2009 Porsche Boxster Expert Review:Autoblog
The Italian countryside passes by in a blur. At an indicated 265 km/h (164 mph), we have hit the invisible wall. The accelerator pedal has been jammed into the carpet for the last ten seconds, yet the sleek Porsche cannot push the molecules of air away any faster. Thanks to a stiff headwind, simple aerodynamic drag has overcome the 310 horsepower engine and arrested our acceleration a bit shy of Porsche's quoted maximum speed. Regardless of the blustery gusts, the direct-injected flat-six buried in the middle of the chassis continues to wail as it sustains the fight. An approaching curve on the horizon convinces us to reluctantly lift off the gas.
We're in Sicily testing the new second-generation 2009 Porsche Boxster S. Significantly updated for the new model year, the drop-top coupe continues to impress us. How has Porsche improved its 12-year-old platform? Are the new powerplants significantly different from their predecessors? How does the Boxster compare to the Cayman? Follow the jump to find out and take a tour of Italy with the Porsche Boxster in our high-res gallery of images below.
All photos Copyright © 2009 Michael C. Harley, Weblogs, Inc./ Porsche Cars North America
The stunning Porsche Boxster Concept debuted in 1993 at the Detroit Auto Show. A tribute to the 1950's-era Porsche 550 Spyder, the two-seat concept was a show-stopper and the Stuttgart-based automaker pushed it into production posthaste. The first model, known as the "Type 986," rolled into showrooms for the 1997 model year with a flat-six mid-mounted within the chassis. Displacing just 2.5-liters, the 201 hp engine was hidden deep within the bowels of the convertible chassis. A lightweight power-operated soft top with a plastic rear window closed out the elements yet allowed quick access to the open sky and with a curb weight under 3,000 pounds, Porsche's entry-level drop-top was a hoot to drive and handled amazingly well even if it wasn't the quickest at the stoplight.
Over the next twelve years, Porsche would update the Boxster with more powerful engines, upgraded features and a well-deserved facelift. The first significant revision, a convincing reason for Porsche to label it an all-new Type 987, arrived in 2005. Four years later, the 2009 model represents another major upgrade. Instead of a new type number, the automaker simply refers to it as the "Type 987 second-generation." All told, the new model brings the total number of Boxster iterations to three over the years:
- 1997-2004 / Type 986 / 2.5-liter, 2.7-liter, or 3.2-liter flat-six with Tiptronic or five- or six-speed manual
- 2005-2008 / Type 987 (first-generation) / 2.7-liter, 3.2-liter, or 3.4-liter flat-six with Tiptronic or five- or six-speed manual
- 2009-Present / Type 987 (second-generation) / 2.9-liter or 3.4-liter flat-six with PDK or six-speed manual
Compared to the 2008 Boxster lineup, the 2009 models gain a long list of standard enhancements that include new engines and exhaust systems, new transmissions, an updated suspension, bigger brakes, redesigned wheels, improved twin reflector xenon headlamps, a new LED configuration, revised brake lights, and a refresh for both the interior and exterior. Added to the base price (starting at about $46,600 for the Boxster model and $56,700 for the Boxster S) is an extensive options list. It now includes the new PDK (dual-clutch) transmission, Sport Chrono Plus, rear limited-slip differential, Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB), adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, seat ventilation, sport exhaust (check the box, trust us), heated steering wheel, satellite radio, upgraded audio, and a new 19-inch wheel choice. Of course, that is just the tip of the iceberg as Porsche will let you custom order just about anything you want on the 2009 model.
The creature comforts, accessories and cosmetic updates are welcomed, but the big news is found within the midship powerplant. Porsche introduced two all-new engines and dropped the Tiptronic automatic in favor of its excellent PDK transmission. Starting with the standard Boxster, the engine has been upgraded from a 2.7-liter flat-six to a 2.9-liter unit putting out 255 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque. With the standard six-speed manual, Porsche conservatively quotes a 0-60 time of 5.6 seconds and a top speed of 163 mph. With the seven-speed PDK, acceleration times drop to 5.3 seconds (EPA fuel economy ratings are 20/29 with PDK). The range-topping Boxster S benefits from a new 3.4-liter direct-injection flat-six rated at 310 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. Mated to the standard six-speed manual gearbox, it sprints to 60 mph in five seconds flat towards an unrestricted top speed of 170 mph. The dual-clutch PDK drops the acceleration time to just 4.7 seconds thanks to its "launch control" mode. As a benefit of direct injection, the EPA fuel economy ratings of the more powerful 3.4-liter mirror those of the standard model at 20/29 (the 2.9-liter engine does not have direct injection).
This is the second time we've been able to spend an extended period with the Porsche "Doppelkupplungsgetriebe" aka "PDK" (it simply means "double-clutch transmission" in German). Like all others, we continue to grow more enamored with the brilliant gearbox as every mile passes. Within the PDK's all-aluminum casing is a conventional seven-speed manual with two electronically-controlled clutch packs (there are technically two transmissions within the case, but we don't want to confuse the issue). As one clutch pack engages, the other disengages the previous gear and readies itself for the next shift. The driver is able to choose from several electronically-controlled shift modes ("Standard," "Sport," or "Sport Plus") to control how aggressive the gear changes occur. (Check out our First Drive: Porsche 911 Carrera PDK for a more detailed explanation.) The driver is able to choose between leaving the transmission in "Drive" and letting the computer do the work, or assume manual control with the console-mounted shift lever or steering wheel controls. As most will attest, the throwback-to-Tiptronic sliding steering wheel shifters are the weakest link. However, the shifts will come naturally, if not conveniently, after some familiarization (we suspect Porsche may offer a race-oriented paddle-like solution down the road with an optional steering wheel or two).
Refusing to follow the current trend of designing a roadster with a heavy and complicated retractable hardtop, Porsche continues to offer the Boxster with a power-operated soft top and a heated rear glass window. The automaker is quick to point out the weight advantage its magnesium-framed roof holds over the competition (faster acceleration, improved braking and a lower center of gravity). The insulated multi-layer top does an excellent job of keeping the noise and elements outside, regardless of the weather conditions. Our time in Sicily was fraught with unseasonably poor weather. The wind howled and the rain poured down intermittently in buckets. The roads were filled with debris, mud and deep puddles. Thankfully, the sun would peek through the clouds occasionally and quickly dry the roads as we traveled to other locales on the island. No need to be standing still to change the vehicle configuration, as the top on the Boxster opens/closes while the vehicle is moving at slow city speeds. Something we took advantage of several times.
Our test car was equipped with PASM (active suspension) and the Sport Chrono Package Plus, which includes a dash-mounted chronograph stopwatch, launch control capabilities and more aggressive PDK mapping. With those options, there are three buttons located on the bottom of the center console: SPORT, SPORT PLUS and SUSPENSION (that last one is actually a pictograph of a shock absorber). Illuminating them in selective order changes the overall personality of the Boxster S from mild-mannered to moderately brutish.
In default mode, all of the selections are off. The throttle response is lively, shifts smooth and the suspension is comfortably sporty. Activating the SPORT button alone does three things: quickens the throttle response, speeds up the shifting of the dual-clutch gearbox and activates the SUSPENSION button telling the PASM to significantly firm up the ride. This is a great mode for spirited driving, carving canyons or running like an outlaw. The hard-core SPORT PLUS mode is best left for track use or by road-going masochists. In this mode, the SUSPENSION button is again automatically set to firm, and the PDK is mapped for aggressive, semi-violent shifts (there is virtually no loss of power to the wheels between shifts). In Sport mode, the suspension can be a bit rough over broken pavement. Thankfully, Porsche allows the SUSPENSION button to be deactivated while retaining the SPORT or SPORT PLUS modes, giving comfort back to the ride part of the equation (even if the suspension is in standard mode, it will immediately firm if it calculates aggressive or emergency driving maneuvers). We messed with each of the settings over the countless kilometers we covered before finally choosing "SPORT on/ SUSPENSION off" as the best compromise for our roads.
Our band of journalists were only the latest in a long string of invaders landing on the Italian shores of Sicily (its colored history includes rule by the Greeks, Byzantines, Arabs, and Spanish -- evidence of their existence abounds as one travels the island). Unlike most of our daring predecessors who attacked by sea, we were fortunate enough to arrive comfortably by air. Departing the airport at Palermo on the A29 motorway, we were pointed south for the smaller agricultural and fishing town of Mazara del Vallo. Never one to take the shortest path, we piloted our bright red roadster over a circuitous route along the western part of the region. We explored the coastline, tiptoed through small villages, climbed mountain passes and cruised at high speeds on the "Autostradas."
More than coincidentally, we find ourselves on these shores because many of these roads hosted the first historical Targa Florio in Sicily in 1906. That race ran 148 kilometers (92 miles) through the Sicilian Madonie Region. With its countless hills and more than 6,000 corners, the race was considered one of the greatest challenges in motorsports. A car built by Ferdinand Porsche, the Austro Daimler Sascha, entered the Targa Florio in 1922 and brought home first and second place. Over the next 50 years, Porsche would bring home overall Targa Florio victories in such famed cars as the 550 A Spyder, 904 Carrera GTS, Porsche 908 and Porsche 911 Carrera RSR.
Having experienced the Porsche Cayman S recently, and understanding the near-twin relationship between the siblings that share nearly all of the same mechanical underpinnings, we had very high expectations from the two-seat Boxster S. As anticipated, and in typical Porsche manner, the Boxster gives almost nothing up to its fixed-roof brother. They benefit from the same massive cross-drilled brakes (upgraded to be identical on the Boxster and Boxster S this year), the same suspension and the same wheel/tire package (staggered, with 265/40-18s in the rear). While there is no denying the additional rigidity in the Cayman (reportedly double), the weight difference is but a mere eleven pounds – impossible to discern without a digital scale. Top up or down, tossing the Boxster into corners reveals an eager chassis that feels perfectly balanced. Even with Porsche Stability Management (PSM) activated, the mid-engine roadster begs to be driven harder and harder. Wet patches of asphalt step the rear wheels out mid-corner and naturally corrections bring things back into line with minimal steering inputs. Throttle, tap the brakes, turn, throttle, tap the brakes, turn, throttle, tap the brakes and repeat again and again.
The curvature of the road mimics a music score and the engine sings in unison. Manual control of the PDK allows perfect rev-matching during corner entry and high power torque-laden exits. When shifting is left to the countless algorithms buried within the transmission's brain, it is extraordinarily accurate in its gear selection, with throaty downshifts on brake application and long runs to redline after the apex. In an experience that is trying to define, the Boxster S never seems to break a sweat.
Top raised and latched tightly to avoid the buffeting headwinds, we make our way to the Italian Autostrada for some double-time. The aerodynamic Boxster S (with a drag coefficient of .29) presents a small profile to the wind as we hold a commanding position in the left lane. Save for a few very old Fiat Pandas crawling down the road, the pavement is nearly desolate. If the locals were to vacate their places of worship this particular Sunday afternoon, they would agree with us that piloting a Porsche at the posted speed limit of 120 km/h (about 75 mph) is a cardinal sin. Embolden with their assumed unspoken approval (never wanting to upset the Sicilians), we bury the throttle. The PDK downshifts instantly and the speedometer climbs like the steam off a fresh plate of cheese tortellini. The demeanor of the Boxster at triple-digit speeds eases our minds as the vortices of air swirl loudly behind the exterior mirrors. Less than half-a-minute later, we hit the aerodynamic wall. Pleased, and mission accomplished, it is time to slow down and cruise back to the hotel to enjoy the local cuisine and ponder our thoughts.
To understand and enjoy the new 2009 Porsche Boxster without uncorking it and spending time behind the wheel would be like trying to savor a bottle of fine wine by holding it up to the light. It's not enough to read an article, see the car passing from the curb, or weigh the published specifications and price. The Boxster is validated by the snarl of its eager flat-six, the balance of its mid-engine chassis, the communication transmitted through its steering column, and the power of its unfaltering brakes. Seat time in the Porsche Boxster S, like indulging in rare Italian vintage, is wholly intoxicating and entirely justifiable regardless of the tab.
All photos Copyright © 2009 Michael C. Harley, Weblogs, Inc./ Porsche Cars North America
New Car Test Drive
Redesigned, featuring new engines, transmissions.
The Porsche Boxster is a delightful sports car that is equally at ease being pushed to its limits or sauntering through traffic jams. The engine note is invigorating, the handling crisp, the ride elastic, the brakes sublime and the interior ideal for driving, but it is how all this works in harmony that makes the Boxster such an entertaining car.
Porsche does not make major changes very often, preferring to get the basics right from the start and continue fine tuning from there on. So the 2009 Boxster that is heavily revised is still instantly recognizable as a Boxster. Length and track have changed by fractions of an inch and the basic shape and size remain.
The major upgrade for 2009 is completely revised powertrains, with new engines giving the Boxster and Boxster S their biggest power increases yet and improved efficiency. A six-speed manual replaces a five-speed as standard on the Boxster, and both plain and S versions may be offered with a new seven-speed double-clutch gearbox (PDK) that is Porsche's most advanced transmission.
Boxster is perhaps the most practical mid-engine convertible sports car available. The cabin has plenty of room and can accommodate tall individuals, and insulation, refinement and equipment match many sedans. There are two compact trunks to carry a week's worth of groceries or luggage in soft-sided bags, and they won't get singed on a sporting road.
The Boxster is so well-rounded it could come up on many shopping lists. Convertible luxury with a driver bias might pit it against a BMW Z4, Audi TTS, or Mercedes-Benz SLK, while the performance shopper may also have a Lotus Elise or Exige, Honda S2000, or maybe even a Mazda RX8 on the list.
Virtually no one buys a Boxster for base price, and the many options can drive the price up, but we'd certainly recommend the PASM active suspension.
Boxster comes in two models with options sufficient to make each car different. Custom paint and upholstery notwithstanding there are 17 factory paint choices, five convertible top colors, nine wheel styles, 10 upholstery color schemes and five seat types.
The base Boxster ($46,600) uses a 255-hp 2.9-liter flat six with 214 lb-ft of torque and six-speed manual transmission replacing the previous five-speed. A seven-speed automated manual double-clutch gearbox (PDK, or Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe) is available ($3,420). 17x7 front and 17x8.5-inch rear alloy wheels are standard.
Boxster standards include Alcantara-insert bucket seats, manual climate control, power top with heated glass rear window, power windows/locks/heated mirrors, AM/FM/CD stereo, cruise control, trip computer, leather-wrapped wheel and shifter, anti-theft immobilizer, and active rear spoiler.
Porsche option lists are extensive. Factory paint options range to $3,140 (paint to sample $4,315); wheels (to $3,675) may be painted and equipped with Porsche crest centers; seat choices (up to $5,080) include sport seats, power adjustable, carbon-fiber race-style, heating ($500) and ventilation ($800); and there are multiple choices in steering wheels and leather upholstery (to $1,510, or to sample for $1,750).
Other options include bi-Xenon headlamps with cornering lights ($1,560); self-dimming mirror and rain-sensor ($690); park assist ($530); hard top ($2,345); windstop ($375); various painted and aluminum trim exterior upgrades; PASM active suspension management ($1,990); limited-slip differential ($950); Sport Chrono packages that allow for timing segments and making adjustments to car systems ($960-$1,320, plus $500 painted dial); sport exhaust ($2,500); sport shifter ($765); automatic climate control ($550); heated steering wheel ($180); interior paint and seatbelt trims (to $1,580); leather upgrades (to $2,225); aluminum, Makassar wood, carbon fiber and Alcantara interior trim packages (to $2,150); painted instrument dials ($690); Porsche Communication Management with navigation ($3,110); Bluetooth ($695); sound system inputs and upgrades (to $1,690); 6CD/DVD changer ($650) and XM radio ($750).
There is a lot of interplay among options availability and pricing so careful consideration must be applied when ordering your own car. The Boxster S ($56,700) adds performance with a 310-hp, 266 lb-ft 3.4-liter engine and six-speed manual or seven-speed PDK ($3,420) optional. Standard wheels are 8 and 9x18 alloys, and the S can be distinguished by its red brake calipers, dual exhaust outlets, and light gray instrument backgrounds. The S gets the Sound Package Plus and HomeLink standard, and wheel choices are cut to seven since they're larger.
Boxster S options are otherwise the same as the standard Boxster with one exception: Ceramic composite brakes ($8,150) with drilled, vented discs and yellow-painted calipers are offered only on the S.
Safety features on all models include front airbags, head-and-thorax side airbags, and roll bars behind the seats. Electronic stability control (PSM), antilock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (ABD), tire pressure monitors, traction control (ASR) and LED daytime running lights are standard on all Boxsters.
The Boxster, one-half-inch longer for 2009, is shaped by stylists with a gentle hand, reverence for the past, guided by the laws of physics and aerodynamics. Every shape, aperture, appendage and piece of hardware is there for a reason, and the profile is designed more around airflow management than absolute minimum drag. Adapted etail cues run the gamut from the 550 Spyder of 50 years ago to the Carrera GT of roughly five years ago.
New light elements place the headlights, signals, and fog lamps in an ovoid housing. Laid atop the front side grilles are LED daytime running lamps, with thin white LED light pipes that serve as parking lights. Both front and rear signals now use an amber bulb and clear lens. The small chrome turrets up front are headlight washers and these, and many other items like air vent slats inside and out, may be painted to match.
Boxster S retains the dual round tailpipe setup while the standard Boxster pipe is nearly rectangular. New tail lights appear to add more curve to the sheetmetal hips over the rear tires, and the automatic rear spoiler can be overridden to lift for cleaning.
Discounting custom orders there are still more than 700 permutations among paint, top color, and wheel style. Further individualization is easy with myriad detail finishes, paints and trims so the coincidence rate seeing two Boxsters exactly alike is very low.
As elegant as the shape is your enthusiast friends will be just as intrigued by the aerodynamics and component artistry underneath, with air directed for cooling and stability.
To save weight, the Boxster uses aluminum hoods and does not come with a spare tire. There is an air compressor and tire sealant; if you destroy a tire and can borrow another one, your tire-less wheel will fit in the front trunk. Standard tire-pressure monitors should help warn drivers before a situation becomes dire. Additionally a mast radio antenna may be ordered in place of the in-windshield antenna.
As on the outside, the cabin has been updated for 2009 but did not get wholesale changes. It's all about the drive and driver here, that's why both cupholders are ahead of the passenger.
Seats and major controls are upholstered in leather, Alcantara, or a combination. Vinyl and plastic surfaces don't feel or appear cheap, the carpeting runs usefully up the sides of the console and doors, and everything is put together indicative of the car's solidity. If you choose carbon fiber, aluminum, or wood trim, that's what it is.
The seats are supportive and comfortable, with power adjustments, memory (you will not want anyone else to drive), heating and cooling available, broadening the top-down weather window considerably. Taller drivers may appreciate the extra cushion adjustments afforded with power seats. The backrests fold forward for access to coat hooks and everything that dropped out of your pockets. Your driving style, central body dimensions and available roads will determine any sport seat upgrade, but between the door and console you aren't going far even on roller-coaster roads.
As always the tachometer is dead center, the analog instruments easily read day or night thanks to neutral backgrounds and crisp red needles. A speedometer to the left covers 0-190 mph in the space of an iPod display but can be shown digitally for those regions that enforce in 1 mph increments. This same screen calls up all manner of trip computer, sport chrono and other data, parts of it fading to red for immediate awareness. A numbered coolant temperature and fuel gauges are to the right, and on cars with PDK, the gear engaged adjacent the tachometer.
The steering wheel is manual tilt and telescope, and unless you option up, has only a horn button (and shifters on PDK). Unlike most cars either shift button is pulled toward you for downshifts and pushed away for upshifts, the same directions the floor shifter uses. If you're used to a + right and – left system, or gear lever that uses forward for downshift (BMW, Mazda) your acclimation time will increase but you will acclimate. It is unlikely you will need to shift if the wheel's turned so far you can't use the paddles; the console shifter always works. Both shifter and handbrake are well-placed, and the floor-hinged gas pedal eases heel-and-toe shifting.
The key goes in left of the steering column, remembering the days of LeMans starts where drivers had to run across the track, get in, fire their cars and engage first gear, then roar off hoping to get buckled up before the first corner or crash.
The Sport Chrono package puts a big stopwatch atop the dash, controlled through the tach display menu. Below the vents are all the controls not found on steering column stalks: Climate, audio, chassis systems, etc. Multiple sound systems are topped by a Bose system that keeps up even with an open top, but that six-channel petroleum-powered sound system right behind you still has the last word in sonic amusement.
Porsche Communication Management is otherwise known as the navigation/infotainment center, and offers an electronic logbook for saving trip data; there is a SIM card slot on the face of it. It is a DVD-based system and though the mass of white-on-black buttons may seem initially daunting it is quick to master. Climate controls are simple and the tiny cabin volume quickly heated or cooled.
Small items and coins may be stored aft of the console-mounted handbrake; optional audio inputs are here too. A glovebox holds little more than documentation and pockets inside the door armrests handle keys, sunglasses, and portable electronics.
Larger items go in his-and-hers trunks, one each end. Up front a deep well that might just hold your carry-on roller bag or groceries stacked with bottles on the bottom. The back cargo area is a wider, shallower expanse roughly 32x18x8 inches. The two cargo areas offer 5.3 and 4.6 cubic feet, better than anything we know of in this category. Trunk space is unaffected by top position, unlike many others, and despite the proximity to coolers and the engine, internal temperatures measured only 10-15 degrees above the 90 F ambient.
Once the single release handle is twisted the electric top can be lowered or raised in about 10 seconds at speeds to about 30 mph so you can start the process slowing for a light or stop sign. The top is well-insulated, even in black does not feel like you're wearing a dark ball cap on a sunny day, and the glass rear window has electric defrost.
Conversations can be carried at 70 mph top down, though better with the side glass up in busy surroundings. A removable clear panel between the headrests (the windstop) cuts down on internal buffeting a bit; one is already well-ensconced in a Boxster. If you really don't like the wind, or get a lot of snow, there is a factory Boxster aluminum hardtop option and, of course, the factory hardtop Porsche Cayman.
The heart of a Boxster, by location and soul, is the engine placed low in between the seats and rear wheels. Keeping mass low and between the wheels rather than over one end or the other is the simplest way to build in two key sports car traits: balance and a low center of gravity.
Both engines are new for 2009, equipped with direct injection and further build on Porsche's reputation for smooth, rev-happy, flat-six engines. The Boxster now uses a 2.9-liter of 255 hp and the S model's 3.4 has been bumped to 310 hp: On the S model that equates to less than 10 pounds per horsepower.
Twist the key and the high-compression, direct-injection engines bristle to life with an eager note unlike any other engine configuration. Throttle response is immediate, the mechanical whirring so fine and light it sounds like something you could hold in your hand. Like every Porsche flat-six these engines do their best work at higher revs and deliver a haunting sound, yet they are large enough you can drive sedately and quietly maintaining pace.
Porsche quotes the 0-60 mph sprint in 5.6 seconds for the Boxster manual and 5.0 for the S and top speeds of 163 and 170 respectively; PDK transmissions are quicker by one-to-three-tenths depending on shift mode and give up 1 mph top speed. And Porsche's data are generally quite conservative.
The same efficiency that makes the PDK quicker also makes it more economical at 20/29 mpg for the S, making it one of very few cars that will reach 60 in less than five seconds, run almost 170 mph and push 30 mpg on the highway.
For 2009 both Boxsters use a six-speed manual transmission as standard and as you'd expect it delivers quick, crisp, error-free gear changes without heavy effort in the clutch or shifter. The marriage between throttle, clutch, and shifter in a Porsche is among the best, if not the best, in production cars, and those groomed on doing everything with opposable thumbs would do well to try using their feet as well.
However, while the manual is an excellent choice, many enthusiasts might prefer the optional automated transmission. True, the PDK has no clutch pedal and can be driven like a conventional automatic, but it isn't. The seven-speed gearbox is a double-clutch design where the transmission controls the clutch actuation based on numerous inputs; Audi, BMW, Nissan, and VW all have similar gearboxes.
PDK can execute a gear change in milliseconds, faster than a human and faster than most can push the button. Yet the changes are so well orchestrated there's no harshness or roughness to them, and only what seems the slightest hiccup from the tailpipe. PDK offers a standard mode and two sport modes, and engaging either sport mode automatically changes the adjustable suspension (if equipped) to sport as well, but that can be switched off for conditions where you'd like the quicker powertrain reaction and shifting without the firmer ride. The only PDK negatives are price (add $3420), an extra 64 pounds of mass, and adapting to the behavior at maneuvering speeds.
Regardless of how your Boxster gets going, stopping will never be an issue. Porsche's brake systems are among the best. Relatively speaking they are moderate in size because the cars aren't heavy, and they are more than capable of retarding everything the engine can motivate. There's no artificial bite when you apply the pedal and just a quick brush will smoothly erase some speed, but push hard and the car will stop flat, stable and quickly.
Porsche's composite ceramic brakes (PCCB) may be ordered on the Boxster S. This upgrade, set off by its yellow calipers, delivers superb braking and gives the added benefit of reducing unsprung mass by nearly 35 pounds and thereby bettering ride and handling. PCCB lists for $8,150, but over the long run will likely require less frequent brake service.
Steering action is precise and fluid; it telegraphs information about how the front tires are reacting with the road without kickback and vibration. Effort is just right, not the artificially heavy feel of many performance cars but rather a lighter feel delicate enough to keep the car poised and going where you want. The Boxster will reward a smooth driver, yet not punish a bad one to the extent an early 911 would.
The suspension is designed to stick the car to the road while maintaining ride comfort for journeys longer than pit stop to pit stop. Relatively light parts translate to more precise control of those parts, and the Boxster gets through the bumps well, only becoming less than comfortable on repeating expansion joints.
When equipped with the adjustable PASM suspension you can improve both extremes. Ride comfort is very compliant, even on 19-inch wheels and rubber-band tires, but the press of a button tightens up the rates such that a smooth road gets as tight as a miser's wallet and bad roads get miserable. Unless you live in a driver's haven, the standard PASM setting will often produce the best results simply because most roads aren't as good as most racetracks.
A Boxster is nearly perfectly balanced and the stability control programmed so that you can enjoy that balance without intervention; it will mitigate potential problems if you mistakenly believe you belong to a racing dynasty. You can fling it about with relative abandon and it won't bite back too hard, or you can waltz it around the bends gracefully, showing that classics never go out of style, they just go faster.
There are a few cars that might go better than a Boxster (perhaps a BMW Z4 twin-turbo), fewer yet that will stop and go through corner after corner like one (perhaps a Lotus Exige). But it's the synergy of all those elements put together, combined with the marvelous soundtrack and everyday comfort, that make the Boxster the more rewarding drive.
The Porsche Boxster is one of the most entertaining convertible sports cars. Top up, it's quiet and comfortable enough to commute in a rainstorm; top down, fresh air, open sky and the engine note all conspire to make you go a little faster. It's an immensely capable car that can be driven in the daily grind, with nary a complaint. Our only caution against impulsively ordering one is to select options carefully, as they can escalate the price considerably; the Boxster makes more sense the closer you can stay to $65,000 rather than $90,000.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale filed this report.
Porsche Boxster ($46,600); Boxster S ($56,700).
Options As Tested
PDK 7-speed ($3,042); PCM 3.0 w/extended navigation ($3,110); power seats ($1,550) with ventilation ($800); heated seats ($500) and steering wheel ($190); bi-Xenon headlights ($1,560); 19-inch Carrera S II wheels ($1,550); PASM ($1,990); windstop ($375); automatic climate control ($550); Bluetooth ($695); Sport Chrono Plus ($1,320); Bose sound system ($990); universal audio interface ($440); floor mats ($90).
Porsche Boxster S ($56,700).
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