Boxster 2.9 Review.
There's definitely something to be said for buying an entry-level car. Most of the important bits are the same as in the pricier version you could have had and at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself exactly how much a chromed gear knob is really worth. All right, so more money buys you a bigger engine and more power, but even that doesn't always justify the extra outlay. For proof, check out the Porsche Boxster 2.9 we're looking at here. Especially in its latest 255bhp guise, this is a car you'll want to drive just for the sheer kick of it. Acceleration is punchier than owners of early Boxster 2.7 models will remember, whilst the torque curve has been extravagantly plumped up across the midrange. Porsche claim this Boxster is tractable from 700rpm right through to 7200rpm and they're probably right. The first thing you notice about the engine is that it's the most vocal unit in Porsche's range. The latest 3.4-litre powerplant in the Boxster S is slightly more muted whilst contemporary 911 engines all have pretty low-key soundtracks. Should you get medieval with the gas pedal, you'll see 60mph come and go in 5.9 seconds on the way to around 160mph.
The Boxster now looks different but not massively so. The latest car has reshaped headlamps with indicators built in that resemble the units on the Carrera GT supercar. The air-intakes below have also been reshaped with horizontal bars for the outer ones in the front bumper that also house LED side lights. There's more of the in vogue LED lighting at the rear where the bumper has come in for some subtle tweaks. Overall, the Boxster looks as classy as ever from the outside and the interior ambience has been raised a notch or two by the inclusion of higher quality materials and a beautifully contoured steering wheel. All these improvements are welcome but none is as significant as the inclusion of Porsche PDK twin clutch gearbox. An automatic Porsche was once frowned upon by the marque's aficionados in the same way as a Suzuki GSX-R1000 with stabilisers might be viewed in superbike circles. The PDK gearbox models, by contrast, encourage nothing but respect from those in the know. It's a twin-clutch 'box which shifts between ratios many times faster than you can say Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (don't worry, we'll stick to PDK from now on). The system actually shaves 0.1s from the 0-62mph time of an expertly driven six-speed manual car, such are the slickness and speed of its shifts. With the optional Launch Control function which manages traction off the line, a further 0.2s can be stripped from the performance envelope.
"The Boxster just feels as if it's been built by people who know what they're doing "
Porsche has tinkered with the suspension settings on the Boxster and predictably claims improvements to both handling and comfort. The power steering system has also been remapped with the aim of achieving a more agile and spontaneous feel. The Porsche Stability Management system is rightly regarded as the leading technology of its type and now features Brake Pre-Loading that primes the brakes in anticipation when the driver lifts off the throttle suddenly. An optional feature that's now available will please those who felt the Boxster was only a limited slip differential away from being a better car than the 911: it's a limited slip differential. This ensures that the car can put its power down more effectively in extreme handling scenarios and will be a must for buyers planning to take their Boxster to the track. On the move, handling is as exemplary as you'd expect from a Porsche that boasts near perfect weight distribution. With the electrically-powered hood up you do get a couple of squeaks and shudders over the more horribly pockmarked surfaces that make up a British B-road, but the ride is pretty compliant. All of the controls are beautifully designed and weighted, the brakes are superb and the depth of engineering is instantly apparent not to mention enormously confidence inspiring. The Boxster just feels as if it's been built by people who know what they're doing. The refreshing thing about this car is that it's largely as fast as you want it to be. Unlike the S model where a possible custodial sentence is a mere dip of the ankle away, the Boxster 2.9 makes you aware of your velocity through its volume and in the way the engine still responds to a soaring tachometer needle, doing its best work at the upper end of the rev band. The Bosch Motronic fly-by-wire throttle delivers the sort of feel and precision that proved beyond electronic loud pedals of the past.
The audio and communication systems have been comprehensively upgraded in the latest model. The standard car gets a plush CD radio system but the set-up to have is the optional PCM (Porsche Communication Management) version 3.0. This includes a hard disc satellite navigation server and a 6.5" touch screen monitor which houses all the controls neatly under one roof. Voice control makes the interface even more user-friendly and further options box ticking will bring iPod, USB and Bluetooth compatibility.
The further plus side to Porsche's tinkering under the Boxster's bonnet is enhanced efficiency. A roadster this quick is never going to be an environmental hero but 31mpg from the 2.9-litre engine with 221g/km emissions is a decent showing and a 10% improvement over the old car. Remarkably, the PDK gearbox model is fractionally cleaner than the manual.
Since its launch in 1996, the Boxster has seen of all comers. Driving the latest 2.9-litre car, you soon realise that still nothing comes close.