Porsche Boxster Review
The definitive convertible sports car at anywhere near an affordable price. Worth trying if only to see what life could be like!
- Brilliant fun to drive
- Engine in the middle of the car means sensational handling
- Reputation of Porsche name means good used values
- Getting expensive to buy. Options pricey too
- Not very well equipped
- Poor fuel consumption
It’s taken Porsche three generations to get the Boxster looking really good, not that the push me-pull me styling ever hampered sales.
Now the looks hint at the fabulous Carrera GT and the wheels aren’t hiding in the arches it has the presence of a true great.
The Boxster is even terrific going slowly with the roof down.
Early cars entry cars were 2.5 litres and then 2.7 litres, while the S had a 3.2 litre, followed by a 3.4. There’s now a new 2.7 engine while the S and GTS models use uprated versions of the 3.4 litre.
On the Road
The 2.7-litre engine in the entry level model is an all-new direct injection flat six-cylinder developing 265hp and 206lb ft of torque. It’s a sweet motor that suits the car and would suit 95% of drivers.
Move up to the S and you get a revised 3.4-litre engine with 315bhp and 265lb ft of torque, while another £5,844 from the piggy bank will plonk you in the new 330bhp £52,879 GTS.
Six-cylinder engines are wonderfully smooth and rev freely and those in the Boxsters howl wonderfully too. And with what results…
The 2.7 will fling you to 62mph in 5.8 seconds and even the GTS only takes 0.8 second off that time such are the laws of diminishing returns.
The automatic PDK transmission delivers even faster performance.
Flat out the GTS achieves a follicle and licence destroying 175mph; 11mph more than the entry car.
Eighteen inch alloy wheels are standard but the test car came on 20in Carrera S alloys for £1,943 extra. These make the brakes look scrawny but as with every Porsche I have driven, except a Macan, the brakes are fantastically powerful.
As a professional racing driver once told me, to go faster use the middle pedal.
Unless you are on a track, and unless you are on the limit of tyre grip, the Porsche Boxster is going to flatter you as a driver. Make you think you are brilliant in fact.
You can scythe through corners placing the car with millimetre precision at amazing speed without the front of the car pushing on (understeer) or the rear sliding out (oversteer).
The car feels alert and agile yet not nervous or twitchy. Much of this behaviour is down to the Boxster’s mid-engine layout with the engine in the centre of the car behind the occupants like a racing car.
Even greater cornering prowess is available with an extra cost torque vectoring system which brakes individual wheels to help turn the car into a bend and a mechanical locking rear differential to let a skilled driver steer the car ‘on the throttle’ like on Top Gear.
Driver feedback has been helped by increasing the torsional stiffness of the body by 40%; and it didn’t seem to flex much before considering it hasn’t got a fixed roof.
Agility has also been improved by reducing the Boxster’s weight by between 25 and 35 kgs depending on the model.
To keep the Boxster warmer and quieter there is an extra layer of Thinsulate, the stuff you have in ski gloves, in the roof fabric.
Other insulation has reduced cabin noise in general by 50%.
In the car
The cabin, or should it be cockpit, is a big leap forwards from generation two and has a raised centre console like the Carrera GT supercar. The whole appearance is of a more coherent design and better quality.
In true sports car tradition the most important instrument, the rev counter, dominates the instruments dead centre. Computer technology means the right hand dial can be used to display multiple functions including a second satellite navigation display.
Porsche’s used to be famous for truly informative steering that writhed in your hands. The old joke was if you drove over a coin you could tell the date.
Sadly electrically assisted power steering has arrived and while you get used to it, and it is less tiring to use, it is also less involving. Thankfully it is precise.
The steering is bad enough but why a company with Porsche’s heritage would fit one of those dreadful electronic handbrakes is beyond me. Not to have a handbrake you can pull on and off quickly on a rear-wheel drive sports car is criminal.
The driving position is good but the pedals are slightly offset and there’s only just enough leg room if you are tall
Like most sports cars, the Boxster is not a practical car but it is better than most because there are two boots.
There’s 130 litres volume in the rear boot and 150 litres in the front one, but the cabin is very short on stowage space.
The all-electric fabric roof works well.
Heated seats and a strong heater mean you can use the Boxster roof down more often than you might expect.
While the ride is firm it never becomes uncomfortable so making long journeys a pleasure.
Interestingly the Boxster has its own doors for the first time; previously they came from the 911
For reasons I can never quite fathom the Boxster is a thirsty car. Even the 2.7 litre only records 33.6mpg on the official combined cycle and I have seen figures in the mid 20s when not pushing that hard.
The S and GTS give 31.4mpg but wring out those fabulous engines and you will be in the sub 20s.
First year road tax on S and GTS will cost you £635 because of the 206 and 211g/km carbon dioxide emissions, then £285 per year.
The 2.7 litre is a bit kinder to the wallet at 192g/km at £485 first year and then £265.
Options are frighteningly expensive with Porsche torque vectoring £930 including mechanical locking rear differential, sport chrono pack £1110, heated seats £283 and ventilated seats £681. Even cruise control is £276.
Navigation with audio interface is £2,141.
Base car is £38,810. The 3.4 S is £47,035 and the GTS £52,879.
The seven-speed PDK transmission is an extra £1,922. Carbon ceramic brakes are £4,977.
Despite Porsche’s reputation and the Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race successes in the past, Boxster are not as tough as you might expect.
Yes, you can get first generation (1996) models for around £5,000 or less but you need to watch out for the electric roof not working correctly, oil leaks from the engine’s main seals (and the engine is difficult to get at) and failing radiators. If the clutch is heavy on a manual gearbox car it is on its way out.
The dreaded intermediate shaft bearing failure usually means a complete engine rebuild. Getting it replaced and a new clutch at the same time is considered wise advice, though if the car drives well you might be okay for years.
Air conditioning radiators, as on the 944/968 are vulnerable to stone damage when driving.
There are no Euro NCAP crash test results for the Porsche Boxster models.
Airbags inflate in two stages depending on the severity and type of accident. Impact sensors near the headlights detect and evaluate crashes sooner and with greater accuracy.
Two side impact airbags increase protection and there is a thorax bag in the outer side bolster of each seat.
The door panels each contain an upwards-inflating head airbag. Porsche says these ensure excellent protection even with the roof open. There are also steel side impact protection bars in the doors.
Roll over bars behind the seat head restraints provide survival space if the car turns over.
Standard anti-theft equipment includes an immobiliser with an in-key transponder. S and GTS have contact-sensitive exterior protection. A radar-based interior surveillance system is available. An alarm and interior surveillance system is optional
A vehicle tracking system is also available. The system makes it possible to locate a stolen vehicle across most of the countries of Europe.