New Porsche Boxster

Our verdict on the all-new lighter, faster and more efficient Porsche Boxster after its Geneva Show debut

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

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Although the new 911 is brilliant, the latest Boxster is a tantalising prospect to a wider spread of buyers, as it’s more affordable. It looks smarter, has a higher-quality feel and is more comfortable than ever. It’s more efficient – emitting 15 per cent less CO2 – and far more refined. But above all, it still sets the class benchmark for driving fun. The wonderfully engaging new Boxster S is arguably the best car in Porsche’s talented range.

The all-new Porsche Boxster has only just been revealed to the world at the Geneva Motor Show, but we’ve already taken the wheel of what promises to be 2012’s most exciting roadster.

When the original Boxster was launched in 1996, it set new standards for handling and performance, with its mid-engined layout, and turned the roadster market on its head. Jump forward 16 years, and Porsche declares the change of generation is more comprehensive than ever before.

Video: Watch our video of the new Boxster at Geneva

 

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Park the new MkIII Boxster next to the outgoing model, and although the styling changes are evolutionary rather than radical, they’re clear to see. The car now has a more obvious identity of its own; it’s better looking and surer of itself than ever before.

The wheelbase is 60mm longer, the track is wider and the screen has been shifted forward and raked back at a steeper angle. In profile, deep-sculpted doors and large side vents hint at the 918 hybrid supercar, while bigger wheels (18 inches on the Boxster; 19 inches on the S) give a planted stance.

However, the snazziest details are at the rear; here the automatic wing blends into the light clusters, which form part of the aerodynamic package, while the tightly folded hood sits neatly exposed behind the cockpit. The set-up is now fully electric, folding away in only nine seconds to reveal a cabin that has taken a big step forward in quality and design – just like the latest 911.

The high-class switchgear is neatly located along the rising centre tunnel, while traditional cowled, overlapping Porsche dials take pride of place in front of you, placing the focus on the driver. Plus, the seat and steering wheel now offer an even wider range of movement, for a perfect driving position.

The bigger cabin provides a greater sense of space, although the Boxster retains the wraparound feel that’s key in a sports car. On the move, it shrinks around you.

The new electro-mechanical power-steering is the same as in the new 911. Initially it feels light, but it’s still the best system of its kind we’ve tried. Feedback is a fraction less natural than in the old car, yet turn into a corner and the nose pivots towards the apex, with the mid-engined layout inspiring confidence, as before.

The balance between front and rear grip is perfect, but there’s now so much mechanical grip that the stability system is rarely activated. The wider track, bigger wheels and longer wheelbase mean it’s even more composed.

It’s easy to tighten your line through long corners, while body control is excellent. Completing the accomplished package are the bigger brakes, which provide greater stopping power.

And the car can be enhanced further by options previously only available on the 911. The £1,084 Sport Chrono Package now has dynamic gearbox mounts, which tighten to enhance rigidity for sporty driving but soften to damp out vibrations and boost everyday refinement. The Porsche Torque Vectoring, at £890, gives sharper reactions and better traction, with its mechanical limited-slip diff.

Stop-start is included whether you go for the standard six-speed manual or optional seven-speed dual-clutch PDK box, but the latter delivers better economy and performance figures. It shifts smoothly and quickly, although even in manual mode it’s slightly overeager to kick down.

The engines are still at the heart of the Porsche’s appeal. The entry-level Boxster now has a reworked version of the larger S engine; it’s been downsized to 2.7 litres – the old car had a 2.9 – but power is up by 10bhp to 261bhp. The S we drove retains the same 3.4-litre capacity, but offers 5bhp more, at 311bhp.

Performance is sensational whichever you go for, and on twisty roads of our test the S provided unbreakable traction. The characterful flat-six comes into its own from 3,500rpm and through a punchier mid-range to spin to a 7,500rpm red line.

The Boxster S feels faster and more focused than ever – it helps that it’s 30kg lighter and 40 per cent stiffer than before. Our car had optional 20-inch alloys, but the £971 PASM active suspension ensured it rode better, while it’s more refined with the hood up.

Yet the tuneful exhaust note remains. So while the Boxster is more comfortable over distances, it’s lost none of its magic.

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