It was entirely appropriate that our first taste of Porsche's new, second-generation Boxster was on a race track. Porsche's heritage is closely tied to motorsports and its production cars reflect the attention to detail that separates winners from also-rans. We found the Boxster right at home on the track, but don't mistake it for a race car. The new Porsche Boxster is far too comfortable, far too full of electronic amenities, far too useful for the daily grind, than to relegate it to the short-term abuses of the track. This is a car meant to be enjoyed every day, rain or shine.
It's been a long eight years since the Boxster first wowed us with its high fun factor, and it was definitely due for a major overhaul. Never rushing to market, Porsche responded as it usually does, building upon the Boxster's essential goodness with a completely new layer of cockpit friendliness and open-road performance. This is no merely freshened platform. Some 80 percent of this newest Boxster is new to the model. More than half of the car is borrowed from the 2005 911 Carrera, including the steering, front structure, seats and electronics. And it's all good.
Driver comfort, essential to the forming of a true sports car/driver bond, has been improved with the new Boxster. Solutions include ergonomically superior seating contours and a steering wheel that can be adjusted for both reach and rake, bringing Porsche into the modern world. The taller driver, not always welcome in the two-seater world, is thoughtfully accommodated in the new Boxster by a lower seat mounting point and placement of the drilled aluminum pedals closer to the firewall. Safety for these folks has been increased as well from an inch taller supplemental safety bar and two-inch higher headrests. To accommodate these nods to increased survivability in the event of a roll-over, the side windows are larger and the folding top a bit higher. However, because this is a sports car, and because Porsche has the resources and willingness to do so, the folding top was reengineered, its frame constructed of aluminum and magnesium for reduced weight and thus reduction of the car's center of gravity, which is even lower than the previous Boxster's.
Driver control also has been increased due to newly developed variable-ratio steering and the latest generation of grip-enhancing Porsche Stability Management, which now comes standard on all Boxsters. A switch allows the sport-minded driver to disable PSM (at least until the braking threshold is reached), but the driver wanting the ultimate range of ride control and electronic handling assist will want to spend the bucks on Porsche Active Suspension Management, or PASM, ($1,990). This system allows the driver to select Normal and Sport suspension calibrations, and in either mode PASM is a wonder, fulfilling its task of enhancing the driving experience by maintaining chassis equilibrium in all conditions.
Porsche Boxsters come in two flavors, fast and faster. The base Boxster ($43,800) sports a 240-horsepower 2.7-liter flat six that mates to a newly developed standard five-speed manual transmission. The Boxster S ($53,100) is fitted with a 280-horsepower 3.2-liter flat six and a six-speed gearbox. The six-speed gearbox can also be ordered on the base Boxster as part of a Sports Package ($2,680) that includes Porsche's new Active Suspension Management system (PASM). For those who prefer automatic transmissions, Porsche's five-speed automatic Tiptronic S ($3,210) is an option for either Boxster model.
Safety improvements are among the most significant changes to the new Boxster. New passive safety features include a unique head airbag protection system, a first for any roadster and just one aspect of a wide array of safety systems and structures. Night vision can be enhanced by a bi-xenon headlamp option ($990), and fitting into tight spaces made easier by Park Assist ($530). Dynamic safety was increased by the simple expedient of fitting larger brakes, wheels and tires. For the first time the front brake rotors are cross-drilled, gripped by four-piston aluminum monobloc calipers. Don't worry about what that means except that these are among the best brakes in any production car.
Standard running gear for the Boxster is 6.5x17 up front and 8x17 in back, mounted with 205/55 and 235/50 performance radials, front and rear. The S gets 8x18s at the nose and 9x18s under the tail, wrapped by 235/50s and 265/40s, fore and aft. Boxsters can be ordered with the 18-inch S wheels ($1,235) or one of the three 19-inch wheels that also are optional on the S ($2,785 on the Boxster; $1,550 on the S). These big units measure 8x19 in front and 9.5x19 in back and roll on ultra-low-profile tires.
If you're the kind of driver who might, on occasion, want to stretch PASM's sensors to the max, consider ticking off the box for the Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes ($8,150). Not that the standard brakes are underachievers. Still, the composite brakes are from another world of deceleration. They give your right foot the sure-edged sensitivity of a diamond cutter, and they also reduce unsprung mass by almost 35 pounds, which helps make the Boxster feel more like a lithe dancing partner than a two and a half ton hunk of technology.
As with all Porsches, the need to be pampered is fully satisfied in even a bare-bones Boxster, which really isn't close to being anything like a stripper. Leather adorns the steering wheel rim, shift lever, handbrake lever and door handles; the air is conditioned and the ears are assaulted by, respectively, automatic climate control and a stereo tuner/CD unit; roof, mirrors and windows are all at the electronic mercy of thoughtfully placed switches.
But, as with every Porsche, many thousands of dollars can be added to the bottom line with just a few ticks of the options list. So why not start with a full leather interior ($2,045)? Then check out the wide range of seating options: six-way adjustable seats are standard; the first of three options is full 12-way power-adjustable seats with pneumatic lumbar support; second is sport seats based on the standard seats but with more side support; and third is adaptive sport seats with full electric adjustment, plus individual adjustment of the various side supports ($3,050). Heated seats are also available ($480).
If you don't want the standard three-spoke steering wheel, it can be supplanted by a choice of two additional configurations: a smaller diameter sport wheel or a multi-function wheel fitted in conjunction with the optional Porsche Communication Management system ($2,640). Stereo freaks can upgrade to a Bose Surround Sound system ($1,665 in the Boxster; $950 in the S) and put a six-disc changer in the front trunk ($650).
Gadget freaks, and drivers wanting to get the most out of their Boxsters, will definitely want to order the S
The new Boxster has a quiet look that speaks volumes about Porsche design philosophy. Yet it's also modern in the many small touches that first made their way into the Porsche styling idiom through the high-powered Carrera GT (note the mirrors) and the new 911 Carrera. The area of most improvement, in our eyes, is up front, in the headlamp treatment. The revised layout now separates the main driving lamp from the foglamp and turn signal cluster, which not only gives the Boxster nose a more traditional Porsche look, it also allows the foglamps to be placed further toward the car's corners for a better spread of light.
The frontal area and grille openings are larger, the track is wider, and the enlarged running gear is covered by wider wheel arches, but the wind tunnel guys went to work on a solution. Their aero-science helped fashion a new rear spoiler, reshaped body panels, A-pillars and door handles and a fully covered undertray to create a more slippery profile with less lift and increased downforce, all good things when speed needs to fight the air. There are no extraneous ducts or style-influenced bulges to be seen. The inlets up front that feed air to the pair of front radiators (and a third cooler in the S) are bigger, and the large ducts in the rear fenders have been made bigger to direct more cooling air to the bigger brake discs, but hey, in the brake world, bigger is definitely better.
Even where the eye can't see, the attention to crucial detail contributes to the durability and sportiness of the Boxster. To cite just two examples: small spoilers on the front longitudinal suspension arms that direct airflow to the front brakes to help keep them cool; and small, flexible blades attached to the undertray that steer airflow toward the transmission for the same effect.
Saving weight is a constant goal for sports cars, but sometimes, we think things are taken a step too far. For instance, there is no longer a spare tire in the car; instead, an air compressor and tire sealant will have to do. We understand the advantages of this approach (it saves 22 pounds, some luggage room and a bit of cost), but we wonder about that poor driver, crossing the Nevada desert, whose tire sustains the kind of damage sealant can't help (sidewall punctures, for instance).
The redesigned tail clearly separates the new Boxster from the outgoing (pre-2005) model. The seam between body and tail panels now runs above the taillight cluster, which itself has been broken into three elements with more contrast between the red and white areas. And the center high-mounted stop light is now composed of 18 LEDs for a brighter warning to the daydreamers hovering just off your rear bumper. Boxster S models are distinguished from 2.7-liter Boxsters by their twin oval exhaust tips.
When it first appeared, the Porsche Boxster impressed us with its classic roadster look and road manners, but the interior styling and materials looked cheap and plasticky, and there lacked a general coherence to the switchgear and gauges.
That's all changed. The genuine leather is complemented by very nice fake leather and authentic-looking fake aluminum trim, the plastic looks expensive, and the layout is as pleasing to look as it is a rational display of various data. Function is improved with switches redesigned for easier use.
As it should be, the tachometer still has predominance in the three-gauge cluster. The instruments are black-faced in the Boxster and a light gray in the Boxster S, and their readability has been increased by a change from yellow to white LEDs. Data from the Sports Chrono system are displayed in the lower third of the tachometer's dial.
A spiffy new console integrates the climate controls and sound system, its revised set of switches a huge improvement over the previous unit. Here again, readability has been enhanced by a change to white LEDs. Music lovers can move up from the basic system to Porsche Sound Package Plus, which somehow manages to fit in seven speakers, an external analog amplifier, two tweeters, a subwoofer in the instrument panel, and door-mounted woofers and subwoofers on each side. If that isn't enough to pound your eardrums into submission, consider the 11-speaker Bose surround sound system, which includes a seven-channel amplifier. Top-down enjoyment of your tunes isn't too badly compromised.
Should finding your way around be an issue, fitting Porsche Communication Management ($2,640) makes sense. The nav system is now DVD-based via a separate module in the front trunk, which frees up the dash-mounted CD drive for music discs. And notice we said "front" trunk. One of the Boxster's delights is stowage both fore and aft, with no compromise to the rear trunk's 4.6 cubic feet even when the top is stowed away. Unlike many other two-seaters, the Boxster can actually haul enough luggage for an extended road trip for two.
And what a trip that would be in this bigger, better Porsche Boxster. It feels all grown up, self-assured and solid in purpose, as though it no longer has to lag behind in the shadow of its big brother.
You feel this move into maturity as soon as you settle into the redesigned seats. Despite being larger, they're also stronger and lighter than the outgoing chairs, and Porsche even developed a patented vibration dampening system to reduce road buzz. But you will get a buzz just from turning the key, because when the Boxster's flat six burbles to life, there's no mistaking it for anything but a sports car engine. Both displacements received improvements to their respective intake and exhaust systems, boosting maximum outputs (240 hp; S: 280 hp) but also adding muscle to the torque curves where it counts.
Porsche claims the base Boxster can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds; 5.2 seconds for the 3.2. Top speeds are 159 mph for Boxster; 167 mph for Boxster S. Porsche's factory performance numbers are generally on the conservative side. Both cars, incidentally or not depending on your geo-political bent, qualify as Low Emissions Vehicles. Both cars, not incidentally, are quite fast enough to satisfy any delinquent desires. If anyone needs to get to 100 mph in less than 14.5 seconds (S: 12.3 seconds), then check into the next Skip Barber driving school for therapy.
Proper sports cars, it has long been contended, have three pedals on the floor, and so it is with the Boxster. At their very best, sports car drivers are one-person jazz combos, juggling the interplay of shifter, steering wheel and pedals in a polyrhythmic balance of manual dexterity. Remove the clutch and it just ain't the same.
Granted, some of the latest automatics are so good that electronic de-clutching should no longer be considered so shameful. There's certainly no shame driving a Boxster with Tiptronic S, which is pretty good for the species and would be the logical choice if your Boxster is condemned to a life of urban crawl. This newest version sports revised differential gearing and retuned software to maximize the shift behaviors, especially to avoid excessive "hunting" during upgrades and descents, and a new transmission fluid recipe extends the replacement interval to 112,000 miles. If a Boxster fell out of the sky and it was equipped with Tiptronic S instead of our preferred manual, we would no doubt find a way to be content with our good fortune. Besides, there's something deliciously decadent about reaching deep into the engine's power reserves simply by pushing a button.
But, Porsche does manual shifting as well as anyone, and there's no reason for even the ham-fisted (ham-footed?) to fear the clutch. In fact, you lazy left-footers don't know what you're missing. Doing what they do, Porsche's engineers made the best even better for the new Boxster via reinforced synchromesh rings and additional multiple synchromesh elements (for both manuals), allowing the practiced driver to feel as confident slipping the shift lever into its proper position as a magician sliding a card into the middle of the deck. In short, we recommend going for the manual.
This empowering of the driver is at the heart of all good sports cars. And at the heart of that heart is a good, balanced chassis. The Boxster has from inception been the epitome of balance, which is key to all controlled movement, at least in the physics of this universe. Porsche, thankfully, operates in a slightly different timeframe than most car makers, where "balanced" is a constantly evolving state. Upgrades are developed as soon as a component reaches production, but rarely does a Porsche platform get such a thorough overhaul as did the new Boxster. Though the basic suspension layout remains as before, almost every element was re-engineered, from its retuned springs and shocks to larger wheel bearings, from its wider front track to the st
The new Porsche Boxster, as is no doubt obvious, inspires in us effusive praise, admittedly purpled by passions beyond the purely objective. Big enough to keep its place in the daily dogfights, it's also just the right size for an escape from the maelstrom. Top up, it's quiet and comfy; drop it, and the world wraps itself around you and you can't help but blip back a jolly response with your right foot. Porsche has recently relied on its Cayenne to spark traffic in its showrooms, but its core values remain firmly rooted in durable, balanced performance, and the new Boxster is pure Porsche. The only argument against rushing down and snapping one up is fear of the options list.
|Model Line Overview |
|Base Price (MSRP) |
|Model lineup: |
|Porsche Boxster ($43,800); Boxster S ($53,100) |
|240-hp 2.7-liter dohc 24v horizonally opposed six-cylinder; 280-hp 3.2-liter dohc 24v horizontally opposed six-cylinder |
|5-speed manual; 5-speed Tiptronic S; 6-speed manual |
|Safety equipment (Standard): |
|dual front airbags; dual side-impact torso airbags; dual side head-protection airbags; three-point inertia-reel seat belts with load limiters and pretensioners; Porsche Stability Management; ABS; steel reinforcements in windshield pillars and header; rollover protection behind the passenger compartment |
|Safety equipment (Optional): |
|Porsche Active Suspension Management |
|Basic warranty: |
|4 years/50,000 miles |
|Assembled in: |
|Specifications As Tested |
|Model tested (MSRP): |
|Porsche Boxster ($43,800) |
|Standard equipment: |
|air conditioning, variable-ratio power steering, power disc brakes, power windows, power locks, cruise control, trip computer, fog lamps |
|Options as tested: |
|full leather interior ($2,045), Bose surround sound stereo ($1,665), remote CD changer ($650) |
|Destination charge: |
|Gas Guzzler Tax: |
|Price as tested (MSRP) |
|mid-engine, rear-wheel drive |
|2.7-liter dohc 24v horizontally opposed six-cylinder |
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm): |
|240 @ 6400 |
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): |
|199 @ 4700-6000 |
|5-speed manual |
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: |
|20/28 mpg. |
|95.1 in. |
|171.6/70.9/51.0 in. |
|Track, f/r: |
|58.7/60.4 in. |
|Turning circle: |
|36.4 ft. |
|Seating capacity: |
|Head/hip/leg room, f: |
|38.3/51.5/42.9 in. |
|Head/hip/leg room, m: |
|Head/hip/leg room, r: |
|Cargo volume: |
|9.5 cu. ft. |
|Towing capacity: |
|Suspension F: |
|independent, MacPherson spring/strut axle with wheels suspended on transverse arms, longitudinal arms and spring struts; twin-tube gas-pressure shocks |
|Suspension R: |
|independent, MacPherson spring strut axle with wheels suspended on transverse arms, longitudinal arms and spring struts; twin-tube gas-pressure shocks |
|Ground clearance: |
|4.8 in. |
|Curb weight: |
|3549 lbs. |
|6x17 front; 8x17 rear |
|Brakes, f/r: |
|disc/disc with ABS; cross-drilled in front in. |
|Fuel capacity: |
|16.9 gal. |