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Autos: Ruf Gets Going

Robert Farago

The Porsche Boxster is Germany’s gift to sports car lovers, but many enthusiasts believe the car is too slow. Even the 3.2-liter Boxster S, recently retooled with a 258-hp block, is not powerful enough to liberate the mid-engine roadster’s true talents. Understandably, Porsche will not hitch up additional horses because a faster, more powerful Boxster would threaten sales of the company’s range-topping 911.

So we turn to Alois Ruf to take a water-cooled 3.6-liter 911 engine, wedge it into a Boxster body, modify the handling, tweak the exhaust and cooling, and create the 3600S, the most exciting car Porsche never made.

At first glance, the appearance of the 3600S might temper your excitement. A huge, angular lip spoiler and prow-positioned air intakes are grafted onto the car’s front end. The configuration aids cooling and high-speed stability, but it gives the car a nose that looks as appropriate on the delicately curved Boxster as boxing gloves on a ballerina. The 3600S seems a lot less ridiculous when you fire up the engine; Ruf’s boffins resurrected the raspy bark cherished by devotees of the 911. From Ruf’s southern Germany headquarters, a two-lane road aimed for the Alps awaits.

Snick the 3600’s 6-speed gearbox into first, press the pedal, release the clutch, and the car rockets forward like a bunny-chasing greyhound. When the 325-hp engine hits its sweet spot around 3,500 rpm, the surround-sound wail hardens, and the machine gets up and goes. Cars motoring down the road are reeled in like dynamite-stunned marlin.

The 3600S sprints from zero to 60 in just five seconds, making it almost a full second faster than the Boxster S. In-gear acceleration also feels dramatically stronger. The Boxster S runs out of steam at 161 mph, while the 3600S powers to 173 mph. Given those numbers, the nearest competitor to the 3600S is a Carrera Cabriolet. The two cars offer virtually identical performance, but there is a huge difference in the way they feel on the road. While the 911 is a faster car, Ruf’s über-Boxster is more fun to drive than the heavier, rear-engine Carrera, changing directions as effortlessly as a wind vane.

The two sell for roughly the same price, approximately $90,000, raising the question: Who would pay Carrera money for a Boxster? The answer is: a purist. The 3600S concedes only two advantages to its Carrera cousin: backseats and street credibility. The former is not a big issue with most Porsche buyers. The latter is insurmountable; no matter how fast or agile, the Boxster will never have the 911’s macho appeal. The purist knows that while a badge can serve as a king in a hand of name-dropping, it cannot compete against the ace card of fun and performance. “A 911 is a 911,” says Hans-Peter Lib, Ruf’s workshop manager. “But if you’re not concerned about tradition and if you just love to drive, the 3600S gives you much more agility.”

Ruf, +49.8265.911.911, www.ruf-automobile.de

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