Admittedly, its body isn’t as tightly controlled as that of the Audi and it makes a greater show of its weight through corners, but it’s no deal-breaker. If anything, its supple, more forgiving set-up makes the Z4 the car you’d choose for long-distance stints – and it certainly dispatched the long drive up from London with little bother.
And while its 3.0-litre straight six might not quite match the TT’s five-pot for outright character or performance, it’s the most responsive of the two by a mile. It’s coupled with a gearbox that’s seems happier to respond to a tug of the paddle shifters than the Audi’s twin-clutch arrangement is, too. But even if your concentration falters and you allow the revs to drop off, its well of torque is there as a safety net. All 369lb ft of its muscle is available from 1600rpm, and it feels it. This is an engine that’s happy to pull from any point in the rev range, right up to the redline.
The same can’t be said of the Boxster’s engine, which can feel even more lethargic and strangled than the Audi’s. There’s very little low-down urgency present here, and progress from this point feels noticeably stunted. It’s not until you get the crankshaft spinning at speeds well above the 3500rpm mark that it starts to come to life, but even then the accompanying soundtrack is nothing more than a flatulent drone.
Which is a pity, really, because the Boxster T is easily the sharpest-handling car here. In terms of its responsiveness, its balance and its fleet-footedness, it’s simply on another level. The dainty steering wheel paints a far clearer picture of how the tyres are interacting with the road than the other two, and at all times its chassis feels as though it’s more in tune with both your inputs and the Tarmac beneath you.
With its adaptive dampers in their firmest setting, the car can feel a bit too tightly controlled for the roads we’re on, but slacken them off and it breathes with the topography under-wheel in a graceful, elegant fashion. The short throw of its manual ’box is wonderfully tactile and a joy to engage with too, so the fact you’ll need to interact with it so much to keep the engine on the boil is at least one silver lining to its asthmatic performance. It’s an utterly flattering sports car, this – adjustable, communicative and engaging to the last.