Travel: Road Trip to the World's Largest Log Cabin
The 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster has lost two cylinders, gained a turbocharger and been given a new name. We set off from downtown Toronto, the largest city in Canada and the 4th largest city in North America, behind Mexico City, New York and Los Angeles, to the beauty and tranquility of the world’s largest log cabin in Montebello, Quebec, just over 300 miles northeast of Toronto.
CN Tower & Rogers Centre We started our drive at the base of the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre, two iconic Toronto landmarks. The CN Tower is a 1,815 foot communications and observation tower, which, for 34 years since its completion in 1976, was the tallest free-standing structure in the world (it is now the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere, and 3rd tallest in the world). Next to the Tower is the Rogers Centre, formerly known as SkyDome, a 50,000 seat stadium and home of Major League Baseball World Champions, the Toronto Blue Jays. When it opened in 1989, it was the first stadium in the world to have a fully retractable roof and an attached 348-room hotel with 70 rooms overlooking the field.
2017 Porsche 718 Boxster
We set out in the 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster to see if life with a 4-cylinder turbo, which replaces the naturally aspirated 6-cylinder engine, has helped or hindered the driving experience of this entry level open-air Porsche. It turns out that the new name of this car is a very old one. Between 1957 and 1962, Porsche raced the 4-cylinder 718 with great success, including class wins at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1958 and 1961.
Because all Boxster’s are mid-engine two-seaters, there are two trunks, one up front and one in the rear. There was plenty of room for our bags and equipment but one does need to pack efficiently.
The 718 Boxster is the second least expensive 2-door Porsche behind the 718 Cayman, which starts at $53,900. The base 718 Boxster starts at $56,000. Major options on our car included the 7-speed dual-clutch Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK – $3,200) which features both automatic and manual shifting modes. The PDK delivers extremely quick gear changes with virtually no power interruption to the rear wheels.
It is not without its balkiness around town at slow speeds but once out on the open roads, it works extremely efficiently. Our car was also equipped with 19” S rims ($1,970), Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM – $1,790), Navigation ($1,730), Bose Surround Sound System ($990), Connect Plus ($1,300), 14-way power sport seats ($2,320) and Premium Package ($1,370). Total MSRP climbed to $72,375 including the $1,050 destination charge.
One very entertaining aspect of the combination of stop/start and the PDK, is that the engine shuts off while you are still moving. As you approach a stop, the engine shuts down and you roll to a stop in complete silence. I really enjoyed playing with that to see how far I could roll without any power. My take on this is that Porsche makes performance cars intended for performance/enthusiast drivers, who aren’t going to be concerned at all that they are rolling along in silence, which is especially noticeable in a convertible with the top down.
Out on the highway from Toronto to our destination which was about 300 miles/five plus hours away, the 718 Boxster delivered mile after mile of driving enjoyment. On the major highways we kept the well-insulated and lined soft-top up, windows closed and air conditioning on (usually sacrilege in my books but I had a passenger whose rights to a civilized environment I had to respect). It was for that reason that we got off of highway 401 at Belleville and headed north on slower, quieter, winding roads. We dropped the top and windows, turned off the A/C and enjoyed the drive.
Pushing the Sport button transforms the exhaust note from refined to ruckus, and definitely adds to the driving experience, especially when the top is down at sub-highway speeds (it didn’t seem necessary to have the added noise while cruising on the highway). When you put the gear shifter in drive, and push it to the left into manual mode, you can play with the paddle shifters, or the +/- with the gear shifter, and generate all of the enthusiast sounds you like. On the gas, off the gas, up and down through the gears, you can make this little 2.0 litre horizontally opposed 4-cylinder 300 hp engine entertain, both audibly as well as delivering plenty of performance to the pavement.
Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello
After an unexpected but fun ferry ride along the way, which took us from the province of Ontario to Quebec, we arrived at the Fairmont Le Château Montebello, the world’s largest log cabin located in the small village of Montebello, Quebec on the picturesque Ottawa River. The hotel was built in 1930 as a private club and constructed in just four months by 3,500 workers using 10,000 hand cut red cedar logs.
For 40 years it was the private retreat of the Seigniory Club, whose elite membership included Canadian businessmen and politicians and foreign dignitaries including Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco. It was taken over by Canadian Pacific Hotels in 1970.
The hotel was the site of the 1981 G7 summit attended by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Pierre Trudeau and François Mitterrand, many of whom have hotel rooms named in their honour. In 2007 the North American Leaders Summit was held there with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, US President George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
Fairmont Le Château Montebello has 211 guestrooms, offers impeccable service, fine dining and wide range of indoor and outdoor activities including horseback riding, a Stanley Thompson designed 18-hole golf course, indoor and outdoor tennis, indoor and outdoor swimming and boating. In the winter, cross-country skiing, skating, curling, dog sledding, tubing and snowmobiling are available.
Rather uniquely, guests can arrive at the hotel by car, boat, helicopter or floatplane. We chose to arrive in a nice new shiny black Porsche, and one quick and efficient ferry ride.
My takeaway from spending one week and logging about a thousand miles on this car is that every time you twist the key with your left hand, a Porsche tradition dating back to its racing heritage at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, you are embarking on an enjoyable exotic car driving experience. It made all of the right sounds and all of the rights moves, which always seem enhanced with the top down and the wind in your face.
Personally I might opt for the manual transmission because it offers balk-free absolute control over the drivetrain, but the PDK is obviously more useful for other drivers and according to Porsche, generates better fuel economy (21 mpg vs 22 mpg with the PDK in the city and 28 mpg vs 30 mpg with the PDK on the highway). If you use this car as a daily commuter in a big city, you probably don’t need to step up to the S model. The rule of thumb is that convertibles spend less time on the race track and more time cruising with the top down. Could the 350 hp S version emit better sounds form the exhaust than the base, maybe, but our base model never felt it was lacking in enthusiasm or entertainment value.
One nitpick, the heater switch for the Heated Multifunctioned Steering Wheel ($470 option) is located at the bottom of the steering wheel out of sight behind and between the two spokes. I can’t tell you how many times I inadvertently turned it on and off during my trip, but it was too many. I’m surprised that Porsche would do anything that would impede your ability to put your hands anywhere on the wheel.
I guess over time you would get used to avoiding that part of the steering wheel but that didn’t seem very Porsche like to me. The steering wheel is the central component of driving a car, you should be able to put your hands anywhere on it at any time and not worry about accidentally turning the wheel heater on or off.
The 718 Boxster is a great entry to the world of open-air Porsche driving. Do you need to spend the extra $12,400 and go from the base to the S model? Typically more power equals more fun but in this case, I would argue that, on a warm sunny day, any Porsche 718 Boxster will deliver a thoroughly fun and rewarding driving experience.
Note: The 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster was provided by Porsche Cars Canada, Ltd. The contents of this article was not subject to review or approval by Porsche Cars Canada, Ltd.