Admittedly, the Gulf Orange 981 Boxster S you see below is a bit of a choice colour. If you imagine the car in the elegant Agate Grey or Basalt Black metallic that Porsche offer, it is a wonderfully attractive car. The new Boxster can no longer be criticised for looking too like a 911 – now its own car, with a highly attractive rear end.
As much as people have you believe, the Boxster has never been a ‘poor man’s 911′. Yes, it is a Porsche for a nearly half the money of a 911, but it drives very different. This is because the engine is sat behind the two seats, rather than over the rear axle, like in the 911. Dynamically, this creates an experience which flatters your driving style due to the incredible amount of balance in the chassis.
The engine in the Porsche Boxster S is a 3.4 litre flat-six, producing 315 bhp and 265 lb ft. It has a terrific personality in that it adores being revved out. You will find the power band between 5,000 and 7,000 rpm. As the engine speed increases, the noise becomes intoxicating as it screams towards the redline with a soulful urgency. With the Sport Plus button pressed, the sports exhaust system becomes more vocal and the snap, crackle, and pops on the overrun heighten the driving experience tenfold. It’s a shame the weather wasn’t too clever when I took the Boxster out, as it would have sounded even better with the roof down.
As I tested the car at Millbrook Proving Ground, I took the Boxster to the Alpine course. This hill route made famous on the James Bond film, Casino Royale (where he flips his Aston Martin DBS) is a fantastic opportunity to explore a car’s handling capabilities and composure. The delicious cambers, undulations, and tight hairpins are telling of how a car handles. There are a couple of short straights too, which give a good impression of acceleration and braking performance.
The Boxster S is far from shy to accelerate on the straighter sections of tarmac and as the revs build, so does the surge of power in a perfectly linear fashion. The standard steel brakes on the Boxster, as with all Porsche’s, are encouragingly strong with a well judged and communicative bite through the pedal to your foot. The process of speeding up and slowing down is intensified by the six speed manual gearbox. It is the most beautifully slick and direct ‘box I have ever laid my paws on. Due to the nature of the Alpine course at Millbrook, you do not really come out of third gear, but for the occasions you downshift into second, the brake and throttle pedals have a fantastic relationship enabling a perfectly executed heel-and-toe throttle blip. With Sport Plus selected, the car does this for you. For me, this takes a little of the fun away. Having said that, the throttle blip rev match is perfect, all of the time. Of course, the fun lost in this process is compensated for, by the spine tingling crackles from the exhaust on a trailing throttle.
I am led to believe the Boxster rides softer than the equivalent Cayman, but it is keen to react to steering inputs, feeling direct with the front axle remaining sharp and pointy. This brings me to the matter of steering feel. Although now working as an electro-mechanical system, there is ample feel through the steering rack, with the leather rimmed SportDesign steering wheel writhing and twitching in your fingertips over rougher surfaces, letting you know exactly what the front wheels are doing.
The mid-engine layout of the Boxster is a crucial ingredient to the sublime balance in the chassis. It sticks to the road with focus and determination thanks to the low centre of gravity, manufacturing an idyllic weight distribution. Through tighter bends, this is clearly evident as you pick the best driving line, hold the car on a balanced throttle and feel the rear axle pivot about the central point in the chassis, feeling completely neutral.
Onto the high-speed bowl and there are no surprises in terms of expectations (which I must say are high). This course presents the best opportunity to feel the torque curve as you can really pin the throttle into the carpet without having to consider the next braking point. Merge onto the outside lane, like a motorway; observing other traffic, then increase speed. This time, I am able to work through each gear up to the redline of 7,800 rpm. Despite the missing structural rigidity of it’s hardtop sister, the Boxster S is comfortable sitting at 130 mph without its hips wiggling. Not only is the car composed at this speed, NVH levels are low whilst cruising – the only intrusion being the raucous boxer engine note when you dig your foot deeper into the carpet. But could that ever be considered a complaint, with an engine so juicy and symphonic? I think not.
Its safe to say; the Porsche Boxster S is the leading contender in the two-seater, convertible sports car segment. Porsche are the best sports car manufacturer and know exactly what they’re doing, and as a result, create the perfect recipe. The 315 bhp flat six behind the seats is a wondrous thing, that encourages you to ring its neck. Doing so, gives you access to the power band starting around 5,000 rpm and delivers the delightful soundtrack to accompany it.
It seems as though there is no limit to cross with the Boxster as even when pushing on, the low centre of gravity claws the 235/65 rear rubber into the tarmac. The standard Porsche brakes are more than suited to both the car and a spirited driving style thanks to a pedal feel so intuitive. As you lean on the pedal, the travel is firmly progressive, communicating a confident grab of pad to disc.
The steering is well weighted, with unbeatable precision – you can point the nose of the car exactly where you want it. The Boxster S is seriously agile as you pour the front axle into a tight bend on a balanced throttle. Dial in some more power on the exit, and the car squats into the road with a poise you may not expect from a convertible.
If you are in the market for a two-seater sports roadster, look no further than the Porsche Boxster S. I thoroughly recommend it.
Engine size: 3.4 litre, flat six, 32 valve
Top speed: 173 mph
Power: 315 bhp
Torque: 265 lb ft
Transmission: six speed manual
Driven wheels: rear
0-62 mph: 5.1 seconds
Combined MPG: 32.1
Length: 4,374 mm
Width: 1,801 mm
Height: 1,281 mm
Kerb weight: 1,320 kg
OTR price: £47, 035
Price as tested: £62, 634
Star Rating: * * * * *