The Porsche Boxster was the car that saved Stuttgart. Near bankruptcy in the early 1990s, Porsche hit upon the idea of creating a cheap sports car, one that would use the front end of the then-new 911 (the 996) to cut costs. Okay, purists might have bemoaned the original Boxster’s dull looks (toned down from the 1993 concept) and the tiny 2.5-litre flat-six, but those in-the-know realised the mid-engined baby had a better balance than the arse-out 911. The Boxster got critical acclaim, hairdressers also loved it and sales rocketed.
Now 12 years later – having spawned a hard-top Cayman sibling in the process – we’ve arrived at the facelifted version of the Mk2 Boxster. The new car offers gently smarter looks, improved interior quality, the latest PDK double-clutch gearbox, direct-injection engines and the promise to be cleaner and greener – plus it retains that added thrill of wind-in-your-hair motoring that the Cayman cannot provide.
Months ahead of everybody else, CAR has been behind the wheel of the new Boxster. Read on for our full first drive…
Straight to the point please – how does the new Porsche Boxster drive?
Brilliantly. Unless you’re anally nit-picking over the details you’d never notice the difference between this Boxster and its sublime Cayman sibling. The steering is wonderfully weighted, sharp and incisive. The brakes are mega, tirelessly hauling this drop-top down from big speeds, and they are also full of feel.
And then you remember that there’s an added dimension to the Boxster driving experience: drop the top and cruise along listening to that flat-six’s hollow thrum. Welcome to a car that’s less claustrophobic than a Cayman and so much more fun in the summertime. Plus the latest engines make sure the Boxster S is still a car to worry dawdling, posing Porsche cabrio drivers.
>> Click 'Next' below to read more of CAR's first drive of the new Porsche Boxster S
Does the new Boxster have the same engines as the Cayman?
Actually no. Porsche being Porsche, it couldn’t possibly let the supposedly less-focussed (and cheaper) convertible Boxster match the Cayman for power. So while the coupe comes with either a 261bhp/221lb ft 2.9-litre or direct injection-equipped 3.4-litre 315bhp/273lb ft flat-six, the Boxster makes do with 252bhp/214lb ft or 310bhp/266lb ft in the S guise tested. Hardly tardy figures and we’re sure that if you knew the right people, they could sort you out with the chip to give you the Cayman’s power outputs.
Despite the bhp and lb ft increases, the new car is more economical and puffs out less CO2. At its very worst (as a manual Boxster S), the combined figure is 29.7mpg, whereas the old S (in manual or Tiptronic guise) couldn’t get higher than 26.7mpg. Spec the optional seven-speed PDK gearbox and the new car’s figure climbs to 30.1mpg, while CO2 drops from 223 to 221g/km.
Better yet, get a PDK-equipped basic Boxster and (along with the similarly-specced Cayman) you’ll have the cleanest Porsche on sale at 214g/km. The boggo Boxster is £6.5k cheaper than the S and also a few grand less than a basic Cayman. The perfect couples’ car? We think so…
Back to the driving please!
The new Boxster is a car that’s the sum of its parts. The few extra ccs, bhp and lb ft, plus revised intake and exhaust manifolds, bigger diameter exhausts, plus revisions to the suspension and roll bars might only be minor tweaks in themselves, but they all add up. So you get a Boxster with more mid-range oomph, a more instant throttle response, a louder and more pleasing exhaust note and a more compliant ride.
Reduced tyre pressures also help here, and especially when PASM (the adjustable damping system) is locked in Sport model to keep PDK on red alert, otherwise it defaults into a (smooth-shifting) auto that selects seventh gear as fast as physically possible. PASM in Sport mode might still be too stiff for British roads though.
I suppose I can go mad on the options list?
You can indeed. PDK is an expensive (£1961) option, but do without it and you deprive yourself of the Sport Chrono Pack. That means no launch control, which cuts the 0-62mph time of the Boxster S down to five seconds dead. PASM is also an option, as are ceramic brakes, a diff lock, adaptive sports seats, leather, sat-nav, bi-xenons, metallic paints, a sports exhaust and a decent Bose stereo. Spec half of that lot and you no longer have an entry-level Porsche.
>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our first drive of the new Porsche Boxster S
Any other drawbacks?
That horsepower deficit to the Cayman still irks us, as does the need to manually unlatch or hook up the folding roof to the header rail. The steering wheel is (unbelievably) still only reach adjustable and the tiny digital read-out in amongst the dials is too small – and that’s my excuse for the speeding ticket I picked up. PDK continues to frustrate with its counter-intuitive button controls (push to upshift, pull to change down) and the seats lack decent back support.
You haven’t mentioned the facelifted Boxster's looks or interior yet...
Because you’ve probably made your own mind up about the exterior and seen the Boxster’s interior a few too many times... But for those of you who haven’t, the new-for-’09 design includes tweaked front and rear lights with LEDs, a new rear apron, revised bumpers and different mirrors. Blink and you'll most certainly miss it.
Inside there’s the latest-gen multimedia system, also found in the new Cayman and 911, but its fiddly and low-mounted buttons continue to be a source of annoyance.
Better to look at, better to drive, cleaner and greener and yet more powerful. The new Boxster is a brilliant car, and with the latest VAT reductions it’s also cheaper than its predecessor.
We could also say the same about the Cayman, but what you can’t say about the coupe is how good its roof is. Let the Boxster's hood fold away and suddenly you’ve added a new dimension to the whole car. We love it. Mercedes’ SLK and Audi’s TT are beaten and BMW best be worried about its new, smarter Z4.
That new Z4? An SLK, TT or maybe even an Elise? Or would you take a Boxster over any of them? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say