15 Apr 2014

The Nonsense Spouted About Electrically Assisted Power Steering

The Boxster S is now back with Porsche after a week at chez Speedmonkey.  The evening before it went back I was going to write the review but ended up buying and watching The Hobbit on DVD instead.  Once that was over I thought I'd browse YouTube for some alternative viewpoints on the Boxster.

One of those I watched was Chris Harris' review for Drive.  As someone who occasionally crosses over into Harris' territory in terms of cars I get to drive I normally avoid his Drive reviews purely because I find myself disagreeing with some of what he says.  This avoidance means I won't leave a comment under the review, which in turn means I won't be abused by the Church Of Latter Day Chris Harris Is A Saint tribe.

That's not to say I think he's normally wrong, well not largely. It's in the detail, the finer points, I often disagree.  And it was in the detail of the Boxster S review I found myself disagreeing.

Specifically in the area of the Boxster's electrically assisted power steering.  If I was to write that sentence three times it would be irritating for you the reader.  But at least three times (it may be more but I can't bear to watch it again) in the eleven minute video review Chris says 'the electric power steering is the weak point in the new Boxster S.'  He then goes on to qualify that statement by saying it is a good system but it is not as good as hydraulically assisted.

I've driven a lot less cars than Chris Harris (around 150 in the past two years) but I have driven a Cayman R, Boxster S, 911 C2 and my own 924S with hydraulic steering and a 911 Turbo, 911 C4, Cayman and Boxster S with electric steering.

And you know what? Anyone other than Chris Harris, Tiff Needell and Henry Catchpole would not notice the difference.

I drove my 924S and the Boxster S side by side for a week.  The difference between hydraulic and electrical assistance is so infinitesimally small as to be almost unnoticeable.  To highlight it to such an extent as some journalists (and their followers who have never even sampled it) do is just nonsensical.

To me the perfect car is a sports car. I love finely-tuned handling, steering feel, a good chassis and great communication and interactivity between car and driver.  This is why the Subaru BRZ is one of my (and most journalists) favourite cars.

And the BRZ has the devil's steering assistance.  Yes, it's electrically assisted.  Oh my goodness.

The car I've driven with the worst ever steering feel was my old Audi S4.  Hydraulically assisted.

I tested the new Audi S3 saloon recently and its only weak point was the steering feel.  It's electric but that has nothing to do with it, Audi just can't seem to get great steering feel in it's four wheel drive cars (the front wheel drive A3 cabriolet's steering felt better).

Then I read Chris Harris' review of the S3 hatch and he didn't mention the electrically assisted steering once, and said he liked it so much it was a car he'd buy for himself.

Poor Porsche gets bashed about by journos who think that moving with the times (electric assistance helps reduce CO2 emissions and therefore tax liability) is wrong.

It isn't. If you buy a modern Porsche you will be amazed at how sharp and responsive the steering is, and you wouldn't notice, or care, if somehow Porsche sneakily engineered hydraulic assistance into it.

Here's the Drive Boxster S review.

By Matt Hubbard