Strengths and weaknesses:
- ergonomic interior
- technology and convenience features
- multiple driving modes.
- Lacks interior storage space
- trunk room split front and rear
Boxster evolves for the better on all fronts
"The open-top two-seater boasts a brand new monocoque steel and aluminum body and totally revamped rear-wheel drive chassis."
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Named for its six-cylinder Boxer engine and roadster body style, the Porsche Boxster recently got its first complete overhaul since the original version (986) was released in 1996. It was refreshed (called 987) in 2004 and this new version (dubbed project 981) is more bodacious and tenacious in terms of style and performance, respectively. As with any new Porsche model, the improvements are noticeable.
The base model’s new 2.7-litre powerplant makes 265 hp (10 more than its larger predecessor) and 206 lb.-ft. of torque while the 3.4-litre engine Boxster S is up five horsepower (to 315 hp), with 266 lb.-ft. The water-cooled, mid-mounted aluminum Boxer engines are paired with standard six-speed manuals or optional seven-speed Porsche double-clutch automatic transmissions that are even better and can shift faster than most humans.
The open-top two-seater boasts a brand new monocoque steel and aluminum body and totally revamped rear-wheel drive chassis. Its considerably lower curb weight (1,319 kg versus 1,355 kg), a longer wheelbase (2,474 mm versus 2,415 mm) and wider track improve the Boxster’s already-impressive dynamics.
The 981’s longer, wider silhouette is sleeker and more expressive with edges that make it more akin to the new 911, Carrera GT and the jaw-smacking 918 Spyder. The new Boxster features a more aggressively raked windshield and a redesigned electronic-folding soft top that opens and closes in nine seconds (at up to 50 km/h!).
Cargo capacity remains the same at 281 litres total – the deeper front boot maxes out at 150.5 litres while the rear trunk is 130.5 – though I’m still unsure a set of golf clubs can go anywhere except the passenger seat.
That said, golf is the last thing on my mind when out driving this car.
It’s superbly wonderful on the topsy-turny Alabama roads around Barber Motorsports Park, which is home to the Porsche Sport Driving School. The new Boxster practically drives itself with the top down in gorgeous summer weather. The Pirelli tires are quiet and there’s practically no wind buffeting, windows up or down.
Polished aluminum interior trim, cooled/heated leather seats and simple but elegant controls make the cockpit welcoming and functional. And while shorter drivers may enjoy more space behind the seats (for a large briefcase perhaps), the door pockets and centre console don’t offer a whole lot in terms of storage; the lockable glove box is a decent size, though, but the only cup-holders are precariously placed above the passenger’s knees and buttons on the centre console. These are my only qualms, however.
Back at the track, pushing the Sport Plus and suspension buttons livens up the engine, PDK and shock absorber settings. Now capable of reaching 100 km/h in five seconds, the Boxster S stiffens up for flatter cornering at higher speeds – top speed is limited to 277 km/h with the PDK, two klicks faster with the six-speed manual. An optional Sport Chrono package adds dynamic transmission mounts for the first time to enhance driving dynamics even more; Porsche Torque Vectoring with mechanical rear axle differential lock is also available.
The vented front and rear brake discs and four-piston callipers are hardly being taxed at all, offering much-improved stopping capabilities over the previous generation. Composite brakes are also available, though the S is already well-endowed in this department. Compared to other traction control systems, Porsche’s seems to provide the widest window of performance without intervention as well as intervening the most predictably and least noticeably when it does.
The raspy exhaust pops and the seat gives you a love tap in the back upon up-shifting at wide open throttle. The electromechanical power steering is direct, linear and perfectly-weighted for any driving situation with precise turn-in and exceptionally good feedback.
All in all, the new Boxster is a big improvement over the old one. While not a car in which to transport a twosome golfing, it is one in which to play hooky - consider leaving the clubs at home and head straight for your favourite driving roads.