Jun 8 2009 Chris Russon
ONLY Porsche is cool enough to deliver a blatant blend of old and new when it goes about updating a living legend.
Everything about the latest incarnation of the Porsche Boxster harks back to the classic Spyder of the 1950s, but the car is as modern as they come.
Outside the retro link is emphasised by a new nose and tail which are so 'Spydery' in looks yet fitted out with LED lamps at the rear and headlamps like those from the Carrera GT.
Inside a traditional triple instrument binnacle sits in front of the driver and, just as on the original Boxster, there is a digital speed read-out in the bottom of the rev counter.
Then comes a new optional goody - a lap timer comprising a proper stopwatch but with an LCD display in the analogue face for those needing hundredth of a second accuracy when putting the new Boxster through its paces.
It's part of what Porsche calls a Sports Chrono pack and includes launch control to get the ultimate in acceleration from this amazing mid-engined roadster.
Best used on the track and not the open road , the blast off device shaves three tenths of a second from the 0 to 60 acceleration which translates to five seconds on the 3.4-litre Boxster S and 5.6 seconds on the 'standard' Boxster which is now powered by a new 2.9-litre flat six boxer engine.
The engine replaces the previous 2.7-litre used in the original Boxster and gives the new model enough bite to blow away anything Mercedes, Audi or BMW can offer for similar money.
Priced from £33,998 it may be the cheapest Porsche on the market but lacks nothing when it comes power, performance and handling.
It is as much a delight for even the most demanding driver as the 911 which for so many is the ultimate in automotive engineering.
Developing 255bhp the new engine is 10bhp more powerful, has a top speed of 163mph yet will average around 30mpg with emissions of 221g/km.
The new Boxster S has also received a power boost and now develops 310bhp, an increase of 15bhp. It too can average almost 30mpg with similar CO2 output when Porsche's semi-automatic PDK gearbox is fitted and only marginally less as a six speed manual.
The S is priced from £40,486 which means both versions cost little more than the previous model.
Pound for pound the car offers phenomenal performance with economy - but watch the extras which can add as much as half again to the price.
Fit active suspension, a limited slip differential plus the seven speed PDK box and the bill goes up by some £4,000.
Sat nav adds another £1,900, leather trim an extra £2,000, metallic paint £1,500 and the chrono pack is £520. It is not too hard to turn the Boxster S into a £60,000 machine.
Nevertheless, the Boxster S remains the finest high performance roadster imaginable. Its balance is nigh on perfect, it is nimble, precise and fantastically quick. That goes for the hood as well which can be opened electronically in just 12 seconds once it has been unlatched manually.
The PDK box - it stands for Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe - is a double clutch transmission developed for the race track but unlike many rival systems offers refined changes in auto mode and rapid fire shifts as a manual.
Replacing the tiptronic auto box from the previous model it is available on both versions and when fitted moves the car into a league of its own.
While the S is close to perfection the regular Boxster has been transformed by the bigger engine and the advanced handling systems. In every way it is no longer a poor relation.
With Audi and BMW both joining the high performance fray with TT and Z4 convertibles and Mercedes already established with its SLK AMG, there has never been such choice for fans of rapid open top two seaters.
All have plenty of worthy qualities but for the purist Porsche has just trumped the lot.