23 March 2012 - 11:00
Live from the 2012 Porsche Boxster launch
By STEPHEN CORBY
St Tropez, France
I've never really fancied the Porsche Boxster. I've always loved it, of course, because it's so fantastic to drive and because the steering is so good that if you shut your eyes while driving it (don't try this, it can really hurt) you can kid yourself you're in a 911, but I've never lusted after it.
My reasons are typically shallow. It's not the poor man's Porsche tag, it's just the looks. From the front it's always resembled a 911 that's smiling really hard, to disguise the fact that it's actually a Boxster, and from the rear, with its silly centrally located pipes, it's always looked like the back of a Christmas beetle, after you've accidentally stepped on it. Side on, its proportions also looked a bit wrong, and that big air intake behind the door a bit tryhard.
The good news is that things have changed. The new Boxster, launched to Australian media yesterday in St Tropez, France, on a drive that included a sub-sane blat along a former Monaco Rally stage, barely wider than a cricket pitch, is a very different beast.
It's 60mm longer, 10mm lower and has a 40mm wider track and bigger wheels all round, meaning it's got heftier proportions and a wider footprint on the road. More importantly for me, though, it's had a manly facelift, replacing its girly, cutesy front end with a squarer, meaner face and sexier eyes; tidying and toughening up the rear end (the silly pipes are still in the middle but your eye is so caught by the uber cool incorporated spoiler, which runs through the redesigned rear light cluster, that you don't care).
It's so much more macho and menacing, in fact, that a female journo asked whether Porsche feared its aggressiveness might put off the female buyers who previously flocked to Boxsters. A male journo would never have been so sexist, for why can't women like cars that look cool?
As is the norm for any product from the VW group these days it also has more powerful engines that use less petrol (you can read all the details in our full review in the May issue) but what's more exciting is how it drives. This Boxster is so sharp, so fast and so sweet handling that it's closer to a 911 than ever and, with its mid-engined balance, some might even say better in some ways.
And it definitely sounds better, with the sports exhaust bouncing off the precipitous cliffs of the Maritime Alps (they used to be sailors before they retired to the mountains) in a deep, throaty howl, complete with explosive pops and bangs on the overrun.
It's hard to find fault with the new Boxster at all, except that the new electromechanical steering is slightly less wondrous than in the old car, but it's still the best in the world.
New Boxsters will lob in Australia in July, with no doubt a very slight price rise, countered by new and improved spec levels.
I want one. I even fancy one.