Car reviews - Porsche - Boxster - range
Monumental grip, top notch build quality, mighty engines, fuel economy
Room for improvement
Brake pedal travel, optional reversing camera
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10 Jun 2016
ON FIRST inspection the 2016 Boxster has changed little for its mid-life update, but take a moment to pore over its purposeful stance and the changes start to jump out.
Some body panels may have only changed by millimeters but the overall aesthetic effect is a more planted, stocky look, highlighted by some striking new details. We particularly warmed to the four-point LED headlights and the mirrored design in the sharp LED tail-lights that are connected by a new full-width gloss black strip.
Each to their own, but we think the styling changes work best when complemented by one of the more vivid paint tones in the broader palette such as Racing Yellow, Lava Orange or the delicious Miami Blue.
Tick the box in the options list that paints the wheels the same tone as the bodywork and you are another step along the way to a seriously head-turning car.
A revised dash layout, new interior colour schemes and some tasty cabin options, including a sports steering wheel with extra functions, are also welcome revisions, adding to the logical, likable and ergonomic layout, that is well screwed together using top-notch materials.
We were surprised to see some features such as a reversing camera left off the standard equipment list in some cases, especially as the Porsche options list can be a treacherous place for your wallet.
The standard seats are fairly flexible in their adjustment but even at its lowest point the driver was positioned a little high although that problem would be solved by the one option we would find hard to resist. For $7690, Porsche will fit the Sport Bucket Seats, which adds a big hit of racing romance.
Our first test car was the more potent Boxster S, which sports a 257kW flat-four engine in place of the naturally aspirated 3.4-litre six-cylinder of the outgoing version, and was bolted to the standard six-speed manual transmission.
It was with a little trepidation that we fired up the all-new engine but the louder cold-start running and sport exhaust combination produced a pleasantly surprising soundtrack at idle. At low speeds the flat four note almost has a touch of the original Volkswagen Beetle about it. Rev through that and you'll get a similar note to a Subaru WRX but it is beyond 4000rpm that the new engine delights.
Initially, we instinctively short shifted when sensing the 6000rpm mark approaching, but the Boxster S can spin up to more than 7000rpm and the accompanying noise is a fantastic angry bark that is most thrilling at the red line.
The note matches the character of the Boxster and, while it may have some traits at lower revs, at its dizzying maximum speed, the note is unique.
When questioned as to whether any of the sound is piped in through the Boxster's speakers, Porsche says no, but says there is an “electronic resonator” which can “enhance or cancel” sound – does that sound a bit like a speaker to you?Either way, when outside the car and watching a Boxster being thrashed around a track, the note sounded very real to us. Top marks.
We love the power delivery of the new engine, which has, in the case of the S, a variable geometry nozzle turbo to cut lag, although we didn't dislike the small amount of lag, which can be toyed with thanks to the manual gearbox.
With a kerb weight of about 1350kg the Boxster can really move, and acceleration is intense and addictive. The automatic PDK-equipped cars might be able to crack 100km/h from standstill in 4.2 seconds but we would sacrifice a few tenths of a second to have the enjoyment of the excellent manual gearbox.
Snapping through the close ratios with the high-mounted gear selector and carefully feeding the power through with the finely tuned clutch pedal reminded us what real driving is all about. Piloting the Boxster S is as unadulterated and pure as driving gets in any car on the market.
Flick the driving mode to Sport and the exhaust note on overrun goes from pleasant to downright antisocial with a rattle of backfires more akin to a machine of war than a machine for the road.
Interestingly, Porsche creates the theatrics with clever cam timing and the introduction of air, rather than adding extra fuel, which would spike emissions.
In corners, the S has seemingly boundless grip and encourages you to push harder through bends with a supremely sharp turn-in and classic mid-engined balance, but not once did the Porsche threaten to snap back at us with sudden loss of traction.
On the contrary, a few laps of a very low friction test track highlighted just how well balanced the Boxster's chassis is and how manageable it is when the limits of adhesion are found.
Scrubbing speed is dealt with efficiently and confidently, thanks to a four-pot calliper and 330mm disc front brake arrangement that has been transplanted from the 911, but despite the effectiveness of the set up, the brake pedal had a little too much travel, which is out of character for any Porsche.
Our car wore optional 20-inch wheels in gloss black that contrasted perfectly with the lurid yellow paint and did not adversely effect the firm but compliant ride.
The Boxster S is quite at home on the freeway with a calm cabin even with the roof open, but spending too much time cruising would waste a perfect balance of power, grip and handling.
After the performance flagship, we hopped aboard the 2.0-litre Boxster, this time equipped with the company's superb PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission.
While many, if not all, manufacturers have struggled to perfect the technology, Porsche offers the best application of two clutches in an auto.
It comes at a price however, adding $4990 to the price of the Boxster S ($143,400 to $148,390), but in the case of the Boxster, the technology raises the LCT threshold for fuel-efficient cars, effectively only increasing the price by $1333 to $114,433.
Porsche predicts the auto to be the best-seller to the tune of about 90 per cent and we can see why. In automatic mode the cogs swap with surprising intuitiveness and at times imperceptible smoothness, but when in manual mode the shifting has a satisfying urgency and speed.
As driving purists, we would opt for the 2.0-litre combined with the manual but the auto is certainly a tempting proposition.
In front of the accomplished transmission is the smaller version of Porsche's new boxer four, which was in danger of looking a bit asthmatic after sampling the excellent 2.5L, but with 220kW and 380Nm the flat four is anything but flat.
When combined with a sport exhaust as fitted to our car, the smaller engine has the same satisfying note including those rifle-crack enhancements, although the 2.0-litre doesn't have quite the same angry shout towards the top end as the 2.5-litre.
Performance is surprisingly good and given the might of the Boxster S, the smaller engine might be the one you could thrash on a daily basis and keep you licence.
Despite the impressive performance, both new engines manage better fuel efficiency than their respective predecessors. With a more enthusiastic drive route, we were obviously using a bit more jungle juice than the 6.9L/100km and 7.3L/100km claimed by Porsche but, amazingly, we were not far off.
Of the eight Boxsters on test, ours was the only one wearing standard 18-inch wheels (19s for the S) but the taller side wall tyres neither seemed to compromise road holding or improve ride quality. Wheel choice for the entire range seems to be down to a matter of taste and tyre bill.
The more affordable variant is just as flat and sharp through corners and, in a twisty section of road, was quite capable of staying up the gearbox of a 2.5-litre ahead. We initially thought the adaptive suspension setting was having little effect on progress but after flicking into the firmer setting, noticeably more pace could be carried.
Porsche has treated its baby sportscar to a significant update, but none of the changes have detracted from the recipe of lightweight, beautifully balanced convertible fun, and typical Porsche quality.
We approached the new Boxster and its switch to four-cylinders with a healthy dose of scepticism, but after our first encounter we have come away thinking that this is the engine Porsche's baby should have had all along.
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