The Other Side of Mulholland Drive

A college buddy of mine, we’ll call him B-Dogg because that was his moniker, said to me during our undergraduate days he was going to do three things:

(1)   Get his PhD
(2)   Move to Hollywood
(3)   Drive a silver Porsche

At least that was the part of the conversation I remember most. The rest of it was about some homework assignment that I may not or may not have completed satisfactorily (that’s not a typo).

Fast forward a few years and he duly accomplished the three things he had enumerated. Since then I’ve come to visit on occasion when I’m in LA.

We’ve also been to a number of other places but they usually involve nondescript rental cars (a Hyundai i10 on St. Maarten’s twisties was a real gem) driven with reckless abandon. And strip clubs. B-Dogg loves his strip clubs.

In fact, there’s this strip club somewhere outside of Miami that’s nearly the size of a CostCo, containing a larger quantity of women and stages than one’s two eyes can see in an hour. Or three. But I digress.

Even though I had known about it since I was a kid, it wasn’t until last March that I sought out Mulholland Drive, that sinewy mountain road that winds through the Hollywood Hills.

I was there again recently, and instead of thrashing a rental, we took B-Dogg’s silver 2013 Porsche Boxster S (Type 981) for a brief Sunday excursion on Mulholland Drive with the top down before afternoon plans with his wife and some friends.

Sadly, from a driving standpoint, it really wasn’t much fun because of traffic and, paradoxically, the Porsche has a lot more capability than can be explored there. But it was a lot like his previous three silver Boxsters, only newer, better looking and more expensive.

According to B-Dogg, a high percentage of Porsche dealers within a 50 mile radius of Hollywood have lied to his face, reneged on agreements and negotiations often involve a yelling match or two over the trade-in value, the price of the new model, the specs and terms of the lease.

The lessor gets screwed. That much we understand. But the financial aspects of leasing a Porsche get so convoluted (the “money factor” obfuscates a lot of things) it is apparent we do not fully understand how the customer gets screwed and when – perhaps during the entire lease term.

The dealers tend to have a mindset that they are doing you a favor by offering you a car. It can get a little looney in Tinseltown. That’s why I stick with buying the way I go about it: Used, private party and infrequently.

We crawled so slow I could have jogged faster while eating a cheeseburger casually rolled up Laurel Canyon Boulevard to Mulholland and headed east to Highway 101. This is the segment I didn’t have a chance to drive last time out. But getting there was a chore. Sunday afternoon traffic was backed up. We inched along behind a bevy of BMWs and a pickup truck hauling a grandfather clock. This gave me ample experience with the stop/start system, which was initially disconcerting – like driving a chronically stalling car.

Once on Mulholland we stuck a GoPro to the inside of the windshield and off we went. I didn’t realize the audio was so clear without the sound of a kart engine so some of our conversation comes through though it’s partially drowned out by wind and road noise.  At times it’s like watching a dashcam without any of the attendant police action. The best parts are the first 45 and last 45 seconds or so.

Here and there you can catch the sound of the 3.4 liter flat six revving up through its powerband. Of course only a fraction of its 315 hp was usable given the conditions, almost coming to a stop at times to build up a gap to the cars in front and watching out for sightseers and tour buses – some of them open top Ford Econoline vans with canvas roofs. The only place to really put a car – any car short of a Citroen 2CV – through its paces is on a proper track.

This may sound sacrilegious but I’m convinced the appeal of a sports car is not really in the driving. It’s in the drive. At least for most people. Rather than total immersion in the thrill of driving at or near the limit, it’s about hanging out, ambling along interesting roads, whether an extended road trip or a jaunt around town.

For that you don’t actually need a sports car. But if you do opt for one, a Boxster S is a fine choice.


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