2010 Porsche Boxster
2010 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
World's best-handling convertible.
The Porsche Boxster is a delightful sports car 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.
The Boxster is perhaps the most practical mid-engine convertible sports car available today. The cabin has plenty of room and can accommodate tall individuals. The standard Boxster's levels of insulation, refinement and equipment match many sedans. There are two compact trunks, one up front and another in back, to carry a week's worth of groceries or luggage in soft-sided bags.
The Boxster lineup is so well-rounded it could come up on many shopping lists. Convertible luxury with a driver bias might pit the 2010 Boxster or Boxster S against a BMW Z4, Audi TT, or Mercedes-Benz SLK, while the performance shopper may also have a Lotus Elise or Exige on the list.
For the sports car purist, Porsche has introduced the performance-oriented Boxster Spyder as an early 2011 model. The Boxster Spyder features a manual soft-top, the 320-horsepower engine from the Cayman S and several changes to reduce weight by a total of 176 pounds. As a performance model, the Spyder gets a firmer suspension. We found the Spyder's top doesn't seal very well and it lacks the refinement and isolation of the others, but it makes up for that with even better handling and a more engaging driving experience than what's found in the Boxster S.
The Boxster uses a 2.9-liter flat-six with 255 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque. It comes with a choice of six-speed manual transmission or seven-speed automated manual double-clutch gearbox (PDK, or Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe).
The Boxster S increases performance with a 3.4-liter flat-six rated at 310 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque with six-speed manual or seven-speed PDK. Standard wheels are 8 and 9x18 alloys with P235/40ZR and P265/40ZR tires. The S can be distinguished by its red brake calipers, dual exhaust outlets, and light gray instrument backgrounds.
Virtually no one buys a Boxster for the base price, and the many options can drive the price up considerably. Great fun, though. One option we recommend is the PASM active suspension.
Porsche does not make major changes very often, preferring to get the basics right from the start and continue fine tuning from there on. The Boxster benefitted from some heavy revisions for the 2009 model year, including new engines and a new transmission, so the 2010 model year features only minor changes. Inside, the Porsche Communications Management system gets a larger (6.5-inch) touchscreen and a simplified control layout. It is also now compatible with mp3 players and offers Bluetooth cell phone connectivity. The steering wheel is now a three-spoke unit, and the sound system is now Porsche's CDR-30 unit with a CD/mp3 player. Underneath, Porsche says the 2010 Boxster's suspension has been refined to improve ride comfort and dynamic response. As part of this change, the car uses new tires and tire pressure in the rear tires is slightly reduced. Finally, the 2010 Boxster is now offered with a heated steering wheel and a new Dark Blue Metallic color.
The 2010 Porsche Boxster comes in Boxster and Boxster S models with options sufficient to make each car different. Custom paint and upholstery notwithstanding there are 18 factory paint choices, five convertible top colors, nine wheel styles, 10 upholstery color schemes and five seat types.
The Boxster ($47,600) uses a 255-hp 2.9-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder and six-speed manual transmission. A seven-speed automated manual double-clutch gearbox (PDK, or Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe) is available ($3,420).
Standard features include power-reclining Alcantara-insert bucket seats, air conditioning, power top with heated glass rear window, power windows/locks/heated mirrors, remote keyless entry, interior air filter, AM/FM/CD stereo, cruise control, trip computer, leather-wrapped tilt/telescoping steering wheel, leather-wrapped shifter, anti-theft immobilizer, universal garage door opener, automatic-off headlights, front and rear fog lights, active rear spoiler, and 17x7 front and 17x8.5-inch rear alloy wheels with P205/55ZR17 front and P235/50ZR17 rear tires.
Porsche option lists are extensive. Factory paint options range from $710 to $3,150 (paint to sample $4,315); wheels ($1,815) may be painted and equipped with Porsche crest centers; seat choices (up to $3,350) include sport seats, power adjustable, carbon-fiber race-style, heating ($500) and ventilation ($800); and there are multiple choices in steering wheels and full leather upholstery (to $3,935).
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 $690 painted dial); sport exhaust ($2,500); sport tailpipe ($650); sport shifter ($765); automatic climate control ($550); heated steering wheel ($210); interior paint and seatbelt trims (to $1,580), 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); Bose sound system ($990); auxiliary input jack and USB port ($95 or $440 with PCM); 6CD/DVD changer ($650) and XM radio ($750). A SportDesign Package ($4990) consists of a new front apron, an additional spoiler lip, and a new automatically extending rear spoiler; Porsche notes that this package substantially reduces entry angle to gradients. 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 ($58,000) gets a 310-hp 3.4-liter H6 engine and six-speed manual or seven-speed PDK. Standard wheels are 8 and 9x18 alloys with P235/40ZR and P265/40ZR tires. The S also gets the Sound Package Plus as standard. Boxster S options are the same as the standard Boxster with one exception: Ceramic composite brakes ($8,150) with drilled, vented discs and yellow-painted calipers are offered on the S.
The Boxster Spyder ($61,200) is a lightweight performance model with a manual soft top. In addition to Boxster S equipment, it features carbon-fiber sport bucket seats, bi-xenon headlights, locking rear differential, and lightweight 19-inch wheels that carry P235/35ZR front and P265/35ZR rear tires. What's not there is almost as important as what is. In the name of weight savings, the radio, air conditioning, and cupholders have been deleted and the door pulls are nylon instead of aluminum.
The Boxster Spyder can be optioned like a Boxster S. The radio, cupholders, and power sport seats are all no-cost options, and automatic climate control costs $1,760. For about $3000, buyers can save another 22 pounds by opting for a lithium-ion battery. The ceramic composite brakes are available as well.
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), brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution (ABD), tire-pressure monitor, traction control (ASR) and LED daytime running lights are also standard.
The Boxster was shaped by stylists with a gentle hand and a reverence for the past. The shape is guided by the laws of physics and aerodynamics. Every curve, 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 detail cues run the gamut from the 550 Spyder of the 1950s to the Carrera GT of roughly five years ago (2004-06), a span of more than 50 years.
The headlights, signals, and fog lamps are placed in ovoid housings. Laid atop the front side grilles are LED daytime running lamps, with thin white LED light pipes that serve as parking lights. Both the front and rear signals use amber bulbs and clear lenses. The small chrome turrets up front are headlight washers and these, and many other items like the air vent slats inside and out, may be painted to match. The taillights appear to add curve to the sheetmetal hips over the rear tires, and the automatic rear spoiler can be overridden to lift for cleaning.
The Boxster S is distinguished by its red brake calipers and dual exhaust outlets. The standard Boxster tailpipe is nearly rectangular, while the Boxster S dual pipes are round.
Discounting custom orders, there are more than 700 permutations among paint, top color, and wheel style. Further individualization is easy with myriad detail finishes, paints and trims so the odds of 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.
The Boxster does not come with a spare tire. There is an air compressor and tire sealant. The tire-pressure monitor may offer a warning before a situation becomes dire. Additionally, a mast radio antenna may be ordered in place of the in-windshield antenna.
The Boxster Spyder is a new variant released as an early 2011 model. It features several changes from other Boxsters, including the use of aluminum for the doors and the unique rear deck, which features 1950s sports car-style dual fairings. Instead of a power top, the Spyder uses a lightweight two-piece manual top that stretches over the car like a bikini top. The Boxster Spyder also has shorter side windows and the windshield is tilted at a sharper angle.
Instead of an active rear spoiler, the Boxster Spyder has a smaller fixed rear spoiler. It also features center-exiting twin tailpipes painted black, Boxster Spyder script at the rear, and Porsche stripes in contrasting black, white or silver along the sides. Shorter springs give the car a slighter lower stance (about 20 millimeters), and they combine with the weight savings to lower the car's center of gravity 25 millimeters. Finally, the Spyder has its own lightweight 19-inch wheels that save another 11 pounds versus the Boxster S's 18s.
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 of the two. The 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 and memory (though you will not want anyone else to drive it). Heating and cooling for the seats broaden the top-down weather window. 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.
To save weight, about 26 pounds, the Boxster Spyder comes with a pair of manual sport bucket seats with carbon fiber frames. These seats, which are available on other Boxsters, are supportive, but they will be too skinny for some larger drivers. The power sport seats are a no-cost option for anyone who doesn't want the enclosed, racecar-like feel of the manual buckets.
As with all Porsches, the tachometer is located dead center. The analog instruments are easy to read day or night thanks to neutral backgrounds and crisp red needles. Boxster S uses light gray instrument backgrounds. A speedometer to the left covers 0-190 mph in the space of an iPod display and numbers are marked every 25 mph, so judging your exact speed can be difficult. However, speed can be shown digitally for those regions that enforce in 1 mph increments. This same screen calls up all manner of trip computer, sport chronometer and other data, parts of it fading to red for immediate awareness. Coolant temperature and fuel gauges are placed to the right, and on cars with PDK, the engaged gear is displayed adjacent to the tachometer.
The Spyder's interior has a few changes versus other Boxsters. The hood is gone from above the instrument cluster, but the gauges themselves are hooded enough to prevent sun glare. In keeping with the minimalistic theme, the door handles are replaced by fabric pulls (a la the 911 GT3); air conditioning, radio and cupholders are omitted. You can order A/C if you want the comfort, but that adds 29 pounds. Like the seats, the cupholders are a no-cost option.
In any model, both the shifter and handbrake are well-placed, and the floor-hinged gas pedal eases heel-and-toe shifting. The steering wheel features manual tilt and telescope adjustments. A pair of steering wheel shift buttons come standard with the PDK transmission. 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 (Mazda, older BMWs, Formula Barber) you will acclimate though it may take a little time. In this case, you should choose the newly optional steering wheel shift paddles. The left paddle is for downshifts and the right is for upshifts, and we find this system easier to use. The paddles are large, so it is easier to shift with the steering wheel turned.
The key goes in left of the steering column. This placement recalls the days of LeMans starts where drivers had to run across the track, get in, and fire their cars to get underway (though some wags claim it was originally placed there to reduce wire).
The Sport Chrono package puts a big stopwatch atop the dash, controlled through the display menu on the tachometer. Below the vents are all the secondary controls not found on steering column stalks: climate, audio, chassis systems, etc. Available 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.
The navigation/infotainment center is known as Porsche Communication Management. It comes with a SIM card that allows drivers to save an electronic logbook of trip data. PCM is a DVD-based system that has a larger screen for 2010 and fewer control buttons. We like these changes as they make the system easier to see and control. Climate controls, which are located below the PCM, are also simple to use.
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. The Boxster Spyder eliminates the door pockets and center console bin, so the glovebox is the only place to put your little trinkets.
Larger items go in his-and-hers trunks, one at each end of the Boxster. Up front is a deep well that can 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 of space, 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 ambient temperature. As small sports cars go, the Boxster offers good cargo space.
The Boxster and Boxster S have a single release handle for the power top. Once it 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 while slowing for a light or stop sign. The top is well-insulated. Even in black it 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 on at 70 mph with the top down. 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 or the hardtop Porsche Cayman.
The Spyder's top stretches over the car like a bikini top, barely covering what it's supposed to cover. The top doesn't seal well, leaving the car subject to parking lot security issues and on-road wind noise. A two-piece top weighs only 13 pounds. It consists of the top with a carbon fiber header and a separate rear window. It takes two or three minutes to take the top off or put it on, and longer than that when you're first learning the procedure. Both pieces roll up and stow under the rear deck when the top is off. Offering little protection from wind and weather, the Boxster Spyder is ideally suited for summer use only.
The heart of a Boxster, by location and soul, is the engine placed low in between the rear wheels and the seats. Keeping mass low and in the middle of the car, rather than over one end or the other, is the best way to build in two key sports car traits: balance and a low center of gravity.
Equipped with direct injection, all three Boxster engines are smooth, rev-happy, flat-sixes. The base Boxster uses a 2.9-liter version with 255 horsepower, the S model's 3.4-liter makes 310 horsepower, and the Spyder's 3.4-liter produces 320 horses. In the S model that equates to less than 10 pounds per horsepower, and in the Boxster Spyder it equals 8.8 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. We found all of the engines to be amazingly tractable, perfectly willing to toddle along at city speeds or provide willing power all the way up the rev range.
Porsche quotes the 0-60 mph sprint in 5.6 seconds for the Boxster manual and 5.0 seconds for the Boxster S, with 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. The company says the Boxster Spyder can reach 60 in as little as 4.6 seconds with the optional launch control feature (available with the PDK), and it tops out at 124 mph with the top up and 166 mph with the top down. While that may seem backward, speed is limited with the top up because the top doesn't seal well.
The same efficiency that makes the PDK quicker also makes it more economical at 20 mpg city/29 mpg highway 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.
All Boxsters use a six-speed manual transmission as standard. 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.
While the manual is an excellent choice, many enthusiasts might prefer the optional PDK. 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; one clutch holds the current gear and the other readies the next, allowing for lightning fast shifts and none of the power loss or shift lag of early automated manual transmissions.
The PDK's shifts are so well orchestrated that there's no harshness or roughness to them, and only what seems the slightest hiccup from the tailpipe. It 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 ($3,420), an extra 64 pounds of mass, and adapting to its 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 and Boxster Spyder. This upgrade, set off by its yellow calipers, delivers superb, fade-free 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, though 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 that 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 Porsche Active Suspension Management 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.
The Boxster Spyder has shorter, stiffer springs, a lower ride height, and stiffer shocks and anti-roll bars. We found these changes make the car react quicker to fast changes of direction but they also make the ride busier. The Spyder's suspension rebounds more quickly, resulting in some bouncing motions that drivers may find annoying. Surprisingly, however, the Spyder doesn't have a tendency to bottom out and create sharp jolts. Instead, it reacts to potholes with that same type of bouncing motion.
A Boxster is nearly perfectly balanced and the stability control programmed so 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 faster than a Boxster (perhaps a BMW Z4 turbo), and fewer still that will stop and go through corner after corner as well (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 one of the most rewarding cars to drive today.
The Porsche Boxster is one of the most entertaining convertible sports cars. Top up, the Boxster is 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. The Boxster and Boxster S are immensely capable cars that can be driven in the daily grind, with nary a complaint. The Boxster Spyder is a purist's sports car that is even more engaging to drive, but its half-hearted top makes it a car for the summer only. With any Porsche, we caution buyers to be careful when selecting options, as they can escalate the price considerably; the Boxster makes more economic sense the closer you can stay to $65,000 rather than $90,000.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale filed this report, with Kirk Bell reporting on the Boxster Spyder from Monterey, California.
Porsche Boxster ($47,800); Boxster S ($58,000); Boxster Spyder ($61,200).
Options As Tested
PDK 7-speed ($3,420); PCM 3.0 w/extended navigation ($3,110); power seats ($1,550) with ventilation ($800); heated seats ($510) and steering wheel ($210); bi-xenon headlights with dynamic cornering lights ($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 ($58,000).
2010 Porsche Boxster Information
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