Yes sir we do have a swimming pool but I’m afraid you cannot swim in it because there is a car in it.” And so there was, a new Porsche Boxster, slap bang in the middle of the swimming pool at the Kube Hotel in St Tropez.
No swim then, how disappointing. But then that’s the Kube Hotel for you. Light switches are un-intuitively placed and the door handle requires three full turns of the handle – no one anywhere on Earth expects to turn a door knob three full turns anti clockwise to open a door. The whole place seems as if style has been valued to the detriment of genuine substance.
The same cannot be said for Porsche’s new Boxster. If the Boxster was derided as a poor man’s 911 when it was launched back in 1996 then how about this? The all-new third generation of its mid-engined drop-top could be described as the poor man’s Carrera GT; so much does it resemble that iconic flagship supercar at the front. From the rear its new duck tail spoiler – which rather marvellously is integrated into the tail lights – is as beautiful a rear end as I’ve seen on a roadster.
The new Boxster is lighter, a little bigger and has cleaner, more fuel efficient and more powerful engines. The car is lower, longer and has a wider running track and larger wheels – a designer’s dream – which contribute greatly to the styling of a car that for the first time looks like it’s reached maturity. Not only is this Porsche’s best looking roadster since the 550 Spyder but I am struggling to imagine how the company will ever improve on it.
For the first time the car has electro-mechanical power steering which results in more comfortable, easier driving at lower speeds but which is weighted for more feedback the faster one travels. There will be a lot of fuss made about this compromise. Using an electro-mechanical system over a traditional hydraulic one (the former requires energy only during steering, the latter requires constant energy) helps with fuel efficiency but I find the steering to be direct and well weighted and I struggle to find any real criticism of it.
From St Tropez we drove the 265hp, 2.7-litre Boxster and the 315hp, 3.4-litre Boxster S deep into the Maritime Alps over some incredible roads. Both had Porsche’s PDK semi-automatic, dual-clutched transmission, though we also drove the more demanding manual gearbox Boxster S. Both engines provide enough aural entertainment with the roof open, yet driving is surprisingly refined with the roof closed. The Boxster S provided more power from the bottom up, but it was the entry-level 2.7-litre Boxster, with Sport Plus engaged, that won us over. That is not to say that it is the better car. Obviously, it lacks some of the immediate power availability of the S, but still we enjoyed its engine. The 2.7-litre Boxster demanded to be wound up, but with revs spinning and carrying our speed through the bends, the engine was at its best, and was very rewarding in terms of thrills. I found paddle shifting the dual-clutched PDK system more fun than shifting the traditional gearbox. But it is the Boxster’s improved capability to soak up bumps plus even better cornering ability that is so remarkable. It made for as entertaining and as committed a mountain motoring experience as I have had. High jinks indeed on a beautiful sunny morning on the Cote d’Azur.
Considering that this is the cheapest Porsche your money can buy, a car that is now capable of returning 36.7mpg, the Porsche Boxster is staggeringly good fun. Yet the driving remains comfortable and easy when you’re in the mood for more modest progress. Even the roof is trouble-free and raises and folds down in just nine seconds at up to speeds of 30mph. I can’t usually stand faffing around with drop tops. But Porsche may have just built its most complete car ever. And I think the entry-level Boxster is the one I would buy.
THE FACTS: PORSCHE BOXSTER PDK
TOP SPEED: 162mph
CO2 G/KM: 180g/km
MPG COMBINED: 36.7mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY ****