At first glance you might believe that the latest-generation Porsche Boxster, which arrived on the UK market in April this year, was simply a facelifted version of what had gone before. The resemblance between one and the other is, after all, quite striking, as is generally the way with Porsche.
But no. The new model is radically different in many respects. Not much longer than its predecessor, it nevertheless has a substantially greater wheelbase. The track is wider too (more so at the front than the rear), and the centre of gravity is lower. Each of these elements raises the limit of cornering ability, as explained in our feature on grip, and so too does the reduction in weight which, remarkably enough, has been achieved despite the addition of extra material to make the bodyshell stiffer than that of the previous model.
This extra rigidity is the most immediately obvious dynamic change to the Boxster. There is still some body wobble on bumpy roads, of course, but it has been reduced to a fantastic extent. In days gone by I would have spurned the idea of Boxster ownership for this very reason and chosen a solid-roofed Cayman instead, but now I'm not so sure.
The "standard" Boxster, as opposed to the more powerful Boxster S, has a 2.7-litre version of the familiar flat-six engine, Porsche having reverted to that capacity after some years of offering the car as a 2.9. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions have both improved, to 34.4mpg and 192g/km respectively, but some of the reasons for that are not related to the engine, and it's not as if the drop in size has led to a reduction in power. On the contrary, the Boxster's output has risen by 10bhp to 265bhp.
There are those who will still be unimpressed by that figure, but I've felt in the past that less powerful Porsches have a balance that isn't adequately replaced by the other pleasures of the fiercer models. This Boxster has exactly the balance I'm talking about, and in any case its 0-62mph time of 5.8 seconds and its 164mph top speed are good enough, surely? It's not as if you're going to be driving on a race circuit.
Oh, hang on, actually, I did do that. The circuit was Knockhill, which as you probably know is more celebrated for its corners than its straights, so once again 265bhp seemed about enough, though it might not have done if I'd been driving at Silverstone or Thruxton.
It's important to mention right away that the Boxster under review was fitted with 19" rather than 18" wheels, with correspondingly lower-profile tyres (a £971 optional extra), driver-adjustable active suspension (£971 again) and the Porsche Torque Vectoring system with mechanically locking differential (£890). All of these made it slightly more of a track car than an unadorned Boxster would have been, but even at that it felt quite soft and friendly. A driver with circuit experience can have fun with it, while one trying out this sort of thing for the first time can feel both excited and secure.
With the suspension on its stiffest Sport setting, there is still quite a lot of body roll, and this can have some bearing on the direction of travel. Occasionally I was reminded of the way the second-generation SEAT Ibiza used to feel in similar circumstances, though if you're a long-standing Porsche enthusiast you might want to pretend I didn't say that.
In the first part of the lap, Knockhill has two downhill corners - one to the right, one left - which the Boxster felt as if it could have taken on full throttle if only it had been set up more stiffly. In its present form, I think it might still be able to do that, at least on the left-hander, but only at the risk of it going sideways. That would have been a jolly thing to try, but members of the Porsche Driving Experience were present for insurance purposes, and I didn't want to Cause A Scene.
The Sport suspension setting also seems to be the one to choose on all but the very roughest of public highways, since it still offers very decent ride quality (something Porsche is extremely good at providing these days) and reduces the body roll. You may prefer an even more compliant ride, in which case you can either save the Sport setting for special occasions or simply avoid specifiying the active suspension option. If you want something more focussed, the Boxster S may be the car for you.
Porsche's habit of charging enormous sums for optional extras has not diminished lately, so for example if you want an upgrade from the standard alcantara trim to black leather it's going to cost you £2093, which is quite something for a car with only two seats. Porsche Communication Management (with navigation mode and an iPod/USB interface) costs £2141, or £2667 if you want a telephone module included with it, bi-xenon dynamic headlights can be yours for £1060, uprated audio will set you back £397 and rear parking sensors come in at £348.
PDK twin-clutch semi-automatic transmission is also available, and as well as making the Boxster accelerate more quickly (largely because the gearchanges are faster than a driver could achieve) it also improves fuel economy and lowers the CO2 rating to 180g/km. Running costs will therefore be lower, but PDK also adds £1922 to the price of the car.
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