Review: Porsche Boxster GTS
Our extended drive of the best Boxster ever. Which makes it very good indeed...
A blue-sky summer’s morning in Germany’s Black Forest, and
the good lord of driving is in his element. A smooth track hairpins
its way up through cool, dark woods against a fresh-polished landscape, the scent of cut grass on the breeze. The roads are empty, and we are in the shiny new version of one of the very best roadsters in history. Germany, in footballing vernacular, has played a blinder.
“They just do things… better than we do, don’t they?” I say to photographer Lipman. “Why isn’t Germany in charge of everything?” Photographer Lipman coughs quietly and raises an eyebrow. Fair point. But let’s be honest. If you were to entrust our automotive future to any country on the planet, it’d be Germany, wouldn’t it? Germany, with its proper, sensible motorsport speed limits (or lack thereof), and its... its scenery, and, most of all, its annoyingly excellent cars. Like the Boxster GTS, the fastest iteration of Porsche’s ‘baby’ two-seat roadster ever. Fastest, yes, but the GTS isn’t the Boxster equivalent of the 911’s GT3, GT2 or Turbo. No, this is a far more subtle hotting-up of the Boxster S, with that car’s 3.4-litre flat-six bumped up by a gentle 15bhp, and a handful of torques, to 325bhp and 370Nm. The GTS’s chassis has been dropped 10mm and treated to most of Porsche’s usually optional tools of traction trickery, there’s also much none-more-black GTS jewellery and a new set of 20-inch wheels borrowed from big brother 911. And that’s it: no vast turbocharger or massive weight loss or bonnet-mounted weaponry.
Which, if you’re the sort of upstanding chap with petrol coursing through your nostrils and the whiff of tyresmoke in your veins, you might view as a bit of a half-baked effort from Porsche. Me, I’m not so sure. And here’s why.
See, if you cook as enthusiastically and as badly as I do, you’ll be familiar with the concept of the Infinite Spiral of Flavour Destruction. I don’t think this is an official term, for I just made it up. Here’s how it goes: you’re getting towards the end of making, say, a lovely fish soup, and you taste your lovely fish soup, and you think, hmm, that probably needs a bit of salt, so you add a bit of salt, and then you taste the soup and you think, hmm, that’s a bit salty, what it really needs is a bit of lemon to balance things out, so you squeeze half a lemon, and then you taste it, and you think, hmm, this now only tastes of lemon, probably ought to level things out with a bit more salt, and very soon you have a pan of inedible salty lemon juice that tastes not even slightly of fish soup.
Which was exactly – well, not exactly – my concern when rumours emerged of this faster, harder Boxster. See, the standard Boxster S is such a delicately balanced car, with every aspect – ride, engine, handling – in such neat harmony that any attempt to sportify it could throw the whole thing out of kilter. Witness the Jaguar F-Type V8 for an example of an over-seasoned roadster: no, you won’t forget the experience, but not necessarily for the right reasons.
But the GTS, thankfully, still feels like a Boxster. It still rides smartly, steers progressively and dispatches corners with ruthless simplicity. I’m not sure there’s a more intuitive-driving car on sale today. You’re never aware of mass moving, or of trying to work out whether there’s more grip at the front or rear, or of managing the onset of oversteer or understeer. You just stick it into a corner and follow the line you always should have taken, the Boxster gently coaching you on the fastest way round.
No doubt you could lure it into daft drift skids, but on dry public roads – even roads as spectacularly twisty as these – you’d have to be doing unprintable speeds to get the Boxster unbalanced in the first place, so extraordinarily high are its limits. That F-Type will chuck itself into a slide while gently exiting a parking space.
Does the GTS feel faster than the standard Boxster? In truth, not really. That power hike, after all, is a mere five per cent. Maybe there’s just a little more urgency towards the top of the rev range, from where, if I were someone who understood the intricacies of variable- intake camshaft control, I’d say Porsche has liberated those extra horses. Against the newest, cleverest generation of turbo petrols, the flat-six still feels a fraction gutless at low revs, only really getting into its stride up past 5,000rpm, but is this really an issue? Surely it’s just an invitation to hoof the Boxster to its 7,800rpm rev limit, and bathe in the deluge of cracks and booms from the GTS’s bespoke exhaust. In any case, this is the point: the GTS doesn’t feel like a fundamentally different car to the Boxster S, just one that’s the tiniest bit sharper around the edges.
Some will want for more. Assuming Porsche is rather better at making cars than I am at making fish soup, and could avoid the Infinite Spiral of Flavour Destruction, it’s interesting to wonder why it didn’t go rather further in the Boxster GTS’s overhaul. After all, it’s not like the chassis can’t take it: even without any further suspension tweaks, the Boxster feels capable of handling another hundred horsepower, easily.
I suspect Porsche’s conservatism stems from the issue that has beset the Boxster and Cayman from their very inception: treading on the toes of big brother 911. Consider this. The Boxster GTS is thirty-one thousand pounds cheaper than the basest 911 Carrera Cabrio, but gives away just 25bhp and 16lb ft of torque. Oh, and it’ll do the 0–100kph run a tenth quicker, too.
And yes, of course, if you need a tiny pair of rear seats, you’ll get the 911, but I am fairly sure not many people buy a 911 for its ability to transport Wee Jimmy Krankie and his even more terrifying identical twin ‘Cupboard Jimmy’ in the back. No, they buy it because it’s a passably practical sports car that doesn’t require you to vacuum-pack your spare underpants so they’ll actually fit in your car for a weekend away (yeah, we’re looking at you, F-Type). But so, it’s worth remembering, is the Boxster, with its decent boot both front and back. (Where is the engine? Where did they hide it?) And, though the 911 Carrera cabrio is far from a slouch, given a choice between that car and the Boxster GTS when faced with this lovely slice of Black Forest tarmac, I know where my (entirely hypothetical) money would go. True, the cabrio isn’t the strongest 911, but remember there’s a Cayman GTS on the way very soon with no less than 335bhp, a car that should ask some rather searching questions of the 350bhp 911 Carrera coupe.
Still. Though it looks like mighty fine value alongside a 911, it’s true you can go rather faster for less money than a Boxster GTS. The Merc A45 AMG – rarely heralded as a budget option in any competition – offers 30-odd horses more and, significantly, four-wheel drive for less cash. And it would stick very, very close to the Boxster on any road or track... but you’d have a whole lot less fun at the same time. Worth considering, too, that to spec a Boxster S to GTS levels would cost you more, and you’d still end up with less power.
Even so, the Boxster GTS is about much more than big shouty numbers. It’s the best real-world roadster out there, made just a little better. A Boxster with a bit more: what’s not to like? World domination assured.
3436cc, flat-six, RWD, 325bhp, 370Nm, 14.6kpl, 190 g/km CO2 0–100kph in 4.7secs, 280kph, 1320kg