Z1000 always looks like it’s ready to hunt down anyone that comes in its way – including the Boxster GTS that you see here. Kawasaki has designed the Z1000 to be very aggressive, and this gives it an aura of invincibility – something this duo has in common.
Shedding the body panels exposes the powerhouse beneath. And the 1,043cc engine makes this superbike even more dramatic. Press the ignition button, and the beautifully styled 4-into-2-pre-chamber-into-2 exhaust emits a slightly disappointing synthetic buzz. But I was later told by a Z1000 owner that the decibel level increases once you put about 5,000 kilometres on the clock. The one you see here was brand spanking new.
As I had to negotiate city traffic before I got onto the old Mumbai-Pune Highway, this crouching predator comfortably snaked its way through the crawling traffic. It showcased its versatile nature, as it provided an ideal boost of low range torque for start-stop riding conditions. As the Z1000 is a high performance motorcycle though, the riding position is aggressive – but with wide aluminium handlebars, it’s very manoeuvrable in the city.
Finally I was on the highway, and I couldn’t let the empty stretch go without twisting the Z1000’s throttle. Its instant power rush gave me an adrenaline high, as the bike responded by crossing the three-digit mark in a flash – and I mean 200km/h! I couldn’t resist but scream out, “cowabunga.” Yes, yes, it had converted me into a big Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan! This insane power delivery is all thanks to 6-speed transmission, as the overall short gearing let’s the engine respond to the rider’s every wish. The sixth gear, though, has quite a tall ratio that let’s you cruise from as low as 40km/h. It was time to tame the speed demon in me, and cruise at 130km/h. Honestly, if I hadn’t checked the digital read-out, it felt like the bike was trotting along at 50km/h. And this just proved how stable it is at high speeds on the open highway with the wind blowing in your face. The instrument cluster has an LED rpm indicator, which starts from 4,000rpm. For slow pokes, 1,000-3,000rpm is displayed in the digital speedometer. In its own way, the bike taunts you to ride above the 4,000rpm mark, and keeps reminding you that this is not for the weak hearted.
Built on a lightweight aluminium frame, the Z1000 is designed to let the rider enjoy maximum comfort and control – especially in corners. Even when I took the inside line, the bike remained planted and never strayed off line. While I was taking a sweeping turn, I suddenly saw a truck slowly chugging away in the fast lane ahead of me. I quickly slammed the brakes and the twin 310mm front discs and rear 250mm disc dug in deep and the Z1000 came to a standstill without any fuss. With great power, the Z1000 comes with excellent brakes. It’s also equipped with ABS.
It’s very difficult to find any flaws in the Z1000 – another trait shared by both machines. It looks imposing, has unbelievable power, and handles like a charm. Sure, the riding stance is aggressive, but then this isn’t a commuter bike. This is, after all, the Boxster of bikes – a pure instrument of riding pleasure. And the Z1000 looks so dynamic and has so much attitude that even Dhruv couldn’t keep his eyes off it.
- Porsche Boxster GTS
- Kawasaki Z1000
Engine: 3,436cc / Flat Six / 24 Valves / DOHC / VarioCam Plus / Direct Injection
Transmission: 7-speed / Dual-clutch / Rear-wheel Drive
Power: 326bhp @ 6,700rpm
Torque: 370Nm @ 4,500-5,800rpm
Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 4.7 seconds
Price: Rs.1.1crores (Estimated Ex-showroom, Delhi)
Engine: 1,043cc /Liquid Cooled / Inline Four / 16 Valves / DOHC
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual
Power: 140bhp @ 10,000rpm
Torque: 111Nm @ 7,300rpm
Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 3.4 seconds
Price: Rs.12.5 Lakhs (ex-showroom, Pune)