Fleet News

Porsche Boxster

Porsche

Review

THE Italian truck driver was probably in ecstasy. Just another Austrian tunnel, he thought, until it was suddenly livened by a new Porsche Boxster S being gunned from walking pace to red line, making a ferocious noise that could have caused an earth tremor above. To the car’s occupants, roof down, it will ring in their heads for years to come.

Certainly, the last thing on the minds of all in the tunnel would be fuel economy, residuals or list prices, yet fleet managers are likely to feel similar waves of pleasure when they investigate the Boxster’s costs. Not your ordinary fleet fare, then, but nevertheless a particularly fleet-friendly car.

As with the previous model, there are two versions – standard and S. On sale now, it should be no surprise to find both are faster and more powerful than before. The 2.7-litre ‘flat six’ standard car now produces 240bhp, 12bhp up, helping it to 62mph in 6.2 seconds, and 159mph. The 3.2-litre S offers 280bhp, 62mph in 5.5 seconds and 166mph in its sixth gear, one more than standard, though the cheaper model is optionally available with six ratios.

Economy of these sports cars is exceptional. All that performance, yet they achieve 29.4mpg and 27.4mpg on the combined cycle, with respective CO2 figures of 229g/km and 248g/km. For the 2.7-litre that’s a BIK rate of 29%, rising to 30% from April 2005.

Amazingly, the Boxster is about 9% less expensive than before, when standard equipment is factored in.

The £32,200 base model now includes air-con, CD player and Porsche’s stability control system for free, plus a world-first for open-top cars – head airbags. Mounted beneath the window sill, they inflate upward and complement the existing front and side airbags.

With the engine at the back too, tucked out of pedestrian harm’s way, a good Euro NCAP score is predicted. The S gets more features for its £38,720 list as well.

It’s already tipped to hold on to a vast proportion of this after three years, too.

Initial reports from market analysts suggest it could be the lowest-depreciating car sold in the UK, with talk of about 70% retained after three years/ 60,000 miles.

This, above all, is why the Boxster is so relatively inexpensive to run, in pence-per-mile terms.

It loses less cash from its list price than a decently-specced Ford Mondeo diesel – saving enough to finance the sports car-level insurance premiums, though even this is cheaper than before, as are servicing costs.

Porsche reckons the new Boxster is 13% less expensive to run overall. Oil changes, for example, are now every 19,000 miles.

Despite all this talk of the ‘new’ Boxster, with 80% new parts, in the pictures it is clearly related to the old car.

The front benefits from most changes, with new swept-back headlights, a front bumper with three air intakes, plus indicator and side lights separated from the headlights.

The heavy debt owed to the Carrera GT supercar is intentional, as is a reduction in the drag coefficient. Rear shutlines have also been reprofiled for that Carrera GT look, while the side view is more sculpted and better-defined, even though the silver air intakes look like Pat Butcher’s earrings when combined with some colours.

View the latest Boxster more as an enormously far-reaching mid-life facelift, rather like as happened to the 911 for 30 years of its life. Speaking of the 911, 40% of Boxster parts are shared with it – which is why Porsche has been able to release two heavily-updated models in the space of a few months.

Behind the wheel

SIT inside the new Boxster and you’ll swear it is an all-new car. The previous dull black plastic dash, with quality not as vault-like as expected from Porsche, has been junked.

In its place is a much smarter layout constructed from satin-feel slush-moulded plastic. It’s offered in a variety of colours, is extremely robust and is surely one of this car’s best aspects.

The centre console owes plenty to the Cayenne and is fiddly at first, but a treat to use once you’re used to it. Instruments now light up modern blue-grey instead of ugly yellow and the integrated digital displays are a model of clarity. There’s a digital speedo set into the rev counter, with a supplementary and hard-to-read dial alongside.

Boots are boring, but the Boxster is fun as it has two, one front, one rear. The front is so deep you’ll be convinced it’s rubbing on the floor and both combined offer 280 litres of capacity. Some hatchbacks would be proud of that figure.

The steering wheel now adjusts for rake and reach and more seat travel means taller people stand a better chance of achieving comfort. Press the clutch, turn the dash-mounted key and enjoy a delectable mechanical thrash from the comfort of this environment.

Fold the roof – even when on the move, up to 31mph – and the note of the standard engine is soronous at low revs, pure and harmonious as speeds rise.

It’s torquier than before, but keep the revs up – which it will do all day with pleasure – and serious pace can be made, all controlled by one of the world’s greatest drivetrains. Every control, and particularly the gearchange, is full of Swiss-watch-perfect feel.

The meaty steering is also very precise and grip levels high. This car flatters the driver, so able is it, and driving standards seem to rise accordingly. Overcook it and stability control reigns it all in, but the mechanical limits are so vast, it is rarely called upon. But even more remarkable is the ride quality.

Standard models use 17-inch wheels, but they are so flat and free from harshness that you’d swear they were precision-made sports cushions. It is a sports car that is as fatigue-free and sleek as an S-class, almost.

The S is faster, naturally, and the exhaust is far more guttural. The extra kick is particularly noticeable above 5,500rpm, right up to more than 7,000rpm.

Grip is also even higher, with its standard 18-inch wheels and drivers can up the pace for it to provide a real fast-motoring thrill. But it’s not as sweet.

The satisfaction from driving slowly isn’t quite there as the ability envelope has been pushed so far you have to be travelling more quickly to get the same thrills as from the standard model.

Choose the optional PASM active suspension and limits are higher still, with electronic maps constantly adjusting dampers and other variables for best effect.

Through corners, for which dampers stiffen automatically, it’s a remarkable machine.

The ride is also more taut and less settled, and delicacy through the steering is reduced. A mightily impressive car and a very rapid one, but the standard model is the more perfect iteration.

And it is close to perfection. Sales are, by fleet measures, low. The UK is the third-largest market for Boxster and last year sold 3,200 units.

Driving verdict

THE new Boxster is the perfect perk car that’s nearly perfect and Porsche will sell every UK-bound model with ease. When you consider the fact that overall running costs will be so low, it really is a knockout.

Model: Boxster Boxster S
Engine (cc): 2,687 3,179
Power (bhp/rpm): 240/6,400 280/6,200
Torque (lb/ft/rpm): 199/4,700 236/4,700
Max speed (mph): 159 (Tip: 155) 166 (Tip: 161)
0-62mph (secs): 6.2 (Tip: 7.1) 5.5 (Tip: 6.3)
Fuel economy (mpg): 29.4 (Tip: 26.9) 27.4 (Tip: 25.7)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 229 (Tip: 250) 248 (Tip: 262)
Service interval (miles): 19,000
Fuel tank (l/gal): 64/14.1
Transmission: 5-sp man; 6-sp man; 5-sp Tiptronic auto
On sale: November 27
Prices: £32,200-£38,720

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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