Refined Boxster rewrites the script
FIRST DRIVE Porsche Boxster 2.7:THE ORIGINAL 1996 Boxster was the car that saved Porsche. It seems almost odd to say that now, given the financial colossus Porsche has become, but the Weissach company was in dire straits back then.The affordable Boxster, built from the same basic components’ set as the larger 911, buoyed sales sufficiently to allow Porsche to breathe, recover and begin to expand. Being better than the iconic 911 was not in the script.
The script, then, has just been re-written. This is the all-new Boxster – the 981 Series – and, while it still has much in common with the 911, it stands apart from its predecessors.
That’s most obvious in the styling, where the look of the older Boxster has given way to a more defined, more muscular look, with pleasing details such as the carefully integrated rear wing.
It retains a compact stance but it’s actually 100mm longer than before, with 60mm of that in increased cabin space, making this easily the comfiest Boxster yet.
And that comfort is a telling point; this is a Boxster with the hard edges rounded off. It’s more refined than before, thanks to a thicker, more insulted convertible top (which rather wonderfully retracts in exactly 9.81 seconds) and at a cruise, only a constant barrage of tyre roar on less than perfect surfaces dulls the refined edge.
The cabin, aping the new 911, has a tall, sloping centre console leading to a pleasingly simple dashboard, all of which feels of a heftier, better quality than before.
But the true magic of the Boxster is in its engine. The new 2.7-litre unit loses 200cc compared to its predecessor, but gains power, bringing it to a very healthy 265bhp; good enough for a 0-100kmh sprint in 5.8 seconds.
It’s the noise that gets you though, travelling from a basso woofle overlaid with a sewing machine clatter at low rpm, rising to a sharp, metallic howl at higher engine speeds – as if someone had thrown an angry werewolf into an aluminium pot factory.
Upgrade to the 3.4-litre Boxster S and you have a serious performance weapon. With 315bhp and lower suspension, it’s as quick as a 1990s 911 GT3, a car that was a thinly disguised racing car. But the upgrade is pretty pointless; the standard car is more than quick enough for anyone, and its slightly softer chassis allows it to breathe a little better with the road surface. Any Boxster is firmly sprung, but the standard car just has that crucial bit more give.
In steering terms, though, it’s a backward step. Porsche’s new electrically assisted system is doubtless cutting-edge in the nature of such things, but it fails to satisfy as much as the old hydraulic system.