2010 Automobile All-Stars

Porsche Boxster/Cayman | Twin peaks.
By Preston Lerner

The Porsche Boxster roadster and its hardtop sibling, the Cayman, are as close as you can come to the perfect everyday sports car. Fits like a glove? Check. Drives like a dream? Check. Powerful enough to get you into trouble? Check. Agile enough to get you out of it? Check.

Approaching redline, the flat-six engine howls like a race car screaming through the Fuchsröhre at the Nordschleife. The brakes produce stopping power that stretches your neck more effectively than a chiropractor. The flawlessly weighted steering is so precise that it seems to be laser-guided. In addition to a satisfying six-speed manual, Porsche also offers a splendid seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic that swaps cogs seamlessly - a good thing because the counterintuitive steering-wheel shift buttons guarantee that frustrated newcomers will find themselves searching for the correct gear. The lively mid-engine chassis is a marvel of modern engineering, so that droptop Boxsters feel as rigid as coupes and Caymans feel like they're ready to roll onto pregrid. The power numbers - 255 hp in the base Boxster to 320 ponies for the top-of-the-line Cayman S - don't sound overwhelming. But that's the point. This isn't a beast that's been toned down for popular consumption or an econobox that's been tarted up with performance parts. It's a solid, grown-up, well-thought-out thoroughbred that dances rings around the bloated Cayenne and Panamera, and although this sounds like heresy, it embodies Porsche's core verities even more authentically than the venerable 911. Prices start at about $50,000, with fully optioned models climbing to $70K and beyond. Cheap? No. A bargain? Well, they say a rich man has to pass through the eye of a needle to enter heaven. But all he's got to do to achieve sports car nirvana is buy a Cayman S.

Base price range: $48,550-$62,450
Engines: 2.9L flat-6, 255/265 hp, 214/221 lb-ft; 3.4L flat-6, 310/320 hp, 266/273 lb-ft

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