Vehicle Comparisons

Porsche 718 Boxster

Porsche 718 Boxster

The Porsche Boxster has long been the benchmark in the sports roadster sector - and still is in this latest turbocharged '718 Boxster' guise. It's more powerful, more efficient, sharper to drive and better looking. What's not to like?

The Porsche Boxster's reputation as a driver's car has been burnished with each successive generation and this improved third generation variant appears to offer a useful step forward in this '718' form. Much has changed on the engine front. The entry level unit has been downsized to a 2.0-litre unit, but thanks to the addition of turbocharging, the good news is that it generates 35bhp more than the old 2.7-litre lump, managing a hearty 300bhp, which is much more than the original Boxster S. The new '718 Boxster S' offers a 2.5-litre capacity (down from 3.4) but the powerplant is now good for 350bhp (up from 315bhp).

A six-speed manual is fitted as standard, although the optional seven-speed PDK double clutch gearbox is sure to be popular. This gets revised software for quicker and smoother shifts. With the optional PDK gearbox, this improved '718 Boxster' will hit 62mph in a claimed 4.7s (nearly a second quicker than before and quicker than the old Boxster S), with the '718 Boxster S' managing to knock over the benchmark sprint in just 4.2s. Handling-wise, the re-tuned chassis enhances cornering performance and the electro-mechanical power steering system is configured to be 10% more direct. 'Porsche Active Suspension Management' is an option and 'S' buyers can specify an even more focused 'Sport Chassis'. Plus there's the usual 'Sport Chrono Package' option with its various selectable driving mode settings that now include a 'Sport Response' button for brief extra engine responsiveness when you need it.

The 718 Boxster has small but subtle differences over its predecessor, the front featuring a wider and more purposeful appearance, with larger cooling air intakes referencing the new turbocharged engine beating within. The nose is completed by restyled Bi-Xenon headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights. In profile, identifying features include independently-styled wheel arches and side sills. Larger air inlet panels with two fins further emphasise the car's dynamic look. The doors are now designed without door handle recess covers.

The rear of the 718 Boxster has been redesigned, characterized by a much wider appearance - emphasized by the accent strip with its integrated 'Porsche' badge between the tail lights. The tail lights have been restyled too and are distinguished by three-dimensional LED technology and four-point brake lights.

Build quality looks better than ever from this car, these days built entirely in-house at Zuffenhausen rather than being contracted out to Valmet in Finland as many early Boxsters were. The key interior styling feature is a gently angled centre stack that houses many of the minor controls and the gear shifter, reminiscent in design to that found on the iconic Carrera GT supercar. The lightweight fully electric hood dispenses with a compartment lid for the convertible top when stowed.

It's hard to countenance now, but the Boxster wasn't an instant hit for Porsche. Many saw the original 204bhp 2.5-litre car as being an overly watered-down facsimile of what a proper Porsche should be. How times have changed. As the mainstream 911 model and its market has matured, the Boxster, and its sibling coupe model, the Cayman, has increasingly come to definitively represent the essence the company's know how for a new generation of buyers. This latest '718 Boxster' model only underscores that fact - to the extent that many buyers will question why you'd pay a big premium for an open topped 911. The marginal benefit of a vestigial pair of rear seats?

Horses for courses you may rightly say, none of which detracts from the fact that Porsche has excelled itself in improving this latest Boxster. The last model bowed out while still comfortably at the top of its game with rivals scratching around for ways to get close. I have a suspicion that it'll be a similar story when this version finally gets pensioned off.

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Audi TT Roadster

Audi TT Roadster

This improved third-generation Audi TT Roadster continues to play it safe on the styling front but packs in some interesting equipment, is built from all the right stuff, undercuts its German rivals on price and gets some great efficiency numbers. Buyers get the options of front or quattro all-wheel drive, with potent TT S and TT RS mdels at the top of the range.

The TT Roadster features an electrically actuated fabric top. This roof features excellent acoustic and thermal insulation, with particular attention paid to the frequencies generated by the passing airflow. A thick fleece layer on the black inner headlining helps reduce the noise level in the interior by up to 6 dB compared with the previous generation TT Roadster.

Audi's tinkered a little with the engine line-up in this revised MK3 model TT Roadster. The engines and transmissions on offer mirror those of the coupe model, which means that the old entry-level petrol unit, a 180PS 1.8-litre TFSI powerplant, has now been replaced by a 2.0-litre TFSI powertrain with 197PS (badged '40 TFSI'), while the previous 230PS 2.0 TFSI engine gets a boost to 245PS (and new '45 TFSI' badging). There's now no longer a diesel option. The TTS retains its existing badging but gets a slight reduction in power (306PS, down from 310PS) but a little extra torque to compensate, so the rest to 62mph sprint figure (4.5s) is actually fractionally improved. The flagship model remains the 400PS 2.5-litre five cylinder TT RS, which only comes with S tronic auto transmission and can get to 62mph in 3.7s.

In conjunction with the 197PS 2.0 TFSI engine, customers have the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch auto transmission. The 245PS unit is available with either the manual gearbox and front-wheel-drive - or with S tronic auto transmission and the multi-plate clutch-based quattro permanent all-wheel drive system. Both versions of the TTS feature quattro as standard. In both transmission types, the close-ratio lower gears enable powerful acceleration, while the wide ratio of each transmission's highest gear reduces the engine speed and with it fuel consumption.

And in summary? Well, the TT Roadster remains an extremely well thought-out sportscar and deserves to continue to sell well. We can't help but think that Audi could have been a little more expressive with the car's styling, given that this was once one of the most extreme-looking roadsters sensible money could buy, but hey, we all grow old and ditch the fashion duds for sensible slacks at some point. What's encouraging about this car is that it includes so much in a package that doesn't compromise on the ideals of its predecessors. It's light but feels built from granite, it's quick but returns efficient fuel figures and, should you need it, there's always the reassurance of Audi's quattro transmission to offer a welcome safety net.

Of course, there will be some who claim the TT Roadster was a compromise to begin with. Whereas the BMW Z4 and Mercedes SLC were clean-sheet sports car designs, the TT began life as a strange amalgam of platform-shared parts and that hasn't really changed. Perhaps that's the genius in this car; that Audi's mix and match collection worked out better than the blue-sky thinking of its rivals. Who knows? What's not up for debate is that this car's still as desirable as ever.

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Mercedes-Benz SLC

Mercedes-Benz SLC

After two decades of selling its SLK model in the compact roadster segment, Mercedes re-launched the car in 2016 as the 'SLC', the name change acknowledging this model's traditionally close relationship with the brand's C-Class saloon, a car with which it shares most of its technology. Fresh additions to the model line-up have revitalised the range: the sporty top-of-the-line Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 variant for example - and the entry-level SLC 180 derivative. In visual terms, stand-out SLC features include the standard-fit diamond radiator grille and the optional LED Intelligent Light System.

The mainstream engines start with the SLC 180 which features a 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine developing 156bhp. Next up are the 2.0-litre petrol variants, the SLC 200 which offers 184bhp and the SLC 300 which delivers 245bhp. The efficiency champion remains the 204bhp diesel model, the SLC 250d. For high performance, there's a fresh range flagship, the Mercedes-AMG SLC 43. This car mates a 367bhp, 3.0-litre V6 biturbo engine with a modified version of the AMG sports suspension familiar from the old Mercedes-AMG SLK 55, and the combination is reflected in the sporty performance figures, with the SLC 43 accelerating from rest to 62mph in 4.7 seconds.

The SLC 180 and SLC 200 models are fitted with a 6-speed manual gearbox. The brand's latest sport/comfort-oriented 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission is available for these models as an option and fitted as standard in the SLC 250d, the SLC 300 and the AMG SLC 43. Mercedes thinks that a big SLC selling point will be its 'DYNAMIC SELECT' vehicle dynamics system, one of those that enables you to alter your car's engine, transmission, steering and suspension characteristics at the touch of a button. The five modes - 'Comfort', 'Sport', 'Sport+', 'Eco' and 'Individual' are easy to select using the DYNAMIC SELECT button in the upper control panel on the dashboard console. The selected mode is shown on the colour multifunction display and also appears as a pop-up message on the head unit display. DYNAMIC SELECT is a standard feature in the SLC 300 and SLC 250d. In the SLC 200 with 9G-TRONIC, transmission mode selection is available as an option. The SLC 43 features an AMG Sport exhaust system as standard and uses the two adjustable exhaust flaps to adapt the sound to the mode selected via DYNAMIC SELECT. This is optional on some other models and keen drivers will also want to look at the extra-cost 'Dynamic Handling package' which features a 10mm lower chassis, an adaptive damping system, a direct steering system and the brand's clever 'ESP Dynamic Cornering Assist' package.

As part of the facelift that's transformed the SLK into this SLC model, the Mercedes-Benz designers have tried to further hone this roadster's sporty look. There's a re-styled front section that sees the steeply raked diamond radiator grille elongate the appearance of the arrow-shaped bonnet. In addition, there's a bumper which features striking air intakes, dynamically modelled contours and high-quality chrome trim at the lower edge, along with distinctive headlights incorporating LED daytime running lamps, plus there's the option of an LED Intelligent Light System. The side view of the SLC reveals the typical features of a roadster, with a long bonnet, a passenger compartment that is set back and a short rear. The silhouette is defined by a variety of things; the gently rising beltline, the sweeping curve of the roof, the powerfully moulded wheel arches, sporty 16 to 18-inch light-alloy wheels and the ventilation grilles in the front wing.

Inside, Mercedes has tried to give the cabin a higher quality feel, with extra flashes of aluminium and carbonfibre, plus electroplated control elements for the electrically adjustable seats and gearshift paddles. The instrument cluster looks smarter too, with the tubular instrument surrounds now featuring black dials and red needles. A large, multifunction, colour TFT display with a 4.5-inch screen sits between the two dials, with a black-dialled analogue clock available as an option. The main central infotainment display between the two ventilation outlets in the centre console goes up in size from 5.8 to 7 inches. There's also a smarter flat-bottomed steering wheel trimmed with DINAMICA microfibre.

As with the old SLK, you get an electrically-operated panoramic folding hard-top vario-roof that you can operate at speeds of up to 25mph. This can come with a 'MAGIC SKY CONTROL' option allowing you to lighten or darken the glass top at the touch of a button. Plus we'd also want to pay extra for the 'AIRSCARF' neck-level heating system. The 335-litre boot continues to be the biggest in the segment.

In summary, a powerful package. If you believed that the two-seat roadster was becoming a selfish and irresponsible indulgence, Mercedes clearly thinks it can persuade you otherwise.

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