Porsche Boxster S

Third-generation roadster is the best yet, and sets the standard for fun

The Porsche Boxster has been the roadster benchmark ever since the original launched in 1996. So the new MkIII has big shoes to fill – and it makes an instant impression with its stunning looks.

As you’d expect from Porsche, the design is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but the Boxster now has a more confident identity of its own. The wheelbase is 60mm longer, the body wider and the screen has been shifted forward and raked back at a steeper angle. 

Large wheels fill the arches (the car gets 19-inch alloys as standard, while our model had optional 20-inch rims) and the sculpted doors give it definition. It looks even smarter from the rear, where the automatic spoiler merges neatly into the sleek light clusters.

With the roof up, the hood looks tidy, and the glass rear screen sits flush to the fabric. At the touch of a button the fully electric roof folds in just nine seconds to reveal a gorgeous cabin that’s every bit as upmarket as the more expensive 911’s. Better still, the hood can be raised or lowered at speeds of up to 30mph.

Slide into the driver’s seat and the cabin wraps around you. There’s high-class switchgear (but rather too much of it scattered around), while the traditional overlapping Porsche dials are perfectly placed ahead of you.

Yet despite the driver-focused feel, the cabin is bigger than before and there’s a greater sense of space. Plus, with a deep nose boot and shallow rear load area, the Boxster has a combined luggage capacity of 280 litres – just 10 litres smaller than the TT’s. But it’s the fact that the cabin looks and feels classier than either rival that helps ensure the Porsche is a cut above. 

Once you’re on the move the Boxster’s ability to make you feel special enters a whole new realm. With the engine mounted in the centre of the car, the balance between front and rear grip is perfect. 

All the controls are delicately weighted and you feel instantly at one with the Porsche. The new electromechanical power-steering provides plenty of connection with the tarmac and responds quickly and accurately to your inputs. Turn the wheel and the front end pivots instantly towards the apex. 

The centrally mounted engine and supreme body control allow you to tighten your line mid-corner with real confidence, plus the perfectly progressive brakes provide massive stopping power: they brought the car to a halt in 42 metres from 70mph – a full five metres sooner than the Mercedes. 

None of this dynamic excellence is surprising when you consider the new Boxster S is 30kg lighter (at 1,320kg) and 40 per cent stiffer than the outgoing car. Nevertheless, the Porsche’s talents are even more obvious when you drive it back-to-back with the heavier Audi and Mercedes. 

The Porsche is over 200kg lighter than its rivals, so it matches their performance, even though it has less power and torque. Not that you feel short-changed by the 311bhp direct-injection flat-six engine. It sounds amazing and pulls strongly throughout the rev range.

 The Porsche did 0-60mph in 4.7 seconds – it can hit 79mph in second gear – and ran its rivals close for in-gear response, even though they have seven-speed semi-auto boxes and it makes do with a six-speed manual. The engine is punchy through the mid-range, then emits a glorious wail from around 3,500rpm before spinning rapidly to the 7,500rpm red line.

There’s a lovely light yet acccurate shift action to the manual box, and our car featured the £1,084 Sport Chrono Pack. This includes dynamic gearbox mounts that stiffen to boost rigidity in hard cornering, but also soften to damp out vibrations and improve refinement. 

Even though the Boxster has standard stop-start, it emits the most CO2 here, at 206g/km. We returned a decent 29.7mpg, however, and it’s the cheapest car with the best residuals.

Details

Chart position: 1Why? The old Boxster S was the class benchmark. This all-new model is bigger, faster, more efficient and sharper to drive.

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