Sunday, May 30, 2010

Porsche Boxster is Back


This Boxster, the basic 255bhp, 2.9-litre, entry-level model (as opposed to the more powerful S) provides perhaps the purest Porsche experience you'll find anywhere in the range. With a list price of £35,510 the Boxster is the cheapest car in the line-up, though Porsche's press fleet people haven't been able to resist adding £11,000 of options to it - extras that are all arguably surplus to requirements. All but one that is, with the sports exhaust a must if you're going to enjoy your Boxster to the maximum.

What are its rivals?

The Boxster's obvious rivals include Audi's TT, BMW's Z4 and the Mercedes-Benz SLK, though to that you can add Nissan's 370Z and a whole lot of big-power hot hatches, many of which have power and performance figures to better the Boxster. Few are as aspired to though, that Porsche badge meaning a lot, even when it's stuck on the bonnet of the most inexpensive car in the range.

How does it drive?

Forget the raw performance figures and concentrate on the purity of the driving experience and none of the Porsche's roadster rivals can come close to the Boxster. Something like a Nissan 370Z Roadster delivers more brawn, but the Boxster's balance, beautiful feel and feedback make it a real joy to drive. It's not savagely fast, instead the Boxster gaining momentum with an easy, forceful linearity that has you reaching for the redline before every slick gearchange. With pedals positioned perfectly for throttle-blipping heel-and-toe downshifts the real enjoyment to be had driving the Boxster is making the most of its output and revelling in its brilliant poise and incisive feel. The optional sports exhaust is a must here, as it adds a layer of sound to the experience that's just delicious, with a more assertive rasping tone overlaying the flat-six engine sound.

The steering is sharp, well weighted and rich in feel, while the standard suspension copes with all the vagaries of UK roads with little fuss. Strong brakes with lots of feel through the pedal and a gearshift that's one of the best out there combine with the Boxster's other qualities to make it a hugely entertaining driver's car.

What's impressive?

The feel and feedback. Most modern cars lack any real information through their controls, with responses muted by the electronic assistance thanks to manufacturers' endless pursuit of safety, refinement and comfort. Porsche is different, and the entry-level Boxster demonstrates that better than anything this side of a 911 GT3. The steering is fantastically crisp, while the accelerator, brakes, gearshift and clutch all operate with a rare unity that makes driving the Boxster such a pleasing experience. Porsche achieves this without making the Boxster edgy or difficult too, its thresholds of grip high, its safety systems extremely competent and refinement and comfort exemplary, too.

It's also practical thanks to a deep front boot and a wide and flat rear one. The hood operates quickly and easily and economy and emissions are respectable - at 30.1mpg and 221g/km on the combined cycle - for a car that's able to reach 62mph in 5.9 seconds.

What's not?

It's disappointing that to really enjoy the 2.9-litre's sound you need to spend an extra £1,434 on the sports exhaust.

The hood is quick and easy in its operation, but the need to manually unclip it from the header rail before the electrics take over is disappointing. Porsche cheekily asks £218 for the necessary wind deflector, and solidly built as the interior feels it's not exactly the most stylish driving environment.

The optional satnav with Bluetooth failed repeatedly to connect to an iPhone - something we've experienced before with the £1,995 option on other Porsches.

Should I buy one?

Absolutely. The more powerful S is tempting, but on our camera-strewn, speed-restricted roads the additional performance it brings is of little use. A standard Boxster with that Sports Exhaust option is all the sports car you really need in the UK. Forget the 'poor man's Porsche' or 'couldn't you afford a 911' jibes from the uninformed and enjoy the brilliant feel, feedback and excellent poise that the Boxster delivers. Experience it once and you'll not care what anyone else thinks - as you'll know better.

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