Info on Porsches and Safety
April 17, 2012 7:12 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking about buying a 2010 Porsche Boxster, but I can't find any safety information about it. It's not rated by government crash tests or the insurance institute. Is there any non-anecdotal data on its safety?

Deaths per million units, per mile driven, etc. would be great, especially if I can compare it to the same stat for other cars.
posted by anonymous to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I thought maybe Euro NCAP would have data, but it looks like Porsche just doesn't do independent crash tests.

You could use the NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System database to put together your own stats, but it'll be hard to normalize them because I suspect Boxsters are often second cars, so you can't compare death rates solely on the basis of the number sold. Also the FARS query interface is kind of a pain to use, but the data is all there.
posted by jedicus at 7:44 AM on April 17, 2012

The Boxster unfortunately isn't included in this IIHS report on deaths per million registered vehicle years (broken down by make and model). I also can't help you on the crash-test front, but the thing about a Boxster in terms of safety is that it will keep you out of an accident. In that regard, read what Malcolm Gladwell had to say about driving a Boxster (in comparison to an SUV) in this article. Based on what I've read (I wish I had personal experience), there's probably no car in the world that's easier to drive fast - the handling is just sublime. Also keep in mind that in terms of deaths per mile, with sports cars the data can be skewed by the fact that they are often driven by men who drive like idiots and drive beyond what the conditions and their ability permit. But I wouldn't think that the Boxster would be any worse than the competition (SLK, TT, Z4), and I think it would drive better. I'd buy it.
posted by Dasein at 8:03 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

The problem you'll find is that it's not comparable to other cars. People don't drive sports cars like they drive minivans, and the Boxster is owned by a much older/richer demographic that drives more cautiously than average people, AND sports cars are used under very different circumstances (fewer miles per year, biased towards good weather). Anything based on VMT or per registered vehicles is going to be seriously flawed as a result. Most cars fall within a fairly narrow range of fatalities-per-mile or fatalities-per-registered-vehicle, so variation due to factors other than the structural integrity of the vehicle is problematic.

An example of this comparison problem for vehicles with available data: A Miata has fewer deaths-per-registered-vehicle than a Volvo S40. I'd take the S40 in any collision, though.

Anecdotally, it's well made but low, light and doesn't have a roof. It'll fare well in a single vehicle accident, especially in a frontal impact with all that free space up there, but it'll be a horror show if you're ever hit by an SUV in the driver's door.

If you're worried about safety, the car is less important than your behavior. You're an order of magnitude safer if you follow a few rules. Don't drive it at night. Don't drive it in the snow or rain. Don't drive it after a beer. Don't speed excessively. Spend some time at a track and get to know how it behaves. Keep it well maintained. If the safety component really, really matters, a fixed roof is always going to be safer. In that price range: Cayman, 911, Corvette, etc.

If you're new to honest-to-god sports cars (not fast sedans or GTs, but sports cars), just be aware that they do not have as much safety built into the handling, and that goes double for short wheelbase mid-engined cars. They have been tamed over the years, and stability control is great, but you can still get in over your head quickly.

It's also a lot more likely to get hit in the first place because it's smaller and harder to see. It's down below the side mirrors on an SUV. It can be completely shielded from view by other vehicles, which means people turning across your lane of travel may miss you if you're close behind the car in front of you. It's VERY VERY important not to follow cars closely.
posted by pjaust at 8:15 AM on April 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

The big advantage of the Boxster is in primary safety - this is the (almost impossible to quantify accurately) ability of a car to avoid an accident through superior handling, grip and poise. Without knowing what you are comparing this with in terms of buying, it's impossible to help de-fog the lack of independent safety results with any kind of comparison data.

The Boxster is a terrifically capable car - much more so that any comparable US performance car. The only thing that comes anywhere near to it would be the Corvette ZR1 (the Camaro is a long way off in terms of primary safety predominately through sheer mass vs grip and balance) and the ZR1 is a very poor second in build quality and handling. That ZL1 is more of a 'performance for the money' bargain than anything else and won't hold a candle to a Porsche in handling.

So unless you are looking at a Boxster vs (say) a ZR1, or vs any 'second car for playing' then the more sensible option (ie if you are considering a Boxtser versus a sensible normal every day car) will almost always be a little better or at least equal in terms of passive safety (the ability to survive a crash) but very much trailing in terms of the ability to avoid the accident in the first place. So, while I can see why anyone would consider crash ratings when considering a purchase it is the wrong kind of metric to make a comparison against any mass produced car, and very difficult to compare against another performance car unless you start looking at track times (probably the best kind of method for understanding primary safety as long as you factor for weight and horsepower).

So in terms of judging a Porsche for crash safety - they are incredibly well engineered cars. Cutting edge technology in terms of structure and build quality. There is very, very little out there that will compare to it in terms of a capable performance car for the road that also has reliability. It is likely to be very good in an impact, but even better at just.... not getting into an accident as long as you are at a competent level of driving.

Hopefully that helps, or at least allows you to view the question differently.
posted by Brockles at 8:50 AM on April 17, 2012

I have a 2001 Boxster S. It has a really incredible stability control system. I assume the 2010 model is even better. I'm not sure if it's even possible to spin out unless you turn the stability control off (there is a button for this). It can do things the driver can't, such as apply brakes to only the wheels on one side of the car, rotating it. When it kicks in, it feels like a giant hand grabs the car and guides it around the curve. It is spooky and amazing.
posted by ryanrs at 9:59 AM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure if it's even possible to spin out unless you turn the stability control off

Many, many people get into accidents thinking this is the case. It is not. Please don't let your reliance on stability control let you drive harder than you're trained to.
posted by hwyengr at 10:25 AM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you need to ask this question, the Porker is not for you.

Buy something else instead, with lots of airbags, and as many electronic safety aids as possible. Buy the biggest, heaviest car you can find with these, because you will be more likely to survive an accident in a big, heavy car.
posted by GeeEmm at 1:56 AM on April 18, 2012

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