A BREATH OF FRESH AIR PORSCHE BOXSTER S
Porsche expects a significant number of its Boxster customers to continue to opt for the potent S model.
PORSCHE BOXSTER S NEW CAR ROAD TEST By anybody's reckoning, the standard Porsche Boxster is an exceptional car - even if it isn't exceptionally fast. However, in the latest carefully revised range, there is a version that certainly qualifies on those grounds: the Boxster S.
All this is relative mind you. The standard 2.9-litre model's figures (rest to sixty in just 5.9 seconds on the way to about 160mph) make that car's 255bhp engine fast enough for most people - hence the lengthy waiting lists still found in most countries. But we're in Porsche territory here, a land in which even the slowest 3.6-litre 911 Carrera uses 345bhp to make sixty in just 4.9s on the way to 180mph.
This was a performance gap deemed unacceptably large by the engineers from Zuffenhausen, hence the plan right from the outset to build the Boxster S. In almost every respect, this car fits exactly between its standard stablemate and the car that epitomises Porsche ownership. In price (just under £41,000), performance (0-60mph can be dispatched in as little as 5 sewconds on the way to around 170mph), output (310bhp) - even in engine displacement (3.4-litres), this car fulfils its brief perfectly.
Which, as you might imagine, is hardly by chance. Though it looks almost identical to the basic model, the Boxster S has an appeal so different that but for the name and the bodywork, you'd be tempted to view it as a separate model entirely. The facts bear this out: after all, over 40% of the components in the S are different, while many of those remaining are borrowed from the 911. A perfect ownership stepping stone then and a car with all the weapons necessary to charm BMW and Mercedes buyers into something more stimulating. And make no mistake, that's what they'll be getting. It takes only a twist of the ignition key to realise that the 3.4-litre water-cooled flat-six engine means business. Porsche claims that 85% of its torque is available at just 2,000rpm, which means instant acceleration in almost any gear at almost any speed.
"The Boxster S has a very different appeal..."
The direct injection system fitted to this latest Boxster S engine generates faster responses to throttle inputs by directing fuel at high pressure directly into the combustion chamber. This also achieves a better fuel/air mixture within the chamber that can be adapted to maximise performance or for a cleaner, more efficient combustion. It's clever stuff but arguably not as clever as the 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 model, by contrast, encourages 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 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.
Porsche has tinkered with the suspension settings on this car 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.
Safety has been well sorted in this car, even running to door-mounted airbags that work in conjunction with thorax bags to reduce the effects of a side impact. Twin front airbags are standard, as is the latest version of Bosch's four-channel anti-lock braking system and Porsche's PSM stability control system.
Want to look at the engine? The only way to do it is to leaf through the handbook. The real thing is hidden from above and below and the sole contact you can have with it is through a small service panel inside the rear boot. Here you'll find a dipstick as well as filler caps for oil and water. Otherwise the recipe is pure Boxster, which means you get a beautifully integrated electric folding roof that can be operated in just 12 seconds. A removable hard-top is optional. This is also a roadster many have found to be surprisingly practical to own. Luggage can be stowed in two compartments (one in the nosecone and the other behind the engine) and the total volume equates to 260 litres - excellent for a car of this type.
Not that many customers will worry about such practical considerations. For them, the Boxster will probably be a weekend plaything, pure and simple. Pure and simple in fact sums the design up. With Porsche, it was ever thus.