2012 Porsche Boxster S Review

Lighter, longer, lovelier, but is it still the best handling sports car?

By Shahzad Sheikh

2012 Porsche Boxster

I remember driving a first generation Boxster back in the late 1990s very vividly. The balance, the poise, the response to inputs and the forgiving and accessible nature of its dynamic abilities immediately made it more a driver’s choice than its more famous big brother in my opinion. This wasn’t a poor-man’s 911, this was the smart choice.

Whenever I’ve driven Boxsters and indeed its coupe version, the Cayman, since then, I’ve only been further reassured that this remains the case.

But for 2012, there is an entirely new Boxster. The looks might be familiar (well that’s a Porsche thing isn’t it?) but this is otherwise very different – lightweight body using part aluminium, longer length, longer wheelbase, lower stance, centre of gravity closer to the ground, windscreen starting further forward, no tonneau cover for a fully electric canvas roof, a whole new interior, revised chassis and new electro-mechanical power steering.

Design

The curves are more accentuated in the new car, giving it more classical lines and a sexier profile. The side scallop adds some great drama, and the rear kick integrating the spoiler into the tail and lights themselves is a surprising bit of detail that resolves the rear-flowing contours very well indeed. It definitely also seems to be sucking itself harder into the ground, the massive optional 20 inch wheels on this car filling out those wheel arches, spread out further into the corners with shorter overhangs, all giving it a racy stance.

It’s a lovely restyle that retains the Boxster identity but is quite a head-turner at the same time. I’d get it in strong or bright colours, plain colours, like silver, don’t seem to show-off the enhance look as well.

Inside it follows in the footsteps of the new 911 which has had a completely new and modern interior inspired by the Panamera which took its ideas from the Carrera GT. In the new Boxster it’s packed in tight though and fellow road-tester Imthishan Giado seemed to find it a little crowded with the raised look of the dashboard and higher central console.

Personally I actually like sports cars that allow you to ‘sink’ into them and seem to form themselves tightly around you. But if you’re in any way claustrophobic, you might wanna try sitting in one with the roof up before buying it. The roof itself is canvas but is very insulated and feels like a fixed hardtop once it’s up. To open you don’t have to release a catch anymore, just flick a button to put the thing down in less than 10 seconds. The seating position took a while to get used to, and if you have long legs like me, you could struggle to get that distance-to-steering-wheel/distance-to-pedals ratio just right.

There’s little space to put things like your phone, and with a big central screen taking up so much space, the A/C controls have been shoved down in front of the transmission lever and aren’t always easy to make out. But of course once you get used to the car, that won’t be a problem.

Drivetrain and performance

This car was fitted, as the vast majority (if not all) of them will be, with the seven-speed PDK auto. It’s mated to a the 3.4-litre flat-six on this S version (regular Boxster gets a 2.7 now) and puts out 311bhp, launching this thing to 100kph in just 5.1 seconds with a top speed of 279kph.

Throttle response is very keen and the engine howls in glee as you wind it up. The fact that you’re sitting lower allows you to know you’re moving very fast, but the well insulated cabin keeps noise, vibration and harshness at bay.
There’s sport mode for the gearbox, and it does a terrific job left to its own devices. It’s even more engaging, of course, to use it in manual shift mode, although I don’t like the push-pull steering wheel buttons, so I resorted to using the lever instead (you can opt for paddleshifts too). Changes are snappy and quick and in Sport Mode you get a very positive sense of the gears hooking up.

Ride and handling

Our car had fat rubber and you certainly felt the fidget and bump-thump from the road surface. On the flip side, there’s a lot of grip from that new rubber (this car was barely broken in) and hence not much desire to play. But then this car is not about burnouts or sideways antics, it’s always been about precision and stability.

And it does that extremely well indeed. The direction changes are even more eager, the body composure second to none and the grip keeps it glued to road with corners handled in a very neutral fashion. You’d have to be going too fast for public roads to get this thing out of shape.

Which, admittedly, is perhaps a little disappointing, because I remember there was a hint of naughtiness in the old cars. However, even if that were also the case with the 2012 Boxster, I’m not too sure I’d go exploiting it. There’s a little disconnect from this car that slightly saps that last x-percent of reassurance you need to fling a mid-engined car about with abandon, and that’s down to the new electric power steering which, whilst accurate, well-weighted and quick, doesn’t transmit as well as the old steering did.

Verdict

Although I can’t help feeling that the driving experience is not quite as visceral as it used to be, make no mistake, Porsche has made the Boxster even better than before, and that’s some task. And I still say it’s the better choice over the 911 – particularly when you bear in mind that it’s over AED100k ($27k) cheaper than the cheapest 911 coupe.

You can also put the roof down, which I did and the wind deflector and cooled seats proved very effective during an evening run from Fujairah to Dubai despite 40+ degrees in July – oh, and it’s over AED150k ($41k) cheaper than the 911 Cabriolet.

It’s beautifully finished, nicely presented and decently equipped, although admittedly our test car was fitted with over AED53k worth of options taking the price to AED270,970. Options included Porsche Communications management, Bose surround sound, multi-function steering wheel, seat cooling, the 20-inch wheels and the Porsche Active Suspension (PASM) and more.

Even the blue paint on this car was a cost-extra option. Speccing up a car on Porsche’s very useful online configurator, with just the PDK, PASM and the wind-deflector took the price to AED231,910. Add another 10k for sat nav and audio connectivity. Realistically you’re probably looking at around AED250k ($68k) for a decently specified Boxser S.

Regardless though, it’s definitely one to go on the shopping list if you’re looking for a thoroughbred sportscar.

Spec
2012 Porsche Boxster
Price: AED217,100 ($59k)
Engine: 3.4-litre, six-cylinder Boxer, 311bhp @ 6700rpm, 265lb ft @ 4400rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 5.0seconds, 277kph, 8.0L/100km (PDK)
Transmission: six-speed manual or seven speed auto PDK, rear wheel drive, mid-engined
Weight: 1350kg

 

2 responses to “2012 Porsche Boxster S Review”

  1. Todd Stermer says:

    Nice article and pix! I’ll give a thumbs-up to the revised styling. The interior is, of course, missing one important feature: a clutch pedal!

    It’s such a shame that what ought to be one of the best features of this car, the steering, is let down by the electric power assist. Why does a small, mid-engined or rear-engined car even need power steering?

    The cars with the best steering feel are the ones without power steering. The manual steering cars I can think of right now that I’ve driven include a Beetle, Corvair, 911, Alfa Spider, and a BMW 2002. The steering feel on the 911 and the 2002 in particular was fantastic, and the effort wasn’t a problem on either, even with a small diameter steering wheel on the 2002. Another obvious benefit of manual steering is reduced weight, cost, and maintenance.

    Come on Stuttgart – do we really need power steering if the engine is behind the passengers?

  2. Mohamed Humaid says:

    I have a confession to make. I have never admired the way Porsche designers go with their pencils. Never looked at a Porsche and said: Wow! That car just looks awesome! No, not the Carrera GT nor even the 959 (which, aesthetically, is a 911 with a really fat arse). However, this is surprisingly different. There’s something comically cartoonish about its, also, nicely sculpted lines. The upper line flowing horizontally along the length of the car and then having a wonderful waterfall effect just before the rear wheel arch towards the lower part of the car, and then flows back. That taillight treatment is so unlike other bland Porsches. The combination of colors and wheels of the featured car doesn’t show it best, but yeah brighter colors will be way better.

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