Porsche Boxster

Legendary Porsche handling is yours for a similar price to the Audi

The Boxster has been charming drivers ever since it first hit the UK in 1997. But it’s not only the German brand’s legendary handling ability that tempts buyers; Porsche’s engineering talents extend further than that.

Packaging, build quality and powerplants are all areas that the German marque excels in. But what about styling? Is the Boxster a good-looking car? You’ll have to make up your own mind, of course, but to our eyes the gradual evolutionary updates to the shape haven’t gone far enough – the last major rework merely added larger grey intakes on the flanks and rounder headlights. However, for many, the simple fact the Boxster wears a Porsche badge will be reason enough to buy one.

We’ve always thought that the Guards Red paintwork suited the Boxster, but here it looks weak alongside the Brilliant Red worn by the TT. And that’s not the only area in which the TT has the edge – its roof proved to be better insulated in our tests, and the Porsche’s central release latch is rather stiff.

However, once undone, the electric motors take over to drop the roof elegantly under a partial cover, the whole operation taking just 12.5 seconds. It’s quicker still to close.

Even cleverer than that is the car’s packaging. All the weight is concentrated within the relatively short wheelbase, with the flat-six engine mounted behind the seats. This means that either end of the car is freed up for storage, and a grand total of 280 litres isn’t to be sniffed at – that’s more than double what the 350Z offers.

However, the cabin lacks any real design flair. There’s nothing wrong with the quality or layout, and stowage is reasonable. But even though you sit very low, the Porsche simply doesn’t generate the same sense of occasion as the Audi.

Until you start the engine, that is. Now fitted with Porsche’s VarioCam Plus valve timing, it howls into life and emits a muffled wail as speed picks up. To really appreciate the sound you have to keep the roof up, but even with that aero­dynamic advantage in place – the slippery Porsche has a drag factor of 0.29Cd – and the fact it weighs only 1,295kg, the Boxster struggles to keep pace with either the 350Z or SLK 350. That’s how it seems when you’re behind the wheel, anyway.

With only a five-speed gearbox, each ratio is very long, so the engine feels lethargic. Factor in the modest torque delivered at comparatively high revs, and the Porsche doesn’t appear to have the get up and go of rivals.

Nevertheless, it posted reasonable in-gear times, and despite giving away the best part of a litre of engine capacity, proved every bit as fast against the clock as its quickest opponents. It bettered all of them when it came to shedding speed in a hurry. With excellent bite and positive pedal feel, the Porsche’s brakes are the best here. And so is its chassis. Our car didn’t have the manufacturer’s £1,030 PASM system featuring adjustable dampers, and without it the ride is firmer, which does take the edge off comfort and refinement. However, the Boxster still cruises easily with little wind noise.

But no matter what road you’re on, you never forget you’re driving a sports car, thanks to the taut frame, stiff gearbox and weighty steering. Although the Porsche is harder work at low speeds, as you go faster, the perfectly refined controls become more rewarding, and the beautifully balanced chassis lets you know exactly what’s going on via the steering and seat of your pants. If you enjoy driving, you’ll love the Boxster.

Details

Price: £33,170Model tested: Porsche BoxsterChart position: 2WHY: Mid-engined Boxster is Porsche’s entry-level model, and one of our favourite sports cars.

Economy

Aero­dynamic, light and well engineered, it was no surprise the Porsche beat its rivals for efficiency. At 26.3mpg, its small 64-litre tank will take you 370 miles.

Residuals

The Boxster is renowned for its residuals, and a rating of 51.9 per cent is by no means bad. But it loses £1,000 more than any other car here – £15,955 in total.

Servicing

Porsche’s reputation for high running costs is well deserved. A dealer will charge £1,247 for three check-ups. At least they’re 20,000 miles apart.

Tax

The Boxster is the only car here not in the top 35 per cent bracket, so has the cheapest tax costs. Be careful not to fit too many options, though, as this will raise the bill.

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