27 Dec 2012

2013 Porsche Boxster S review

Matt Hubbard reviews the 2013 Porsche Boxster S.

When it first arrived in 1996 the Porsche Boxster was derided as a poor man's Porsche.  OK it had the engine in the right place but it also came with a few quality issues and it wasn't particularly fast.  The first Boxster, with the 2.5 engine, had 204bhp and did 0-60mph in 7 seconds.

It wasn't until the 2.7 litre engine came along that the Boxster got some proper Porsche power - or at least 220bhp of it.  0-60mph took 6.6 seconds.

Fast forward to late 2012. The new Boxster now comes with a 2.7 litre engine with 261bhp and 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds, and the S gets a 3.4 litre engine with 315bhp and 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds.

The Boxster S is now only slightly slower and only slightly less powerful than a 991 Carrera, yet it costs £45,384 against the 991's £71,449.  It's also £10,000 cheaper than a BMW M3 and, again, is only slightly slower.

The cabin is very similar to that of the 991.  In fact some parts are exactly the same.  Below the waistline of the dash the 991 and Boxster seem identical.  The window switches, steering wheel, 7 inch touchscreen and general arrangement of the centre console are very similar.  Look closer and you'll notice some differences.  Five dials in the 991, three in the Boxster.  The clock and air vents - indeed the entire upper section of the dash are different.

Whatever, the interior of the Boxster is extremely pleasant (as long as you don't choose Luxor Beige or Yachting Blue) and more than a match for it's big sibling.  As you would expect, the materials - leathers, plastics, aluminium - are high quality and pleasingly tactile.

The car I drove was fitted with the PDK gearbox (a £1,992 option) so the engine is fired up with a foot on the brake and turn of the electronic key.  The familiar Porsche engine note - a crisp, sharp bark - is a joy.  Not a huge, crackling roar, as in a Jaguar XKR-S, nor the NASCAR boom of an AMG but purposeful and ready to go.

I drove the Boxster S on the Porsche Handling Circuit at Silverstone as well as the various other challenging tracks and skid pans - read more about Porsche's facility at Silverstone here.

The Boxster feels, more than any other car, that it's hewn from a single lump of metal.  Literally, it's like it is laser cut to shape from a block of steel and aluminium.  And then Porsche have suspended it with the most pliable, yet accurate damping known to man.  The car is an absolute, finely balanced joy to drive.

The nose, pointed at the apex, stays on line.  The rear wheels never lose traction, unless under extreme duress.  The engine is keen and eager through all the gears.  Not quite as responsive as the 991's but nevertheless - if you had never driven a 911 - one of the best engines in any car.  The Boxster pulls off the same trick as the 991 - it absorbs, it melts into the background as you accelerate, brake, steer, focus on the apex, accelerate, pull through the gears and head for the next apex.

The 7 speed PDK can be used manually or in fully automatic mode.  In automatic the settings can be altered to crispen throttle response and the timing of gear changes - and how long it holds on to a gear.  In reality you don't need to use the paddles but human nature takes over and you just do.

The Boxster doesn't have to overcome the same leap of physics as the 911 because the engine is ahead of the rear axle but still, and here's the rub, the car is festooned with electronics.  It would be a perfectly balanced driving machine without electronics yet you have all sorts of acronyms at your disposal - PDK, PASM, PTV.

The various systems are so easy to use a child could master them and they do help control the car, not only in normal conditions, but also in the event of, say, a skid on ice or to avoid a deer.  I drove like a hooligan (at the behest of the Man From Porsche) in order to induce a skid.  With a few practice attempts I could catch the skid and tidy the car up with all the electronics turned off.  But with them on the car does all the work for you.  Unless you are driving far too fast, or just panic and let go of the wheel, the Boxster's electronics could save your life - or at least a huge repair bill.

After my drive in the Boxster S I drove the 911.  Which would I buy?

The 911 is faster - just.  The 911 name has more cachet.  The Boxster handles better.  The 911 is more practical by dint of it's rear seats (my ten year old is 150cm tall and easily fits in the back seat of a Carrera coupe). The Boxster S is a lot cheaper.  The interiors are almost identical.

It comes down to money and practicality.  If I had a £47,000 budget and no children I'd buy the Boxster S.  However, if I had £84,000 I would certainly buy the 911 - for it's extra oomph, extra room and extra prestige.

The Boxster S is a great car.  If you can afford one you should buy one.  You will not be disappointed. It's only real competition is Porsche's own Cayman S and 911 - and the upcoming Jaguar F-Type which will cost from £58,000.

The stats:

Car - Porsche Boxster S
Price - £45,384
Engine - 3.4 litre, flat 6
Power - 315bhp
Torque - 360Nm
Weight - 1320kg
0-62mph - 5 seconds (with PDK, 5.6 seconds with manual gearbox)
Top speed - 173mph
Fuel consumption - 32.1mpg combined