Searching for the best sports car on sale today? The Porsche Boxster might just be able to lay a claim to that title. The pretty two-seat convertible boasts perfectly weighted controls, a selection of strong, characterful engines and sublime handling – all of which can be accessed while enjoying the fresh air and rush of wind that come with driving a topless car.
If you’re willing to compromise on that final perk, what does its coupe brother have to offer? The Cayman is, in essence, the hard-top version of the Boxster so, aside from the obvious, what separates the two and which should you choose? We compare the pair side-by-side to find out.
From the outside the only obvious difference between the two is the Boxster’s fabric roof versus the Cayman’s solid metal one. The Cayman’s roof sweeps much further back than the Boxster’s removable fabric one, which some might argue makes it look like the more graceful design.
The rest of the shape is largely similar – the pair share the same round headlights, the same squat proportions and identical tail lights divided by a neatly-integrated rear spoiler.
Other differences come in the form of the special editions. At the top of the Boxster’s range sits the Spyder, which has a tiny fabric roof, a pair of roll hoops and a larger lip spoiler, while the motorsport-inspired Cayman GT4 gains a more aggressive front bumper, a large rear spoiler and a stunning set of 20-inch alloy wheels.
Both interiors are almost identical to look at – featuring the same beautifully constructed cabin, with a long shallow centre console inspired by the design first used by the Panamera. The gorgeous three-spoke steering wheel looks similar to the item fitted to the 918 hypercar.
Both also benefit from a near-perfect driving position, regardless of the seat option. The standard sports chairs are good, but the optional buckets available in the GT4 are, as one tester puts it, “some of the most supportive chairs in motordom”.
Without having to find make allowances for stowing away a fabric roof, the Cayman is the more practical of the two. Compartments in the front and rear combine to offer a total of 425 litres, while the Boxster can only muster 280.
Unlike many convertibles, the Boxster and Cayman were developed to cope without a roof from the outset, meaning the handling differences between the two are minimal. If you really throw both down a road with enthusiasm, the Cayman reveals itself to still be the marginally more stiff of the two.
That’s nit-picking of the highest order, however – both cars are staggeringly good from behind the wheel. The driver is given incredible confidence thanks to its relatively low mass which helps it to dart from corner to corner with a real eagerness. The ride quality is compliant enough to not bounce the car from its intended line over bumps, and it never feels anything other than perfectly tied down to the road’s surface. The brake set up is largely the same in each version, and gives wonderful feel, power and progression.
The only minor criticism noted by testers note relates to the steering. While the electro-mechanical setup is accurate and well-weighted, it lacks the detail of previous Porsche systems. However, this is a detail which the vast majority of drivers will almost certainly never notice – let alone care about.
The entry point to both the Boxster and Cayman ranges share an identical engine. The 2.7 litre, flat six unit pumps out 265hp, enough to help the Boxster reach 62mph from rest in 5.8 seconds, and the Cayman 0.1 seconds sooner.
The S and slightly more potent GTS variants get a larger 3.4-litre unit, which ups power to 315hp (330hp for the Cayman) and knocks the 0-62 sprint down to around the five-second mark. All variants perform strongly and make a wonderful noise, but it’s the GTS which is the most characterful – the sports exhaust system makes the car crackle and pop under heavy acceleration.
The special edition Boxster Spyder and Cayman GT4 get an even bigger power boost courtesy of the 3.8-litre unit from the previous 911 S. Producing 375hp in the Boxster and 10 more in the Cayman, the 0-62mph times drop to 4.5 and 4.4 seconds respectively, and in the case of the Cayman, it will continue accelerating right up to a 183mph top speed.
Fuel efficiency is hardly a priority for cars like this, but the standard and S variants both officially average over 30mpg – impressive considering the performance on offer. All but the GT4 and Spyder are available with a PDK dual-clutch automatic gearbox as an option, while a six-speed manual is standard.
Value for money
You might be forgiven for thinking the Boxster would be the more expensive car of the pair – surely the mechanism for the folding roof adds complication, and therefore cost? That doesn’t seem to be the case, because the entry point of the Boxster range is in fact (a negligible) £139 cheaper than the equivalent Cayman. The same applies for S and GTS models too.
Based on our aggregated wowscores, the Porsche Boxster isn’t just one of the very best cars sports cars available today, it’s one of the best cars of any type. A score of 9.7 is incredible, but it still isn’t enough to beat the Cayman. Of the nine reviews used to score the coupe, it scores a perfect 10. There is so little to criticise that it’s hardly worth mentioning – it’s simply sublime.
That doesn’t mean the Boxster should be completely ruled out of this contest though – although it lacks the absolute focus of the Cayman. Its lack of a roof means that – on a nice day at least – it feels more fun to drive at sensible speeds.
Choosing a winner here is like choosing between the gift of a free pizza or a free curry – while one might state a preference, you’ll be delighted with the outcome either way.