When the Porsche Boxster was first released in the mid-90s it was often dismissed with the claim it was only for people who couldn’t afford a 911. Now into its third-generation, the Boxster has had enough time to establish itself as a bona fide sportscar worthy of attention.
In truth, the Boxster has always been a very fine car, even if it did take some time for the wider motoring world to catch on. And, as I recently discovered, the new-ish 981 Boxster is a genuinely rewarding drive.
The test car was an entry level model powered by a 2.7 litre flat-six cylinder engine coupled to a 6-speed manual gearbox. It certainly looked the part on its optional 20″ rims too. Of the three examples Porsche has provided this latest Boxster is clearly the best looking, inside and out. Indeed the interior has a quality feel to it befitting its price tag and is reasonably well apppointed too.
On paper the outright performance of the Boxster looks capable enough, with 195kW on tap and just a shade over 1300kg to move. So, you might expect a quicker 0–100km/h time than 5.8 seconds. I can remember a time when a sub-6 second car was bordering on supercar territory, but these days it just doesn’t feel that fast.
If you’re looking for blistering straight line speed then the 2.7 litre Boxster isn’t for you. Yet, to judge this car solely on its raw pace is to completely miss the point and would deny yourself of something really quite special.
Comfortable enough for daily commuting, even on 20″ rims, the Boxster really comes alive on more demanding roads. Any thoughts of wanting more power are quickly put to the side as you carve your way through twisting tarmac with the precision of a surgeon. Granted, this isn’t a revelation, but it’s still a truly memorable experience to confirm it for yourself first hand.
While it mightn’t have pure speed among its bag of tricks the Boxster does give you everything its got right through to its 7800rpm redline. Peak power comes in at 6700rpm, so it’s also no surprise that the engine feels more responsive when you keep the revs high.
Pure handling is clearly the Boxster’s biggest and best party trick and oh boy, wowee, she holds on as though you’re driving on a full size Scalextric track. The AUSmotive test route has a series of tight flowing esses and the way the Boxster was able to increase its speed while maintaining its composure was breathtaking.
Immediately after tackling those esses I exclaimed, “Who needs power when you’ve got handling like this!”
The further I drove the more I became intoxicated with the abilities of the Boxster. The grip offered is astounding, thanks of course to a mighty fine chassis. Even the steering was hard to fault, despite the move to an electro-mechanical system. Turn-in is accurate and regardless of speed the weight and feel through the steering wheel is excellent.
Its mid-engined layout contributes to the Boxster having a neutral balance and composure that makes you feel part of the car. It’s a car where the involvement levels are high and confidence builds quickly. You’ve got grip, an ability to change direction at will and suspension willing and able to ensure the car always gives you the best its chassis can deliver.
Braking performance during the test was very good. Not as demanding as a track day, our downhill run certainly calls for everything the brakes have to offer. Like the 987 Cayman R, the pedal feel is progressive and when you need to wipe off more speed you just press a bit harder on the middle pedal. Pretty simple really.
Our test car was fitted with the optional Porsche Sports Exhaust system and the note from this rorty 2.7 litre boxer was a real delight. Best sampled with the roof down, the engine sings a tune to match the car’s impressive abilities. The snorting and crackle on overrun broadened my smile as well.
With a car as pure as this it was nice to sample it with a proper manual transmission. The clutch pedal has a heavy feel to it but aside from that working your way through the gears is a pleasure. At first I found the Carrera GT-like placement of the shifter a little high up the console for my liking, but with greater familiarity I would expect to get used to it no problems.
I’ve never really been a huge fan of convertibles, but the Boxster was even able to make some inroads here. Half of the drive was done roof down and I was surprised, even at pace, how comfortable it felt inside the cabin. A conversation could be had at pretty much any speed we sampled and while the fabric roof does offer an insulated and more comfortable experience I was convinced more about the roof-down experience than I’ve ever been in the past.
Porsche has a well-deserved reputation for making great driving cars. Stuttgart’s latest Boxster not only delivers on that reputation, it enhances it by providing a driving experience worthy of its own consideration. No longer should 911 owners sneer at the Boxster, they should go out and buy one as well!
Thanks to John and Dianne for their assistance.