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Thursday 3rd January 2013


DRIVEN: PORSCHE BOXSTER S

Third time's a charm for Porsche as the Boxster grows up


It may have had its doubters at the time but the original Boxster played a key part in pulling the brand out of the hole it found itself in during the 90s. 15 years on does the third-generation 981 version finally leave those ‘poor man’s Porsche’ connotations behind though?

New Boxster is longer, wider and lower
New Boxster is longer, wider and lower
At first glance, it looks blink and you’d miss it similar to the outgoing 987 – as is the Porsche norm. It’s longer, wider, and lower, though, giving it a sleekness that isn’t immediately obvious. The overall effect is a little like meeting an old friend from university, and finding that he’s cut his hair, shaved the stubble, and taken to wearing a Savile Row suit as daily threads.

The new interior, with its Panamera-inspired centre console, also feels far slicker than before. The indicator stalks still feel a little tinny, and the huge dash-top vents that stretch away toward the windscreen are an acquired taste, but otherwise there’s been a marked improvement in terms of both design and quality.

New interior clearly Panamera-inspired
New interior clearly Panamera-inspired
Celebrity Big Brother
Stick the 911-shaped keyfob into the dash, and the engine fires up with a bag of bolts rattle. At a cold idle, and less familiar with Porsche quirks, you’d swear there was something up. No, sir, they all do that. This one’s a Boxster S, which means it gets the 3.4-litre flat six with 315hp, as opposed to the standard Boxster’s 261hp 2.7. Also fitted in this case is a seven-speed PDK gearbox, a shame because the Boxster gets a proper six-speed manual as standard rather than the 911’s awkward ‘manualised’ seven-speed stick shift. We’ve a smattering of options, too, including PASM.

With the engine warm, it’s time to find an open road. Based on experience in warmer climes on the launch we were expecting it to be good, and it is, even in the bleak midwinter. At low speeds, on wet, cold roads, an unsubtle stab of the throttle can result in understeer, but only if you’re being really belligerent with it. Build the speed, though, and the Boxster feels solid, planted and unflappable. Through a fast series of turns, your confidence rises, and with it the pace, to faintly unbelievable levels. But what impresses most is the way the Boxster seems to key itself into the road. It feels as though turning the wheel carves a groove in the tarmac that the car tracks down without any hint of fuss. Push on with banzai determination and the steering will start to lighten, giving you an idea that loss of traction at one end or t’other – and an ensuing fiery death, at such speeds – might be imminent, but within the realms of sensible driving, understeer and oversteer simply aren’t an issue.

Driving experience is still fantastic
Driving experience is still fantastic
Ah yes, that steering. Messrs Trent and Harris have discussed the PorscheEPAS system in great detail already. Suffice to say it’s undoubtedly more artificial than a non-EPAS system would be, but there’s still enough feel there that it doesn’t distract you from the job in hand. Previous owners of Porsches with hydraulic or even non-assisted steering might miss that ultimate final margin of feedback, but for most, it won’t be too much of an issue.

What might, though, is the PDK gearbox. The theory is sound – and it has to be said, this is one of the best autos on the market. But it still can’t quite replace a manual for ultimate involvement, and while the fast upshifts and throttle blips on the downshifts are fun, the moments when it gets confused mid-way through an overtake in auto mode are less so. ‘Leave it in manual, then,’ you might say – but then, why not just save yourself the £1,922 and stick with the standard six-speed?

Best Boxster yet? We reckon so
Best Boxster yet? We reckon so
Price of change
That brings us to the thorny twin issues of price and equipment. At £45,384, the basic Boxster S is undoubtedly less of a bargain than it once was, especially when compared with its rivals. You don’t get much for your initial wedge either; toys like climate control, electric seats, full leather and metallic paint all reside on the options list.

Hang the toys, though, and the Boxster S does make sense. No longer does it suffer from the image problems that once blighted it, and with the 911 now stretching off into supercar pricing territory, it’s the one to have if you haven’t got pots of cash to spend. It really has come of age, too; somehow, it feels a more rounded, more mature car than ever before. Yes, it’s pricier, but it feels like a more premium product. Third time round, the Boxster is finally growing to fill the 911’s shoes as its big brother piles on the pounds to its bottom line and roars off into six-figure territory.


PORSCHE BOXSTER S (PDK)
Engine:
3,436cc flat-6, direct injection
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Power (hp): 315@6700rpm
Torque (lbft): 267@4500-5800rpm
0-62mph: 5.0s (4.8s with optional Sport Chrono package)
Top speed: 172mph
Weight: 1350kg
MPG: 35.3 (NEDC Combined)
CO2: 188g/km
Price: £47,306 (£45,384 standard + £1,922 PDK)










Photos: Prime Exposures

Author: Alex Robbins