I've driven the Porsche Boxster S for a day so far, covering 150 miles. Here are my first impressions.
The Porsche Boxster has been around since 1996. It was face lifted in 2009 and in 2012 an all new model, the 981, was launched. The Boxster comes in two main specs; the standard Boxster and the Boxster S, and you can spec a 6-speed manual or double-clutch 7-speed automatic, known as a PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe).
The test car is a 981 Boxster S with PDK gearbox. It's painted Guard's Red and has a red hood. The interior is Platinum Grey and it's got optional sports seats.
The car's stats are pretty impressive, although being naturally aspirated the engine has less torque than you might expect. The Boxster S, though, is a car for which stats are just a small part of the appeal.
It might be German but it has as much soul as any other sports car. The looks are bang up to date Porsche. That dropping Porsche nose, the rear end similar to the front, but not as much as on the first generation, the tiny spoiler bisecting the rear lights.
You sit right in the middle of the wheelbase. The engine's behind the occupants, ahead of the rear axle unlike in the 911 where it sits out back. The interior is more business-like than luxurious. The driving position is absolutely spot on - legs out, arms slightly bent (although the wheel is adjustable any which way) and the controls all in just the right places.
There's not much in the way of storage space. Twin door pockets, a small space under the armrest and the govebox are it, although the rather snazzy fold-out cupholders are handy. The Boxster has two boots though, a deep one up front and a wide one at the back - and it's just as large as the F-Type's only boot.
The touchscreen operates media (CD, DAB, analogue radio, Bluetooth, iPod), satnav (Porsche's is one of the best) and all sorts of trip and other functions.
Buttons aft of the gearstick let you select suspension, traction, gearbox and sports exhaust options.
The engine is started with Porsche's stubby key. Turn on, select active exhaust, select sport, select drive, go...
...and enter automotive perfection. The steering is light, but weighting and feedback is exquisitely exact. It doesn't quite transmit every single individual stone in the road's surface, as in Porsche's of old, but nothing else on sale today comes close.
The engine revs high - peak power comes at 6,700rpm - and needs to be used to extract every last ounce of horsepower from it, and does so with a beautifully flat spread of power.
It sounds fine too. At the lower end of the rev range the 6-cylinder boxer engine booms but increase the revs and it screams. Hit Sport Plus and the exhaust crackles with unburnt fuel, just like a Jaguar.
Who said Porsches were clinical?
The PDK gearbox has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. It's bleeding obvious it is a dual-clutch affair, with gearchanges taking an instant. In normal mode the 'box is fairly lazy, changing up super-early. Press Sport and it really is a sports 'box, agile and active throughout the rev range and at differing speeds but it'll change down multiple gears in an instant if the final inch of throttle travel is used.
Enter Sport Plus mode and it becomes an angry, rev-hungry monster of a thing. It hangs on to 1st gear for as long as possible, crackling and spitting off-throttle, changing up only on the red line. And when it does change gear it's like a shotgun recoil in your back. In Sport Plus on open, flowing roads the Boxster S feels as fast, noisy and manic as anything else.
Driving the car in almost all conditions and speeds is an absolute doddle. Grip is phenomenal and the controls are so easy to use. Drop the hood (at anything up to 30mph) and noise and turbulence barely increase. I spoke to a friend on the phone (bluetooth, hands-free of course) at 70mph without any issues.
Push-on in a straight line and the Boxster S simply goes fast, but push-on in a corner and the engine's location, and the car's low weight, come into play. You can feel the rear end leaning on the tyres - never slipping.
It feels agile, communicative and nimble but also safe. The rears don't let-go, the fronts scrub ever so gently. The driver is invigorated.
The Porsche Boxster S is a better car than any of its rivals, including the Cayman. It's slightly less stiff than the Cayman, slightly more joyful - with it's exposed cabin - has slightly more joie de vivre and exuberance than it's serious sports car coupé sibling.
I'll publish a full review once the car has gone back to Porsche. In the meantime I'm going to enjoy using it.
Price - £48,034
Engine - 3.4 litre flat-6
Transmission - 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
0-60mph - 5 seconds
Top Speed - 172mph
Power - 315bhp
Torque - 265lb ft
Economy - 35.3mpg
CO2 - 188g/km
Kerb Weight - 1,350kg
Review by Matt Hubbard