2012 PORSCHE BOXSTER S REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Two-door sports convertible
Price: $138,600 (PDK, plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.8 l/100km | tested: 13.5 l/100km
There’s an insurrection in the works at Porsche.
A few years ago, some had the Boxster tagged as the “girls car” of Porsche’s sportscar range. No way that appellation fits today.
The 2012 model is distinctly more handsome and, with beefier muscles and hair in places it ought not, it is certainly more masculine.
So, with brilliant handling, superb drivetrain and a tempting price, can the Boxter S really outdo the 911 for desirability? TMR was sent to the oven of the earth – to Dubai – to find out.
Quality: At first glance the Boxster S appears to be a replica of its bigger brother; some would swear it’s the same as the 911.
The steering wheel is identical, as is the centre console, both using beautiful metal highlights, and the same soft leather abounds, featuring on door trims, dashtop and seats.
It doesn’t break any moulds for design adventurism, but it really is a nice cabin.
Comfort: The optional 14-way electric sports seats are good hip-huggers, giving good support across the upper and lower back.
The driving position is superb - it’s doubtful anyone would be uncomfortable in the Boxster - and despite the furnace-like conditions of the Middle East, the aircon was perfect.
Equipment: We had around $25k of options added to our test car – nearly a Fiat 500 just in extras. While there’s a seven-inch touch screen as standard, the PCM system was fitted, which provides sat-nav and (an average) Bose stereo.
The sat-nav also appears on the right-hand multifunction display in front of the driver, in glorious high-resolution (and also shows G-forces reached). Intent revealed? We think so.
The roof remains uncovered when stowed. There’s a reason: Porsche saves 12kg by not having a lid.
There’s also a deployable spoiler activated automatically at speed, or by pressing a button on the centre console.
Storage: In the Boxster there are only two storage options: front or back. Under the bonnet is a narrow 150 litres, while under the boot-lid is a stepped 130 litre space - don’t expect to take a week’s luggage with you.
There are the obligatory cupholders, two tiny flip-out door bins, and a small space under the centre armrest for small items.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The inevitable drive comparisons with the 911 won’t go away; and the new Boxter’s proportions have closed the gap on size differences.
The wheelbase has grown by 60mm, front track by 40mm, rear 18mm. The Boxster S is now also 13mm lower, and because the engine isn’t hanging out past the back wheels (it’s located just behind the seats), the Boxster S is far more balanced and neutral than the bum-heavy 911.
If you enjoy tickling the throttle and playing catch with the rear end when cornering quickly, you’ll immediately feel at home here.
Where the 911 always needs a kick in the guts, the Boxster is much more natural: brake late, turn in, apply throttle, feel the back start to come out, a little steering and then use the throttle to adjust slip angle. Rinse and repeat.
This is thanks, in part, to the optional Porsche Torque Vectoring system (PTV), which includes a mechanically locking diff. If there’s one option you must have, it’s this.
With the Sport Chrono package fitted, the Boxster S launches from 0-100km/h in just 4.8 seconds.
The steering feel is superb. It’s not quite the telepathic, uninterrupted flow of data you get from a Lotus, but it’s the next-best-thing. Combined with a superb rigid chassis, seat-of-the-pants driving is the order of the day.
Refinement: Start the Boxster S on a cold day, and like all Porsche sixes, it rattles away before quietening down when warmed.
Even in the searing heat of Dubai, the Boxster S still started gruffly, but when accelerating that rawness only adds to the appeal.
When left in full auto mode, the PDK transmission fires off seamless rapid shifts; take control with the paddles and you can let it roar its head off. The shifts are instant – zero delay up or down.
The top, that can be operated at up to 50km/h, stows in just nine seconds.
Suspension: The Boxster S has quite a remarkable ride given its handling capabilities. While firm, it’s never jarring, despite our test car being fitted with optional 20-inch wheels from the Carrera S.
The front suspension employs a variation of the MacPherson strut (combined with control arms in both directions), with an almost identical arrangement at the rear (only back-to-front). It works: the result is brilliant handling.
Braking: Because the Boxster S only weighs 1350kg, it hauls up easily and arrow-true. Up front, 330mm discs sit under four-piston monoblock callipers; the 299mm rear discs also feature four-piston stoppers. Pedal feel is simply superb.
ANCAP rating: Not tested
Safety features: The Boxster S utilises PSM (or ESC).It also features EBD, ABS and six-airbags, including side and head airbags, plus the inherent safety of simply superb road-holding.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Two years/unlimited kms with a one-year optional extension.
Service costs: Intervals every two years; cost varies depending on kilometres.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
BMW Z4 sDrive35is ($120,500) – While the Z4 is a great steer in an old-fashioned long-bonnet sit-over-the-axle sort of way, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Boxster’s razor-sharp handling (see Z4 reviews)
Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG ($155,050) – With an engine note to die for, the SLK is a sledgehammer to the Boxster’s scalpel. Dynamically, though, it’s not in the race and the interior looks old in comparison.
The price is the final nail. (see SLK 55 AMG reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The latest Porsche Boxster S is an absolute hoot to drive. It’s completely steerable on the throttle, or you can be disciplined and extract rapid-fire lap times.
For its superb sporting dynamics and involving drive, it wipes the floor with its most logical competitors. But, and here’s the rub, it does the same with its big brother.
The fact is the 911 Carrera S may be quicker in a straight line, but around corners the Boxster S is pretty much the equal. Throw in its more accessible handling and the Boxster looks even more promising.
And then you learn that the Boxster S is half the price.
Let’s say that again: two Boxster S’s for the same price as one 911 Carrera S. Porsche has thus created a big problem for itself.
The Boxster S really is that good.