Porsche Boxster S

How much would you be prepared to spend to get your hands on your dream car - assuming you had a few bob, of course? How about £50,000? £150,000? More? According to Porsche, we can put our lottery winnings away, as its new Boxster will grant our wishes for much less.

Just when you thought Porsche's range couldn't get any stronger, the Boxster has got better. The 911 is widely regarded as the ultimate driver's machine, but its brother is nearly as competent in every way. Combining great pace, beautifully balanced handling and a soundtrack to die for with a sensible price means Porsche now sells the world's best-value sports car.

How much would you be prepared to spend to get your hands on your dream car - assuming you had a few bob, of course? How about £50,000? £150,000? More? According to Porsche, we can put our lottery winnings away, as its new Boxster will grant our wishes for much less.

To put this bold claim to the test, Auto Express climbed behind the wheel of the first right-hand-drive example to land on British shores. On initial sight, the newcomer looks like a relatively conservative evolution of the original. You could be forgiven for thinking our bright yellow test car was an old model.

This is, in fact, the redesigned Boxster, which we are told shares only 20 per cent of its predecessor's parts. The visual nip and tuck has seen the 'fried-egg' headlights replaced by more traditional lamps, while striking twin front airdams and a resculpted rear are intended to give a more modern finish.

It might lack the classic outline of its big brother, the 911, but the Boxster's simple shape looks good. The trouble is, the old model is now so familiar that its replacement doesn't appear as fresh as it could have done if Porsche had been a little more adventurous.

Inside, the cabin has also received a more dramatic makeover. First-rate build quality remains, while new oval air vents give some welcome relief from the clinical efficiency of the rest of the interior. Crucially, Porsche's trademark centrally mounted rev counter and hooded dials still take pride of place, and the layout is ergonomically superb.

However, the real treat comes when you start the engine.The top-spec S we drove comes with the same 3.2-litre flat-six-cylinder unit as its predecessor, but power has increased from 260bhp to 280bhp. As a result, 0-62mph takes 5.5 seconds - only 0.2 seconds faster than the previous Boxster S - but on the road, the engine proves itself to be one of the finest in existence. Power is fed via a six-speed manual box, which enhances the driving experience with a wonderfully precise, mechanical feel.

In any gear at virtually any speed, relentless acceleration is available on demand, with a thrilling aural crescendo from the mid-mounted engine adding to the excitement. Drop the hood and you can get even closer to the action - although it would be a mistake to assume that with the roof down the interior becomes uncomfortably windy.

Even though there's nothing to rival Mercedes' Airscarfe system, the cabin is an oasis of calm, with wind noise only becoming a problem at motorway speeds. The fabric lid stows neatly, using far less room than a folding metal top.

Our car also had the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management, as part of the £1,426 Sport pack. This improves on the Boxster's class-leading ride and handling characteristics with continual adjustment of each damper.

Drivers can stiffen the set-up via a switch on the dash, but we found the supple normal mode ideal for B-road blasts. Another button sharpens throttle response by up to 30 per cent. Yet the steering remains unrivalled in the class for accuracy and feel. Lightly weighted, it's similar to that of the pricier 911.

At £38,720, this machine isn't exactly a bargain, but it has the measure of supercars costing twice as much. There are no limits to what the Boxster has to offer.

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