► Entry-level manual Boxster put to the test
► Could it actually be the pick of the range?
► Less powerful than S and GTS, but far less pricey too
We know the 3.4-litre Porsche Boxster S is a sublime sports car. The more powerful, more focused Boxster GTS greater still. But what about the base 2.7-litre, entry-level Boxster? Yes, it’s down by 730cc and 50bhp (or 65bhp compared with the GTS) but that’s outweighed by an even greater gulf in price. At the time of writing, the plain vanilla Boxster starts from £39,553, the S from £47,858 (and the GTS from £53,872).
So the question to be addressed here is: would you miss the extra eight-and-a-bit grand in your pocket if you were to go for the S, or rue the missing horsepower if you didn’t?
First things first: does the 2.7-litre Boxster feel slow?
A little bit, yes. It summons 261bhp but its 207lb ft portion of torque isn’t quite enough to make acceleration feel more than brisk at best, an issue compounded by inexplicably long gearing. While the long-legged ’box makes it all the more satisfying to wind the yowling flat-six out to the full (and, it must be said, it sounds really quite special if you do), it won’t be long before you wonder how the car might feel with a more energetic set of ratios.
And the Boxster’s six-speed manual gearbox is such a pleasure to use that you’ll want to change gear as often as possible. Behind the larger-than-you’d-expect wheel, all the controls in the Boxster feel reassuringly weighty – the steering, the pedals (especially the clutch) – apart from the gearlever, which is as light to flick through its short, narrow gate as it is precise. Speccing the optional twin-clutch PDK transmission would be a crime, undeniably good though it is.
The electric steering, cause of such a furore at the time of the Mk3 Boxster’s launch, does still feel a touch numb a couple of years on. But it’s unerringly accurate, and the chassis itself is communicative enough to make up for it. Our test car rode on extra-cost 19-inch wheels (the standard Boxster 2.7 sits on 18s, the S on 19s) and wasn’t equipped with the optional PASM adaptive dampers, yet ride quality was superb.
What else do you get for your money?
Apart from a great chassis and an engine charismatic enough to make up for its lack of brawn, a car that’s actually quite practical. With two boots, one in the nose deep enough to take a largish suitcase or a couple of squashy bags and another aft of the engine there’s plenty of luggage space, and the interior is as comfortable as it is faultlessly put together. Roomy, too – the Boxster is actually quite a wide car these days, looking more like a scaled-down 918 supercar than a toy-like roadster.
What you don’t get is quite as much kit as standard as you might expect. While air-con and a touchscreen multimedia system are standard, not a great deal else is. You’ll pay extra for Bluetooth, cruise control, parking sensors and sat-nav – and Porsche knows how to charge for options. That’s also the case for the Boxster S, incidentally.
For 364 days a year, you certainly wouldn’t feel short-changed by the basic 2.7 Boxster. It’s a deeply impressive car. But on the right day, on the right road, you might just wish you were driving the 3.4 S, purely because it has the power to make the most of that brilliant chassis – and at that moment, the £8k price difference might just feel more than worth it. Porsche is quite clever like that.
And remember: in 2016 new four-cylinder engines will be fitted to the Boxster and Cayman twins. This really is a watershed moment, and we'd say one of the last flat-six Boxsters could be quite a shrewd buy.