Porsche Boxter

The new Porsche Boxster is fast and fun. One problem: where to drive it in gridlock Britain? Michael Booth dreams of his race-circuit debut

Would suit Well, if Alastair Darling owned one, the world would almost certainly be a better place.
Price: from £32,320
Maximum speed: 159mph, 0-60 in 6.2 secs
Combined fuel consumption: 29.4mpg
Further information: 0845 791 1911

I realise you wouldn't ordinarily turn to this page for financial advice, but forget Google or Tesco, I urge you to invest your surplus cash in motor-racing circuits. I can feel it in my water. Over the next few years driving on the public roads is only destined to become less and less pleasurable. Speed cameras, a decline in driving standards, congestion and the swingeing cost of motoring in the post-Darling era are, for the vast majority of us, due to render the private car no more than a very expensive means of getting from A to B without having to sit next to someone with ferocious halitosis on a bus.

At the same time, cars are being designed to handle better and go faster which will mean that owning cars like the new Porsche Boxster, for instance, will be like having an itch it is illegal to scratch. It's true, you will always be able to find a brief stretch of B-road on which to let rip, but the drudgery of day to day motoring is going to make spending £32,000 on a car as scintillating and addictive as the Boxster deeply frustrating.

Which is where track days come in. The new Boxster is in its element being pushed to the limit on a tight circuit. It is one of those cars in which every component, from the suspension, to the seat bolsters, to the thickness of the steering wheel, has been designed - at a molecular level - to urge you to push harder every time you drive it. Go beyond comfort speeds on corners and the Boxster will reward you with an assuredness and composure that hardly seems credible in a car that rides so smoothly at low speeds. Own a car like this and you will want to see what it can do, and the only place to do that will be on a track.

Though this new Boxster looks precisely the same as the original, launched almost 10 years ago, there have been numerous improvements which make it an even more irresistible drive. There's more aluminium and magnesium to save weight, larger wheels, a sharper gearbox and reworked suspension. It can be specified with Porsche's Active Suspension Management (PASM) which, unusually for such a system, you can actually feel coming into play on fast corners, resisting roll, keeping your course true.

It's not perfect though, the Boxster. A Mazda MX5's gearbox is miles more positive; finding the right gear in a Boxster can be a lucky dip in which you can catch first when you wanted third. Though it hardly feels slow, and you'll be having too much fun to notice otherwise, performance figures aren't likely to scare many rivals either. Porsche's meanness when it comes to optional extras is legendary and, thus, the standard Boxster comes with seats and a wheel and not much else. Things like leather trim and a stereo where you can actually hear the words can easily add the cost of a new Ford Fiesta to your bill. The roof is canvas too, whereas its arch rival, the Mercedes SLK, has the security of a folding tin top. And they missed a chance to give the car the visual makeover it deserves - you can't tell it apart from the last model, aside from the addition of a few bits from the 911 parts catalogue. But, its flat-six's electrifying race-car yowl still sounds sensational; it will hold its value better than almost any other car over the first couple of years' ownership.

As well as which it comes with one tantalising, £507 extra: a stopwatch fitted to the top of the dashboard to record your lap times.

It's a Classic: Porsche 914

The Porsche 914 (1969-75) was the original "poor-man's Porsche", developed, like the 924 that superseded it, in partnership with Volkswagen. The 914 has always suffered from the stigma of its VW-sourced engine, frumpy looks and relative lack of performance but its mid-engined layout actually meant it handled more safely than its big brother, the 911. By the time it got a 2.0-litre upgrade, it had evolved into a fairly capable sports car. The two-seater, Targa-topped 914 is a rare creature today as, because they were cheap to begin with, they were bargains second hand and often fell into the hands of those who couldn't afford the cost of maintaining a Porsche. That said, 100,000 or so were built and you can still pick them up in the US for a couple of thousand pounds. The looks remain remarkably modern for a nigh on 40-year-old car while their fun handling and novelty value should ensure their collectability for the future. This goes double for the 914/6 which had the 110bhp, flat six-cylinder, air-cooled engine from the 911T. Only 3,500 were made.

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