Porsche's mid-engined roadster bares its teeth. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Think of the Porsche Boxster GTS as a gym-toned Boxster S and you're not far off the mark. You get another 15bhp, Porsche's Sport Chrono package and Active Suspension Management (PASM), active engine mounts, 20-inch wheels and sports seats - to name but a few extras.
Although we're more used to S and GT3 badges on the backs of Porsches, the GTS badge is beginning to gain real respect. It was attached to the best of the 997-generation of Porsche 911 road cars and it's also seen on the heftier Cayenne and Panamera models, signifying a more focused and aggressive model that's been designed for fast road use. To date we've never seen the badge on the back of a Boxster. Yes, we've had certain limited edition and Spyder models, but the latest version of Porsche's mid-engined favourite gets treated to the full GTS treatment. More power, more equipment and a suspension system that's designed for the road but can acquit itself on track are the big draws. If you thought of the Boxster as a car bought by those that can't afford a Porsche 911, you need to stop parroting Clarkson and get yourself behind the wheel of one of these.
With the third generation '981' Boxster, big changes were introduced. Longer wheelbase, a lighter and more rigid chassis, an increasing focus on the ever-improving PDK twin-clutch transmission, electrically-assisted power steering and more power were just some of the highlights. The GTS model takes the standard Boxster S 3.4-litre flat-six and massages peak power from 315bhp up to a healthy 330bhp. Torque also increases incrementally from to 360Nm to 370Nm. This translates to a reduction of three-tenths of a second in the ability of the GTS to pummel the 62mph sprint. It now takes just 4.7 seconds in a PDK-equipped car, with the top speed now rated at 177mph. As well as more shove from behind, you also get Porsche's Sport Chrono package and Active Suspension Management (PASM). Here you can alter the damper stiffness and throttle response when you want even sharper response. Dynamic engine mounts are also included and these firm up automatically under hard cornering, acceleration and braking. It means that handling is perceptibly more stable under load change conditions and in fast corners. Whenever a less assertive driving style is adopted, the engine mounts provide a higher level of comfort with less harshness entering the cabin.
Design and Build
With this generation of Boxster, the design really came of age. No longer did it borrow things like the 911's doors, instead having real shape and power in its stance. In fact, I think this latest version of Boxster looks more aggressive than its hard-top Cayman sibling. The overhangs are tighter than before, and the rear wheel arches are now bigger and more power-packed. This GTS model features darker bumper inserts, bigger 20-inch high gloss ten-spoke alloy wheels and bi-xenon headlights as standard. There is some subtle GTS badging on the leading edge of the doors as well as gloss black GTS badging on the boot lid. Drop inside and you'll spot leather sports seats and Alcantara cabin trim as standard.
Market and Model
You'll need to be able to come up with around £53,000 if you want to get your hands on a Boxster GTS. That might seem fairly steep at first glance, but bear in mind that an entry-level 911 drop top comes in at over £82,000 and isn't any quicker than the GTS. Then you'd need to factor in goodies like PASM. Suddenly the mid-engined car look the winner all ends up. It's over £6,500 more than a Boxster S which is quite a step. Having said that, it's quite a step up to a more focused open-topped mid-engined Porsche. That'd be the £657,000 918 Spyder, so the value proposition's definitely working in the Boxster's favour there. Equipment includes auto stop/start and sports mode, remote control hood operation, audio CD with 7-inch colour touch-screen control, a universal audio interface offering MP3 connectivity and a three year warranty. All new Boxster customers also get the opportunity to explore the potential of their car by participating in a complimentary course at the Porsche Experience Centre, Silverstone. It's hard to imagine a more enjoyable day you could spend with your new toy.
Cost of Ownership
Porsche has carved an enviable reputation when it comes to the efficiency of its sports models and the Boxster continues to show other manufacturers the way forward. Any vehicle that weighs less than its predecessor should be applauded and the Boxster's light weight and clever technology help it achieve exemplary economy figures. Fuel consumption for the Porsche Boxster GTS with the seven-speed PDK transmission is 34.4mpg, and 31.4mpg for the six-speed manual. The PDK transmission features a 'sailing' mode whereby the engine is decoupled during periods of trailing throttle or on longer downhill sections, dropping the engine revs to a mere 700rpm, further saving fuel. Prod the throttle and it will instantly resume duty. Residual values have held up extremely well on the standard Boxster S and the more specialist GTS model should be in higher demand still.
Improving on a Porsche Boxster S isn't an easy task. After an extended spell in this model, all I had in my notebook's minus column was that the steering lacked a little feedback at modest speeds. At no point did I feel that as a road car it was lacking in power, but having driven the S with and without the PASM Sport Chrono and Active Suspension Management package, it felt a more composed and enjoyable car with PASM. The Boxster GTS just adds a little more bite to the performance and brings the composure of PASM as standard. The styling isn't overdone, the interior updates are well-judged and the price tag remains competitive. Most buyers will be perfectly content with a Boxster S. It's a genuine five-star car. For those that desire something just a little different, but which still retains that characteristic mid-engined balance, the GTS adds an alternative. A slightly angrier, undoubtedly rarer option maybe, but one that its rivals will be utterly incapable of responding to.