Still Swinging

Despite improved competition, the latest Boxster can still make a fist of it

The Cayenne luxury SUV may now be Porsche's bread-winner in Thailand, but the Boxster will always be an important model for them because it is the stepping stone into the brand's family of sports cars.

Ever since the roadster was launched over a decade ago, the Boxster never really had any problem conveying the sporty message Porsche has meant it to do so.

Nor did the Boxster have any difficulty in topping a class that has more or less seen the competition being led by style and comfort-orientated buyers. Good examples are compatriots the BMW Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLK. Having said that, you might be tempted to believe that the all-new Boxster, launched this year in third-generation form, has gone soft in order to prevent potential punters from seeking solace elsewhere.

The Boxster has, to cut a long story short. However, the shift is not immense and is, in fact, only marginal because Porsche doesn't like carrying out radical changes to proven formulae.

That's why the appearance of the Boxster is evolutionary, although the new side air vents, front lights and tail lights _ possibly inspired by the defunct but wonderful Carrera GT _ effectively lift the car's presence on the road.

The Boxster is now a bigger car _ and you can see this even from a distance. Most dimensions have swollen to make the two-seat cabin even more spacious for people of most sizes. The driving position, in particular, is adjustable on a wide degree.

Further proof of the Boxster's increased level of livability includes two separate luggage compartments (neither of which are big) and a soft-top that doesn't erode into the rear space when tucked down.

And speaking of the magnesium/cloth roof _ inherited from the latest 911 Cabriolet _ it is now easier to operate via just a single switch located on the centre console.

It's really hard to fault the Boxster's cabin, particularly if we're talking about the perceptive quality that has always been a strong point of Porsche. The leather and plastics simply feel premium.

Despite oozing a sense of familiarity with the previous 987 model, the 981 successor has a new dashboard with sensibly-styled air-con vents and more switches scattered around translating into less intuition.

While the driver won't be offered a cockpit that's utterly easy to use, there is more driving facility now, which isn't really surprising because that is what many customers are looking for now _ even in supercars.

Even though the Boxster won't beat the SLK when it comes to top-up cruising refinement, it does a better job than before in suppressing external noise.

Yes, the ride remains rightfully firm, but in hardly any manner is it harsh or jolty, meaning that the Boxster is now a more comfortable car on the move.

Due to the introduction of the semi-electric steering, it could be said that the Boxster isn't as engaging to drive as its predecessor.

Yes, you can feel the numb steering at most times, but it hardly corrupts the driving experience _ just as how we noted the 911 earlier this year which shares many mechanical bits with the Boxster (and hard-top Cayman).

If you compare the Boxster with any of its rivals, however, it's still safe to say that it has the crispiest and neatest levels of handling.

Bigger dimensions have also apparently played a role in maintaining good grip at high speeds yet introducing a little more ride comfort.

Due to the need to improve fuel economy, Porsche has downsized the Boxster's engine from 2.9 to 2.7 litres. There's still no turbo, but the power is now up at 265hp and average consumption is better at 13kpl.

For pleasure-seekers, unfortunately, the Boxster's performance doesn't really flatter as the many other areas of the car do. Punch doesn't come immediately and power build-up when approaching the engine's redline is beginning to feel like a chore rather than a reward.

Don't get us wrong, though. There's ample oomph at most speeds and the PDK dual-clutch automatic is brilliant, but the Boxster's power delivery and response is lagging somewhat behind the advent of sharper units offered in cars like the Z4.

At this price point of 8 million baht in Thailand, the Boxster doesn't necessarily offer a competitive performance.

Sure, we'd reckon that the 320hp Boxster S should satisfy more demanding drivers with its better top-end rush and sound, but that's asking for another 2 million baht or so.

This means that the regular Boxster isn't for those who have already graduated to the S league. Instead, it is for people new to the Porsche world or clients who don't value performance as much as the wow factor.

That said, it certainly wasn't wrong for Porsche to go a little soft on its entry-level Boxster. And because it still is sufficiently sporty, the Boxster remains an admirable roadster. Just be sure you're happy with the power-to-price ratio.

AT A GLANCE

Styling 8/10

The Boxster's look has generally evolved mildly, but it's the details that make it look refreshingly new.

Performance 8/10

There's ample power at most times, although punch doesn't come that immediately.

Handling and ride 8/10

The Boxster has lost a little of its driving sparkle, yet it still feels

crispest in its class.

Practicality 7/10

Soft-top is now easier and quicker to operate and doesn't erode luggage space.

Safety kit 8/10

Expect all the usual features on the active and passive safety front with no novelties.

VERDICT 8/10

Bigger and better to look at now, the Boxster continues the brand's tradition with meaty road manners. It doesn't necessarily feel as engaging to drive as before, but it still tops the class in terms of driver appeal.

More buttons means less intuition; quality remains superb.

Seats cater to people of many sizes.

The regular Boxster isn’t for those who have already graduated to the S league

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About the author

columnist
Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor