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Porsche Boxster review (2012 onwards)
Model: Porsche Boxster, £37,589 (£49,186 as tested)
Bodystyle: two-door, two-seat roadster
Engine: 2.7-litre flat-six, 265hp @ 6,700rpm, 206lb ft @ 4,500-6,500rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Efficiency: 34.4mpg, 192g/km CO2
Performance: 5.8secs 0-62mph, 164mph top speed
What is it?
This is the third-generation Porsche Boxster, and it is sensational.
We could almost leave it at that. But we have to justify borrowing one for a week somehow, and anyway, there's so much good to say about this car it would be criminal not to indulge ourselves. Let's start with the basics.
The entry-point to the Porsche range, the Boxster is a two-seater roadster with a fully-automatic fabric folding roof. Power is provided by a high-tech direct injection flat-six mounted amidships right behind the cabin, flagellating the rear wheels via a choice of manual or PDK transmission.
The driver's choice in the Porsche range
All new from the ground up, a longer wheelbase, less weight and a much more decisive exterior appearance give the third-gen greater focus and presence, while the spacious interior follows all the latest Porsche design cues.
The result is a compact exotic that's now every bit as eye-opening to look at as it is to drive.
Where does it fit?
As the Porsche 911 becomes increasingly interested in lounging by the pool and indulging itself in luxury - the latest 991 version is very, very good but it's also moved closer to the character of a GT rather than an out-and-out sports car - right now the Boxster is THE driver's choice in the Porsche range.
That's not to say it won't be surpassed by more focused 911s in the not so distant, and there is surely an all-new Porsche Cayman just around the corner. But this is the point at which the Boxster steps out from the 911's shadow and shouts, hell yes, you know you want ME not my porkie big brother.
And this isn't even the ultimate Boxster variant - this is just the base model. The Boxster S packs a 315hp 3.4-litre boxer bombshell, the plain vanilla car we have here makes do with a 265hp 2.7-litre downsized alternative. Yet with the standard six-speed stick-shift and some choice options it is still a fabulous car.
Is it for you?
In an ideal world the decision matrix would go something like this: a) do you like driving and b) can you afford it? If you answered yes to both of those questions then the Boxster is the car for you. If only life was that simple, eh? After all, this car really does have just the two seats, and modest luggage capacity.
There are rivals - most obviously the BMW Z4 and the Mercedes SLK, though you might also consider the Nissan 370Z Roadster and perhaps a particularly sporty / pricey Audi TT. But while these cars have other strengths, none of them touch the Boxster as a driver's machine.
The only thing that does is the Lotus Elise - and this is rather primal and stripped out in comparison to the Porsche, which continues to exude premium quality in all the proper measures. Biggest questions, then, are whether you want the regular or the S version, the manual or the PDK gearbox?
What does it do well?
The Boxster is a rare thing: a car that gives you instantaneous gratification, but also quite clearly and immediately hints of hidden depths. Except, it's less of a hint and more of a bawdy wink - it will always encourage you to go faster.
More successful here than in the 911
So, while it now has electric power steering in place of the previous hydraulic assistance, the new system is more successful here than in the latest 911. The weighting and the feedback are deliciously optimised, and as soon as you set off the whole car starts to sing. It feels good the moment you turn the wheel.
But the faster you go the further your jaw begins to drop. Unless you are right at the ragged edge - which given how high the limits are really isn't to be recommended on the road - you always end up exiting corners thinking you could have gone round quicker.
It carries such speed so easily it's mind-blowing, tucking into turns and communicating grip levels with fearless honesty. There's a rawness here that makes you feel alive, yet so much polish you never worry about being out of control - it's brilliantly instinctive.
For despite its ability and speed, the Boxster remains accessible and involving at all times. Where the new 911 often seems too big, the new Boxster seems just right - agile, and light on its feet, and devastatingly focused compared to the decidedly fuzzy premium opposition.
What doesn't it do well?
If you're looking for easy performance, however, the regular Boxster might not be for you. In a world increasingly filled with the massive boost response of modern turbocharging the Porsche's naturally aspirated flat-six lacks that incisive initial kick.
Still, with such a crisp and urgent exhaust note, there is something to be said for a car that forces you to extract all its available performance to make progress, instead of just handing it to you on a plate.
If this suits your driving style you'll doubtless find the Boxster a fantastic companion. But it left us hungering for more - which is presumably where the Boxster S comes in, with its extra 50hp and meaty 265lb ft of torque.
But it left us hungering for more
No complaints about the action of the six-speed manual gearbox - again this is an element of the Boxster that's now arguably better than the 911 - though those light of lower limb may be surprised by the weight of the clutch.
On the road we'd take the manual transmission any day for the added involvement; though for an easier life, and slicker shifting on track, the seven-speed PDK should prove most excellent. Makes the car significantly greener, too.
What is it like to live with?
A joy. The ride quality is firm but supple - our test car's optional (and enormous) 20-inch alloys countered by the £971 addition of Porsche Active Suspension Management. Even the Sport setting is compliant enough for most UK roads. You wouldn't hesitate to use this every day.
The interior is a big step up from the previous generation - it looks better, feels better and the longer wheelbase of the new chassis allows it to be roomier, too. Porsche's now familiar rising centre console fits in beautifully here, and together with the roll hoops and low seating position gives the Boxster an intimate air.
The roof is now fully automatic, so you no longer have to unclip it from the windscreen rail, and tucks itself away in only nine seconds. The absence of a cover when stowed may irk some - this has disappeared for the third generation, presumably in the name of saving weight.
Luggage capacity is limited to 150 litres at the front (and yes, it does still cause the occasional raised eyebrow from passers by when you open the 'bonnet' to put the shopping away) and 130 litres at the rear. Big enough for two, we reckon - though you may have to pack thoughtfully.
How green is it?
Clever engineering means the new Boxster is not only stiffer than the car it replaces it's 25kg lighter, too. The new 2.7-litre engine supersedes a 2.9 and adds direct injection; much has also been done to optimise the air intake design.
With brake energy recuperation and thermal management bringing further gains, this all helps the new car achieve a claimed 34.4mpg combined, an improvement of nearly 13%. Power is up 10hp; peak torque falls 4lb ft to 206lb ft, but is available over an extended rev range.
We would have one in a heartbeat
0-62mph takes just 5.8 seconds with the six-speed manual. Spec the seven-speed PDK and this falls to 5.7 - or even 5.5 if you option the Sport Chrono Package. The PDK also makes a significant improvement to efficiency, boosting economy to 36.7mpg, while reducing CO2 emissions from 192g/km to 180g/km.
This means a modest reduction of £35 in annual car tax for PDK buyers (£215 instead of £250). Either way, with a car this diverting don't expect to get anywhere near the official fuel consumption figures unless you're on an extended motorway cruise.
Would we buy it?
If you're in the market for a fast, relatively affordable roadster and you want the best possible blend of involvement, build quality and - on that basis - value for money, then the only reason not to buy the Porsche Boxster is the Boxster S.
We would have one in a heartbeat. It is awesomely good.
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