What is it?
New, lighter, lower, faster, more efficient Porsche Boxster S, with a model code of 981. Now, stepping out of 911’s shadow, the almost completely new car looks fantastic.
Lots. The body is 40 per cent more torsionally rigid, the front track is 40mm wider, the rear 18mm wider and the wheelbase is 60mm longer. All this and it weighs 25kg or 35kg (depending whether you pick the manual or PDK options) less than the previous generation Boxster S.
There’s also Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV), which aims to improve traction in conjunction with the mechanical limited-slip diff by selectively braking individual rear wheels. If you get the Sport Chrono Package then you also get dynamic transmission mounts (like the 911’s dynamic engine mounts, but for the transmission as that’s the most rearward lump in the Boxster). There’s also stop/start and electro-mechanical power steering…
What’s it like to drive?
The first thing I’ll say is that our car was fitted with the optional sports exhaust and I implore anyone buying a 981 to fit one. It sounds absolutely fantastic, particularly all the crackling explosions on the overrun at high revs (where the engine is happiest).
Another particularly pleasing aspect about the spec of our particular car was the manual gearbox in place of (I suspect the more popular) PDK. From the very first push forward into first gear it’s a tactile delight. Smooth but light and with an undercurrent of mechanical meshing, it is simply lovely. Its new higher position, nearer the steering wheel, feels good too and as if that wasn’t enough it’s matched to perfectly weighted pedals. It certainly shades the slighty notchy shift action of the new 911’s seven-speed manual.
The brakes are standard steel items (carbon ceramics are an option) and as the road starts to plunge into a set of hairpins for the first time they feel absolutely up to the task of wiping off speed and have all the underfoot progression that you could want on the road.
This particular car comes with the optional PASM adaptive dampers, and even sitting on huge, optional 20-inch rims (19s are standard) the damping is as exemplary as you’d hope for. Grip is simply stunning, with the whole car displaying perfect mid-engined balance, perhaps helped by the (again optional) limited-slip differential with Porsche Torque Vectoring.
And so to the steering. While it isn’t quite as full of subtle feel as the old hydraulic system, I can’t honestly say that it gets in the way of my enjoyment of the new Boxster S. You can certainly feel the front tyres biting and then smearing across the road surface as you load them hard into a turn. The steering’s weighting is good too and its accuracy is unquestionable, which in the mid-engined Boxster are the characteristics you need most, because the level of detailed information coming from the front end has never been as infinitesimally crucial to judging grip as in the more fundamentally unbalanced 911 with its buoyant nose. The only word of caution I’ll sound is that it will be interesting to try the Boxster in slipperier conditions, as that’s where I struggled most with the new 911’s EPAS.
How does it compare?
It’s still the class leader, now facing stiff competition from the (very basic) V6 Jaguar F-types. Compared to the previous generation car it also looks much more confident and assured, and it certainly no longer deserves to be called the ‘poor man’s Porsche’.
Anything else I should know?
The roof will now furl and unfurl in just nine seconds and it’s all done with just the press of a button (rather than having to secure it manually as you did before). Porsche is also claiming 15 percent improvements in CO2 and fuel economy.