Porsche Boxster

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Porsche Boxster

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Porsche Boxster

If you look very, very carefully at the photographs of Porsche's all-new Boxster, you still won't be able to tell that it's been changed at all. I've had the car for a week and apa

It's a Rolex when I want a time bomb

If you look very, very carefully at the photographs of Porsche's all-new Boxster, you still won't be able to tell that it's been changed at all. I've had the car for a week and apart from some slightly more heterosexual rear wheels, I honestly cannot see what on earth Porsche's styling department has been doing these past few years.
We know they haven't been overly busy with the new 911, because that looks just the same as the previous 911, which looked pretty much identical to the car Hitler spawned about 4m years ago. And we know they didn't expend too many creative juices on the Cayenne, which is surely the ugliest new car on the market today.

And now it turns out they haven't been beavering away with the Boxster either. The chief stylist, Grant Larson, says: “We started asking ourselves, ‘Where do we want to take this?' So we started modelling away.” Yes, and then you obviously decided to pack it in and go to the pub for a sausage and some beer.

Still, I'm happy to report that Porsche's engineers have made up for the styling department's layzee-boy attitude. Because the car I've been driving is just lovely.

Maybe the gearchange isn't as smooth as you'd like — I missed third as often as I found it — and maybe the 2.7 litre engine in my base model test car doesn't deliver the oomph that you might have expected. It isn't even on nodding terms with the concept of “fast”. But nevertheless the driving experience was just so technical, it feels like the whole car has been machined by Rolex.

With a progressive rate rack, the steering is constantly whispering calm and unfussed messages into the palms of your hands, and your buttocks are always kept bang up to date with news from the wheels. Through the bends, then, this car is an utter delight.

And then when you come out of a corner and the road plunges arrow straight into the heart of the horizon, you plant the throttle into the carpet and are propelled through a bodged upshift into third by a metallic howl from the flat six that, honestly, raises the hairs on the back of your neck.

Something, however, is not quite right. It's hard to put your finger on it but there's something missing, and I think I know what it is. When you drive a Boxster, you do not savour the mid-engined balance or the hand-crafted soundtrack. Because this car doesn't remind you what it is. It reminds you, all the time, of what it's not. And what it's not is a 911.

So you arrive at journey's end thinking: “If only life had dealt me a better hand. If only I'd sold one more photocopier and married a supermodel. Then I could have had a real Porsche.” The Boxster, I'm afraid, is a constant reminder that the grass really is greener somewhere else.

A 911 feels like an analogue car. It feels real, rather than a facsimile. Whereas the Boxster feels like a downloaded digital rendition of the original. A collection, if you like, of ones and noughts. So, like a CD, it's crisp and easy to handle but the 911 — that's like watching the band perform live.

Let me put it this way. Last week, I read the report of an astonishing war-time raid on the port of St Nazaire in western France. A destroyer, disguised to look like a German warship and filled with high explosives, rammed the lock gates, and then 650 commandos ran amok in the docks shooting anything that looked vaguely Hunnish.

They knew there was no way home since the ship that had brought them was about to blow up, and they knew, too, that if they were captured the Nazis were shooting commandos as spies. So they knew it was a suicide mission.

Unfortunately, this extraordinary story had been chronicled by a military historian who was precise about facts and timings and everyone's exact rank. But about as emotional as a tin opener. All the way through, I kept thinking — wishing — that a great author had got hold of the tale and made it live.

And that's the difference between the Boxster and the 911. The Boxster is a clinical delivery system for driving pleasure. The 911 has a heart and a soul.

Still, you may be thinking: “I'm not bothered about the badge, or a heart, or a soul. I am 45 years old and all I want is a two-seater sports car for around £30,000. Then what?” Well, as I've said, the Boxster is a great car to drive and, of course, being a Porsche, it's also beautifully made. Even the satellite navigation system is able to find its way around the country, unlike the system in, say, a BMW, which would struggle to find its own face in the dark.

What's more, the little Porsche is more practical than you might suppose. There are two boots, front and back, which are easily able to accommodate two suit carriers and two medium-sized overnight bags.
On the motorway it's quiet and comfortable, it's got a slot in the dash for your phone's Sim card, it's got a button that firms up the suspension so you can have fun on a track day, and the roof folds away electrically. So you might think it's the ideal sports car for your midlife crisis. And yet . . .

I came home after a five-day marathon filming session to find a new TVR Tuscan in the drive. “Ooh,” I thought, “I have a dinner in Oxford tonight. I'll take that.” Big mistake.

As is the way with all TVRs, you open the door by pushing a small button underneath the door mirror. Then you're inside, where you're presented with an interior that is exactly the same as nothing on earth. For instance, there's nowhere to put the key, so you stab away at every button on the dash causing nothing to happen until you lose your temper.

Then, in the calm after the storm, you breathe deeply and go through the process logically. It is a car. It has an engine. There must be a way of making that engine start, so let's work the problem.

What you do, I discovered, is push a button on the key fob and then, within 10 seconds, push a button on the dash that's disguised as a cigarette lighter. Then the big straight six shudders into life. But hold on a minute. There's a beeping descant to the big bass roar. What could it be? Further investigation reveals that while pressing everything in a search for the starter button, you have pressed something that has activated the hazard warning lights. But what was it? It's hard to tell, especially in the dark, so you look for the light switch. Naturally, this is found underneath the steering wheel alongside another knob that turns but does nothing. And now somehow you have turned on the high intensity rear lights. Or have you? You need to get out and check. But there are no door handles. So you stab more buttons and turn more knobs, to no avail.

I'm not kidding. I was a full 20 minutes in that car before I finally set off, with the fog lamps and the hazard warning lights still on. And then, when I reached the restaurant, I had to ring my host and ask if they'd come out to open the door.

And this is supposed to be the first of the new breed of post-Russian takeover sensible TVRs. It's supposed to be the one-cal, everyday sports machine your granny could handle. It's not. It's like the Mir space station in there and it costs about £7,000 more than the Porsche. And yet . . .

On the son et lumière trip into Oxford, it was a sensation, especially when you take the revs into the red zone and the whole dash lights up like a baboon's arse. This was a loud, bad, spine-tingling, vicious, difficult, bastard of a car. But after a week with that clinical Boxster, I know which I'd rather have.

Vital statistics

Model Porsche Boxster 2.7
Engine type Six-cylinder, 2687cc
Power 240bhp @ 6400rpm
Torque 199 lb ft @ 4700-6000rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual rear-wheel drive
Fuel 29.4mpg (combined)
CO2 229g/km
Acceleration 0-62mph: 6.2sec
Top speed 159mph
Price £32,320
Rating 3/5
Verdict Clinical and precise, but lacking real soul



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