Pros: Brisk acceleration; excellent road feel; quick top operation; upscale cabin; surprising luggage space; extensive dealer network

Cons: Modest standard equipment; pricey options; flimsy cupholders

The Boxster is Porsche's so-called entry-level sports car. Introduced as a 1997 model at a price well below that of Porsche's flagship 911 Carrera sports car, the Boxster made Porsche sports car ownership accessible to more consumers. While the all-new 2013 Porsche Boxster is hardly inexpensive, most 911 models cost more than $100K. That makes the Boxster a comparative bargain, especially considering how close to the 911 it feels from behind the wheel.

The 2013 model year ushers in the Boxster's third model generation (its last redesign was introduced for 2005). With styling that is a clear evolution of the last two designs, the new model nonetheless projects a more upscale appearance than before -- thanks to a lower, wider stance, subtle creases in the fenders, stacked quad headlamps and uniquely detailed LED taillamps. The refined shape also gives it more distinction next to the rounder -- and far more expensive -- 911 Cabriolet.

The Boxster is available only as a 2-seat roadster, and comes standard with a folding fabric top available in four colors. The 1-touch power top can be raised or lowered in only nine seconds and even while traveling at speeds up to 31 miles per hour. Unlike some of its competitors, the Boxster does not have a retractable hard top in the interests of packaging and weight savings. For people who prefer their sports cars with a fixed roof, Porsche makes a hardtop coupe version called the Cayman, which is also all-new and on sale as of April 2013.

The base price for the 265 horsepower Boxster model with standard 18-in wheels starts at $49,500. The 315-hp Boxster S costs $60,100 and adds bi-xenon headlamps, dual exhaust tips, larger brakes and 19-in wheels as standard equipment.

Comfort & Utility

The Boxster is a sports car first and foremost, and the interior is appropriately intimate. You sit low in snug, supportive sport seats. Premium materials used throughout the cabin help justify the Boxster's relatively high price, including soft leather, padded surfaces, contrasting stitching and metallic trim.

The driver faces a 3-canister gauge cluster that includes a sophisticated screen that allows him or her to cycle through numerous trip and infotainment displays. Full control of the audio, climate and optional navigation systems happens via a center-mounted touchscreen and clusters of buttons and switches that spread down around the shifter.

Several storage cubbies are found in the Boxster's cabin, though none are particularly large. Cleverly designed cupholders swing out from behind a folding trim piece on the passenger side of the dash. They are somewhat flimsy, though, making it easy for beverages to spill on the center console buttons; something we experienced more than once during our test drive.

While interior storage is somewhat limited, the Boxster offers surprising luggage space between its two trunks. The 4.6-cu-ft trunk in the very back is capable of holding a set of golf clubs. Like the 911, the Boxster also has a deep front trunk, or frunk, with 5.3 cu-ft of space, which is sufficient for an expandable medium-sized suitcase and a couple of brief cases, or about five large standing grocery bags. Also, since the top folds down over the engine and not into the trunk, lowering the top has no impact on luggage space.

Technology

With Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, automatic climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers and more, the 2013 Boxster's level of standard technology is decent. Though for the price, one might expect options like steering wheel audio buttons, voice-activated controls and a stereo with more than four stereo speakers to have been made standard.

The options list, however, is extremely long and includes a navigation system, Bose surround sound audio, 14-way power adjustable seats or 18-way adaptive seats, LED interior lighting and a heated steering wheel rim. Ordered separately, options can raise the Boxster's price considerably, but fortunately many of the upgrades are bundled into packages.

For people who prefer automatic transmissions, or who want to intensify the driving experience of the Boxster, Porsche's quick-shifting 7-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission with shift paddles may be worth the $3,200 upgrade. Another $7,400 buys you high-performance ceramic brakes. An adaptive suspension, torque vectoring and a Sport Chrono package for the racetrack are also available, though if you add them together with the PDK and ceramic brakes, be sure to budget an additional $16,080 for all of these driver technologies -- not including any wheel or tire upgrades.

Performance and Fuel Economy

For 2013, the standard Boxster's 2.7-liter boxer 6-cylinder engine offers 10 more hp for a total of 265 hp, while the Boxster S model's 3.4-liter boxer 6-cylinder engine now makes 315 hp, five more than last year. The Boxster's 0 to 60 mph times have dropped to 5.5 seconds with the 6-speed manual transmission or 5.4 seconds for PDK-equipped Boxsters (5.2 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package). The Boxster S hits 60 mph in 4.8 seconds with the manual transmission or just 4.6 seconds with the PDK (4.5 with the Sport Chrono Package).

Although the Boxsters are faster and more powerful than before, they are also more fuel efficient -- thanks to direct injection, optimized aerodynamics and new fuel-saving systems that cut off fuel when coasting and shut the engine off at stoplights. As a result, the 2013 Boxster achieves an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rating of 20 mpg city/30 mpg hwy fuel economy with the manual and 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy with the PDK automatic. The Boxster S is nearly as good, achieving 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with the manual and 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy with the PDK.

Driving Impressions

Despite playing second fiddle to the legendary 911 Carrera for the last 15 years, the Boxster has always been delightful to drive. The 2013 model's acceleration is stronger than ever, and becomes downright thrilling the higher the engine revs climb, particularly with the stronger Boxster S. Shifting the 6-speed manual transmission is sheer delight, if you like manual transmissions and are willing to accept the somewhat firm clutch.

With the optional electronically adjustable suspension in the Comfort setting, the Boxster's ride quality is sporty without being harsh, but stiffens up with the touch of a button for more road feel and even flatter handling.

Steering has always been a Porsche specialty, and while the 2013 Boxster has switched to fully electric steering, Porsche has tuned it to be as wonderfully communicative and direct as last year's Boxster. While our tester was not equipped with the expensive ceramic brakes, the standard brakes proved more than adequate for spirited driving on public roads.

A wind blocker between the headrests keeps wind buffeting very low, even when driving fast. With the windows raised and the heated seats activated, top-down driving is possible even on cool nights. The padded, multilayer fabric roof helps insulate the cabin from cold weather as well as outside noise. With the engine so close to the driver, however, the interior can still get a little loud at times -- though if you like performance car sounds, that may not be a bad thing. An optional $2,825 Sport Exhaust system amplifies the engine sound even more.

Other Cars to Consider

Audi TT - Audi's stylish TT roadster starts at $41,650, while a more powerful version, the TTS, is priced at $50,350. Turbocharged 4-cylinder engines power both, but only the 265-hp TTS can keep up with the Boxster from a standing start. However, while the Audi's eye-catching exterior and interior design give it unique appeal, its front-wheel drive architecture prevents it from catching the Porsche when it comes to feedback and rewarding driving dynamics.

BMW Z4 - The BMW Z4 offers a roadster experience that's heavy on luxury at the expense of ultimate sportiness. The base sDrive28i model comes in at $47,350 and is powered by a 240-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder that matches the base Boxster's 32 mpg on the highway, but is neither as quick nor as fun to drive. The quicker Z4 sDrive35i is powered by a 300-hp twin-turbocharged inline 6-cylinder and begins at $55,150, while the $64,200 sDrive35is is the sportiest in the line, with 335 hp and a more aggressive adaptive suspension. The sDrive35is model's ability to accelerate to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds makes it nearly as quick as the Boxster S at least, although its handling isn't quite as precise and its fuel economy is not as high.

Mercedes-Benz SLK - The entry-level roadster from Mercedes-Benz has also been around since 1996, but it has always been more of a junior Mercedes-Benz SL than a true sports car. With its folding metal-and-glass retractable roof, the SLK is heavier and more luxury-inclined than the featherweight Boxster. The turbocharged 4-cylinder SLK250 starts at $42,900, while the $55,400 SLK350 model's V6 offers more grunt. The $67,990 SLK55 AMG is downright muscular with its 415-hp V8 and, with a claimed 0 to 60 time of 4.5 seconds, it is the only competitor in this set that can keep up with the Boxster S.

AutoTrader Recommends

Thanks to their timeless styling, solid build quality and favorable driving dynamics, prior-generation Boxsters have enjoyed good resale value and may prove to be collectible over time. For 2013, the Boxster is more distinct in appearance, more solid and even more fun to drive, with newfound refinement and impressive fuel economy to boot. Thus, the 2013 Porsche Boxster may be considered a good investment that can be enjoyed every day -- especially sunny ones.

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