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Road Tests

Porsche Boxster S

Porsche's Boxster sheds its apologetic skin to reveal the beast within

Price: From £45,385 (Boxster non-S from £37,589). On sale May
Engine: 3,436cc, flat-six cylinders, 24 valves, 315bhp
Transmission: Six-speed gearbox, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 173mph, 0-62 in 5.1sec, 32.1mpg, CO2 206g/km

The Porsche 911 underwent a major reinvention at the end of last year. So the arrival of a new Boxster two-seater soon after was inevitable, given the front halves of these two Porsches have always been near-identical underneath. And here it is.

Much of what has made the new 911 new applies to the Boxster. So, the body structure is lighter, stiffer and contains much aluminium; the wheelbase is longer, the wheels are set more widely apart, and the styling has a more assertive edge. This last part is important, because in its 15 years to date, the Boxster has always suffered from a slightly apologetic look. The nose is now stubbier, the windscreen rake racier, the wheels bigger and the flanks have gained bold ducts to funnel air to the mid-mounted engine. The rear spoiler's line extends through the rear lights, although just the non-light section raises itself as speed rises. From demure to demonstrative: a clever transformation.

Inside, too, new-911 themes follow. Most obvious is the high, upward-sloping central console, which unfortunately ousts the normal handbrake in favour of a technologically neat but functionally clumsy electric one. The manual gear lever ahead of it doesn't select seven forward ratios as it does in the 911, though; the gearbox retains six speeds unless you specify the PDK (double-clutch) automatic.

Another new-911 feature now found in the Boxster is the electric power steering. An open cockpit, too, so after just nine seconds of electro-hydraulic activity the roof is unlatched and stowed. It takes just a few bends and bumps to reveal the new structure to be impressively rigid, not a shudder to be felt. The suspension feels more supple and fluent, with the Sport mode of the optional Porsche Adaptive Suspension Management (PASM) no longer intolerably choppy on poor roads.

As before, there are two engine options. The larger S version is still a 3.4-litre version of Porsche's direct-injection flat six, now with 315bhp instead of 310, but the smaller now also gains the direct injection previously denied to it and has shrunk back to the 2.7 litres of earlier base-model Boxsters. Power is 265bhp.

I naturally incline to a manual Boxster S as my ideal. The engine is smooth, punchy, revvy, tuneful, and the gear change is a wrist-flick delight. The S was ever thus, so the new car's new abilities lie elsewhere. The ride I've mentioned, but it is combined with a precision and tenacity in corners that the previous Boxster could never quite manage.

You need the PASM in Sport or Sport Plus to eradicate a feeling of looseness in the steering around the straight-ahead, brought about by an excess of assistance. So you separately switch the suspension damping back to normal mode and gain the best of all worlds. Yes, the electric steering has lost the detailed feedback of road surfaces that was such a joy in the old Boxster, but in itself it feels fine.

Another big advance is in noise levels. You hear all the good parts of the engine's song but the brain-drilling resonance you used to suffer with the roof up has gone. Then there's the PDK transmission option, which in Sport mode shifts exactly when you want it to in a miracle of intuition – although in Sport Plus it's too frantic and in normal mode too sleepy.

And the Boxster 2.7? It's rapid enough to make you feel very good about the near-£8,000 saving. Either way, no rival – BMW Z4, Mercedes SLK, Audi TT RS – comes close to matching the pure pleasure that driving a Boxster brings.