The picture above might also have you reaching for the Nurofen, because this is the new Porsche Boxster, with an entirely redesigned body. Apart from the rounder headlights it requires a fair amount of staring and squinting to notice any difference between this and the old model.
There’s a reason for this. Porsche is blighted with the problem that when you make such wonderful cars as the Boxster and the 911, replacing them and doing anything radically different is almost impossible, as it has proved for the past 50 years. After all, how do you improve on near-perfection?
With the Boxster S, Porsche has given it a good go, and somehow managed to squeeze a few more drops of magic out of a formula which was already a heady, potent brew.
The Boxster is a popular corporate vehicle. It has the kudos many executives yearn for, while fleet managers shouldn’t start battening down the fiscal hatches to pay for the running of it.
Whether leased or outright purchased, the Boxster is a smart buy because its residual values are some of the best you will find anywhere, retaining nearly 60% of its value, even if it has been used unusually heavily and does 60,000 miles in three years. Even really early S-reg cars still command top money.
The interior has also been improved and now has a higher quality feel to it. It is snug with the roof up and there’s still plenty of useful luggage space in front of the driver and behind the engine.
And that is before you even get driving. Remember how Zorro used to slice a Z in foes’ shirts with a triple swish of his blade? The sharp, exact experience of the way the Boxster S moves is very similar.
From the hard, insistent engine note which rises to a shriek, to the way the pedals are perfectly weighted and positioned for heroic braking and throttle-blipping downshifts, the Boxster S is as great a drive as you will get anywhere – and at least as much fun as the more expensive new 911.
That’s because power for the new Boxster S is up from 260bhp in the old version to 280bhp from 3.2 litres, which means even more athletic performance, and a 0-62mph time of just over six seconds.
But it is not just straight-line grunt that makes it such a joy. It is so wonderfully balanced that it seems to pivot perfectly around its mid point – always alive without being twitchy, thanks to lots of grip and revised suspension.
Our test car came fitted with Porsche Active Suspension Management, which makes the car even more alert. It stiffens up the suspension and makes the throttle more sensitive, but in truth it makes the ride a little too uncomfortable on all but the smoothest roads.
Its standard settings are its natural state of being though and the Boxster S feels at its most comfortable and flowing like this.
The changes to the new car may not be instantly obvious to the naked eye, but after an hour or two in its company, it is obvious that the S has gone from the superb to the sublime.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £38,720
CO2 emissions (g/km): 248
BIK % of P11D in 2005: 35%
Graduated VED rate: £160
Insurance group: 20
Combined mpg: 27.2
CAP Monitor residual value: £21,975/57%
Depreciation: 27.9 pence per mile x 60,000 £16,740
Maintenance: 4.62 pence per mile x 60,000 £2,772
Fuel: 14.7 pence per mile x 60,000 £8,820
Wholelife cost: 47.22 pence per mile x 60,000 £28,332
Typical contract hire rate: £752
All figures based on 3yrs/60,000 miles. Monthly rental quote from HSBC Vehicle
Three rivals to consider
THERE is a huge gap in price between these cars, and it is mainly down to Porsche. You have to pay top dollar for one, while the Audi at the bottom end is not cheap but looks a bargain in this company.
Bear in mind the TT is to be replaced in the next year though. The SLK sits apart from the others in having a folding metal roof.
WHEN you look at the back of a Boxster and see the large swathes of rubber designed to keep it stuck to the road, it’s obvious that SMR costs are not going to be cheap.
Replacing the tyres during a 60,000-mile term is likely to cost about £1,200 according to CAP SMR forecasts. However, Porsche has just standardised its labour rates across the country, which should help predicted costs, and overall it is competitive with Audi and BMW. The SLK looks expensive.
WITH the smallest engine, the Z4 is the best on fuel and its 12.88 pence-per-mile cost would result in a fuel bill of more than £7,700. By comparison, the bigger engined SLK or quattro-driven TT would cost more than £9,000. However, all these fuel costs are working on the theory that the driver hits the combined figure. In reality, a lead-footed driver pushing the car hard and filling up with super-unleaded could increase fuel costs by half again.
ALL of these cars are above average in terms of their ability to hold value – even the ageing TT. But the Porsche is in a different league. With nearly 60% retained value after three years/60,000 miles there is no car better than this in Britain.
As a result, it’s higher front-end price is negated and it is the best of the four here. And history shows this performance won’t change much at all as the model gets older.
THE Mercedes-Benz SLK is expensive to run when compared to the others at 51.01 pence per mile. That’s £30,600 in total, mainly due to a high front- end price coupled with average depreciation and high fuel and SMR costs.
The Boxster S, by comparison, looks a bargain at 47.22ppm – a total of £28,300. Thanks to superb residuals it competes closely with the TT and Z4, illustrating how important it is to look at costs as a whole rather than just the headline front-end price tag.
Emission and BIK tax rates
ANY employee choosing one of these as a company car will no doubt be aware that it is going to cost them in tax, and here the Porsche proves very expensive.
A 40% taxpayer will get a hefty tax bill of £5,421 over the next year.
However, with monthly leasing rates of £700-plus, that’s still a decent cost saving. For a fleet with one eye on tightening a budget, it might be worth trying to persuade them to opt out of the company car scheme.
BEWARE of contract hire firms trying to make too much of a profit out of the Porsche. In wholelife cost terms, the Boxster should cost no more to run than these other, cheaper cars and this should reflect in monthly rentals. When you look at the wholelife costs, the badge and spectacular performance, the Boxster S is a clear winner.