2012 Porsche Boxster review

* New Porsche Boxster driven * Priced from 37,589 * On sale May 5...

2012 Porsche Boxster review

This is the third iteration of the Porsche Boxster, a car that, when launched in 1996, was largely credited with saving Porsche from a fate worse than Saab.

The new car is bigger than the previous model, yet also lighter and more efficient.

Its wheelbase is longer, and the axles wider, all of which should make it handle better, grip harder, and change direction more quickly. As long as the new electro-mechanical power steering doesnt ruin the experience, we could be on to a winner.

As before, two models will be offered, the basic Boxster and the more powerful Boxster S. The lesser model has a 2.7-litre flat-six engine that develops 261bhp and 207lb ft of torque, while the S gets a 3.4 that kicks out 311bhp and 266lb ft.

In both cars, drive is sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox, although a seven-speed semi-auto PDK transmission is available as an option.

Porsche expects 65% of Boxster S buyers to tick the PDK option, and 55% of non-S buyers to do so.

Whats the Boxster like to drive?
Pretty special indeed. We drove a Boxster S fitted with the PDK gearbox and gearshift paddles.

From the second you pull away, theres a cohesiveness to the way the Boxster performs. It feels like every component is working in harmony to make your progress, faster, easier, more rewarding.

Performance is predictably rapid. The dash to 62mph is over in just 5.0 seconds (4.8 if you choose the Sport Chrono package), but mere numbers dont do the engine justice. It pulls strongly and smoothly even when the rev-counter has barely awoken, but it does its best work above 5000rpm, where it fairly flies. The soundtrack varies from growl to howl the nearer the redline you venture.

Leave the PDK gearbox to its own devices and itll shuffle smoothly and quickly up into the highest gear possible in order to save fuel, which is fine when youre simply wafting around.

Then the moment arrives: the road opens up ahead and the traffic disappears, so you nudge the gearlever across into manual mode and begin to orchestrate matters yourself. Our car had the no-cost optional gearshift paddles, which we consider essential, because they allow you to choose the perfect gear bang on time, every time.

The new Boxster S weighs just 1320kg, and it feels even lighter, changing direction with seemingly no inertia and gripping more strongly than your neck muscles can stand for long. Understeer is simply not an issue at road speeds.

The latest Boxster has been styled with larger wheel openings than ever, in order to accommodate 20-inch alloys, which our car had. Wed avoid them, and stick with the standard 19-inchers, because while the 20s undoubtedly look great, they give the ride a too-firm edge at low and medium speeds. The high-speed ride is superb, and the body is utterly controlled everywhere.

The conventional steel brakes on our car gave mile after mile of strong, fade-free performance with loads of feedback through the pedal.

The new electro-mechanical steering, which could easily have been a weak point, is emphatically not. It is beautifully weighted and accurate. It might not offer quite the degree of feedback of the previous cars system, but you are never in any doubt about how the front tyres are coping.

Be in no doubt no matter what your mood, the Boxster will be a superb companion.

Whats the Boxster like inside?
The position of the steering wheel and seat are fundamentally right, so its easy to get yourself into a good driving position. The pedals also sit dead ahead, meaning comfort isnt an issue.

Ahead of the driver sit three dials; the speedo to the left, the rev-counter ahead, and a multifunction display (which shows navigation, audio, vehicle information as required) to the right.

The new centre console is raised where it meets the dashboard, and places the gearlever just where you need it, within a handspan of the wheel. There are quite a few buttons on the dashboard, though, so it can take time to find the one you need.

Theres now more cabin space for the two occupants, and when the roofs up theyll be sitting in a relatively quiet space. The new hood manages to block out most ambient noise, so the noises you hear are the ones youre meant to.

The Boxsters a drop-top, however, and is at its best when the suns up and the roof is down.

The new fabric roof can be folded down at the touch of a button in just nine seconds, even if youre on the move (but below 30mph). Now you get the full-on Dolby surround-sound experience, and all is right with the world.

If we have a criticism, its that the Boxsters cabin is a bit on the blustery side, even if youve got the optional wind deflector (Porsche charges 182!) in place. We can see the heater struggling to keep you warm in the winter months, so a hat and gloves will be essential.

Should I buy a Boxster?
Yes, yes, and thrice yes. Sell everything you need to in order to buy a Boxster. The S model we drove will pay you back in enjoyment a hundred times over.

Its even a relatively sensible choice, with CO2 emissions of just 206g/km (188g/km with the PDK gearbox) and an average economy figure of 32.0mpg (35.3mpg with the PDK). Go on, you know you want to.

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What Car? says

Euan Doig