Saturday 9th June 2012


We sample the new 981 Porsche Boxster on UK roads. Is Porsche's most basic offering any good? You bet

What with the general weakness of the pound, creeping inflation and the recent VAT jump, new cars tend to feel rather expensive (£30K Golf GTI, anyone?). So it was with some surprise that I noted that, in researching the £3K Boxster we featured the other day, that the original base price for the first Porsche Boxster was £33,950.

Today, some 16 years down the line, a basic 981-gen Porsche Boxster will set you back £37,589. Which seems quite reasonable, really, especially when you consider that it has more power that the original S model did (265hp), will hit 164mph flat out and sprint to 62mph in 5.8secs (5.5secs with PDK and Sport Chrono, but then that wouldn't be a base model), stats that would leave the 204hp original gasping. And it comes with a fully electric hood (for the first time) and an interior whose quality, logical layout and generally pleasant feel will be utterly alien to those who know only the original Boxster's cabin.

The best news of all is that the humble non-S Boxster hits its sweet spot (for UK use at least) right at the bottom of the range. Which was rather fortunate for me, because since Mr Chris Harris focused on the more powerful Boxster S when he drove the car back in March, I could spend more time in the basic version when we got to sample it in Blighty recently.

Not that the S isn't a pretty fantastic car - both are blessed with beautifully balanced mid-engined handling and a sweetly linear flat six that gargles its mellifluous way up to the redline and a cracking six-speed manual gearbox. In the base car, though, everything seems just that bit more suited to British road use. Mated to the all-new direct-injection 2.7-litre engine (the 3.4 in the S is an updated version of the motor from the 987), the gearbox feels just that bit lighter and more precise, while the lower power output means you can enjoy wringing out the flat six for longer.

Perhaps the key to the new Boxster's appeal is that it appears to have been set up to be 100 per cent fit for purpose. Drive this car on a track and you will no doubt be disappointed. Expect it to be manically fast point to point and you will be disappointed. But treat it as a comfortable, usable car that can turn an empty, open B-road or A-road into an unfettered joy and you will love it.

Porsche has clearly worked hard to make this happen, too. Among the more interesting things it has done is to actually increase the size of the wheels, but in conjunction with stiffer walled tyres this has allowed them to wind back the spring and damper rates, giving a more compliant, controlled ride despite (and in fact because of) the bigger rims. On the swankier models, the torque vectoring system also works a treat, helping you to turn in to corners and making the car feel like it pivots around the driver, a most satisfying sensation.

Some will moan, inevitably, about the electric power steering system, and its perceived 'lack of feel'. No, it doesn't communicate in the same way as the rack in the old Boxster, but its accuracy and precision are without question, and the whole car just flows so well along the road you'll soon forget that the steering isn't quite perfect. Besides, as UK Boxster product manager Jim Willows explained to me, electric steering has fewer moving parts, is easier to service, and the nasty question of how to dispose of the hydraulic fluid for 100,000-mile cars is rather simply answered. And if less-than-perfect steering is as bad as things get, consider me sold.

Four-cylinder engines are around the corner for the Boxster, probably due to slot in just beneath the current base car, and who knows what they will bring. But for now, the cheapest car that Porsche makes is quite possibly also its best. Sure you can add in options, PDK gearboxes and bigger engines if you wish. But while you can make the new Porsche Boxster faster and plusher, I'm not sure you can make it better. Or better value.

2,706cc flat-six
Transmission: 6-speed manual/7-speed dual-clutch auto (PDK), rear-wheel drive
Power (hp):265@6,700rpm
Torque (lb ft): 206@4,500-6,500rpm
0-62mph: 5.8 sec (PDK 5.7 sec, PDK + Sport Plus 5.5 sec)
Top speed: 164mph (PDK 162mph)
Weight (DIN): 1,310kg (PDK 1,340kg)
MPG: 34.4 (PDK 36.7, both figures NEDC combined)
CO2:192g/km (PDK 180g/km)
Price: £37,589

Author: Riggers