By Samuel Ee
Lighter, faster, and more frugal. These days, it seems no new model is launched without touting this trio of improvements. But for the new Porsche Boxster, there is a fourth and perhaps more important change - more macho. Where once this Porsche roadster had a soft and cuddly appearance, the third-generation two-seater convertible now gets sharper lines for a brand new, more masculine look. So if you're male and remotely concerned about image, chances are you won't mind being seen in this particular Boxster.
With styling inspired by the breathtaking Porsche 918 limited series car, the latest edition of the Boxster gets 'vertical' headlights and larger side air intakes in 'recessed' doors. Its sportier proportions are not because the car has been lengthened or widened, but are thanks to a wheelbase that has been extended 60mm to 2,475mm, the 40mm and 18mm wider front and rear track respectively, and bigger 20-inch wheels. At the back, the tail has been redesigned with sharper wings and a spoiler that extends visually into the rear lamps.
The harder edge of its styling is carried over to the drive. From the moment you step on the accelerator, the new mid-engined Porsche feels totally different. It is lighter and stiffer with an aluminium-steel hybrid body design that shaves 30kg off the 1,350kg Boxster S with the 3.4-litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine and seven-speed PDK double-clutch gearbox.
Torsional rigidity has increased 40 per cent, so the Boxster S feels as taut as a tightrope. The redesigned chassis gets lighter and stronger suspension components and combined with the wider track, the Porsche revels in its newfound agility.
Tight off-camber turns can be taken frighteningly fast while sweeping S bends betray no understeer. Also impressive for an open-top car is the virtual absence of body flex. It seems almost nothing about this new convertible can reduce driver confidence unless you have a fear of speed or messy hair.
Part of the credit has to go to the new electric power steering. Like the new Porsche 911, the new Boxster has ditched the old hydraulic set-up for an electro-mechanical system. Apart from saving fuel, it also filters out vibrations and other unnecessary feedback. So even though the steering now seems a little lighter, it is as direct and extremely precise.
The displacement of the Boxster S engine stays the same but power now rises 5hp to 315hp while torque is unchanged at 360Nm. More interestingly, fuel economy is up 14.9 per cent.
As for the entry-level Boxster, its 2.7-litre unit means it has downsized from 2.9 litres previously. But power climbs 10nhp to 265nhp and torque is up 10Nm to 280Nm. Fuel efficiency also improves by 15.4 per cent.
As with all Porsches, there is the Sport Chrono package option to further boost performance and cut acceleration time. The package includes the Sport Plus driving program for more urgent engine response and gearshift points, as well as to enhance the dynamic engine mounts' damping characteristics. Selecting the Sport Plus button on the lower centre console also opens the exhaust flaps for a delicious exhaust burble that is best enjoyed with the roof down.
But the nicest part about the Boxster is the duality of its character. Leave it in automatic and the drive can be as smooth and relaxed as you want it to be. But press the Sport button and flick the steering-mounted shift paddles to change gears manually and you will have an exhilarating time in a powerful, well-balanced mid-engined sports car.
With such radical changes to its styling and driving dynamics, it seems the only thing the new Boxster has carried over from its predecessor is the name.