Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
If you're looking for a car that's the bee's knees to drive, the entry-level Boxster 2.0-litre is a sound choice. With 295bhp it's not slow (0-62mph in 4.7sec when you fit the optional seven-speed PDK automatic gearbox and Sports Chrono Pack, or 5.3sec with the standard six-speed manual 'box) and it has a sporting power delivery that builds willingly all the way through the rev range, but gets really gusty from around 3000rpm.
Don't buy the S model. It's quicker (0-62mph in as little as 4.4sec in the best spec), but not as sweet, with some unpleasant flat spots as you rev it. Instead, for keen drivers, we'd advise going for the Alpine A110 instead or, if you just want speed with the wind in your hair, an Audi TT Roadster. But if your budget can stretch to the Boxster GTS, you should go for that. It's 394bhp six-cylinder motor is an absolute dream; it'll pull easily in higher gears from low revs, but offers explosive energy when you want to drive your sports car in a sports car fashion. It really is worth the extra cash. The Boxster Spyder offers another 20bhp on top, and you can read about that in our separate review by clicking the link.
The six-speed manual gearbox is more entertaining for keener drivers, but its long gearing means you’ll rarely need more than second and third for spirited – but still legal – driving. The optional fast-shifting, seven-speed PDK automatic gearbox is worth considering for those expecting to do a lot of slogging through traffic. Braking performance from the standard brakes is good, so only think about the expensive carbon-ceramic option if you're going to do track days.
Suspension and ride comfort
Adaptive dampers (called Porsche Active Suspension Management, or PASM) with a 20mm lower ride height are optional on the Boxster and Boxster S, but standard on the T and GTS. We've only ever tried models with this suspension fitted, but even so they ride remarkably well by sports car standards – including on 20in alloy wheels. Sure, it's firm, but the damping is good enough to keep you from feeling uncomfortable over the usual flotsam and jetsam. Only really big imperfections, mainly around town, expose the car's inherent stiffness.
The BMW Z4 is noticeably softer but also bouncier over really undulating roads, while the Alpine A110 manages the balance between firmness and control just that little bit better than the Boxster. If you're worried about comfort, ask your Porsche dealer for a test drive in a car with the standard suspension and smaller alloy wheels. Both should improve things.
Any sports car (convertible or not) worth its salt needs to offer handling excitement in spades and the Boxster certainly doesn’t disappoint. Its steering is wonderfully accurate and precise, with enough feedback to give the driver plenty of confidence. Turn in to a bend and there’s virtually no body roll and an enormous amount of sideways grip. Put simply, its handling is on a different level to rivals such as the Audi TT Roadster, BMW Z4, Toyota Supra and Jaguar F-Type Convertible. Only the lightweight Alpine A110 outdoes it, feeling more playful and agile, but it's a close contest.
The Boxster also has a wonderfully broad range of talents. It feels just as at home on fast, sweeping corners as it does pottering around town, where the steering is light enough to make parking easy.
Noise and vibration
There is no question which engine to buy for the right noise: the 4.0-litre, six-cylinder in the Boxster GTS and Spyder. It's rich and soulful, which is exactly what you want from a sports car, and in the Boxster, with the roof down, it sounds even more invigorating. So much so that even the V8s in the Jaguar F-Type Convertible can't quite compete – they're loud but the noise sounds a bit more contrived.
You’ll be very disappointed by the note of the four-cylinder engines in the Boxster 2.0-litre and Boxster S 2.5-litre. Their monotonous drone isn't too dissimilar to the original Volkswagen Beetle's, although the 2.0-litre is smoother and less obnoxious than the 2.5-litre. If your budget doesn't stretch to a GTS and you want a cool-sounding sports car, then try the Alpine A110 instead; it still uses a four-cylinder engine but one that's much sweeter than the Boxster's.
The standard six-speed manual has one of the sweetest shift actions you’ll find on any car and the PDK auto is equally adept. Wind and road noise are the biggest bugbears of Boxster ownership – with the roof up there's more of both on the motorway compared with a BMW Z4. On the plus side, with the roof down and wind deflector in place, buffeting in the Boxster is minimal.