"I would punch my own mother and go on a seventeen-state crime spree if the Boxster asked me to." While no staffer wrote those exact words in the logbook of our Four Seasons Porsche Boxster S, such a statement pretty accurately describes how much we loved our yellow two-seater. More to the point: almost all of us agreed that the Boxster was awesome.
This was hardly unexpected. We had a similarly wonderful experience with our previous long-term Boxster back in 1998 (the last line of our final report on that car: "Can we have it back?"), and even those of us who hadn't driven that first-generation car were eager to test the updated, 80-percent-new version. Although the second-generation Boxster went on sale in January 2005, we waited until the following summer and the return of convertible weather before filling out our order sheet.
Approaching the notoriously pricey Porsche options list with caution, we managed to tack on only $4475 to the Boxster S's $53,895 base price. The extra dough nabbed the $2190 preferred package (self-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, colored wheel centers, a Bose surround sound stereo, heated seats, and floor mats), the $990 bixenon headlamp package (self-leveling headlights with washers), a $375 wind deflector, and the $920 sport chrono package. The last option was the most controversial, not for the heightened throttle response and relaxed stability control provided by its sport button, but rather for the bulbous, silver-faced stopwatch the package added to the center of the dash--an ugly "wart" according to several staff members. Wart and all, the final sticker price for our speed yellow Boxster S was $58,370, which included the $795 destination fee. It's a good day when you can leave a Porsche dealership with a brand-new car for less than $60,000.
Early logbook scribblings were unanimous in their praise for the Porsche's comfortable seats and all-around handling prowess. "The rock-solid chassis helps make the Boxster one of the best cars on the planet, and its precision and responsiveness leave me in awe," enthused road test coordinator Marc Noordeloos. Perhaps the Boxster's most impressive quality, however, was its stiffness. "This is by far the most torsionally rigid roadster I've ever driven," declared contributor Preston Lerner. "With the top up, I could have sworn I was driving a coupe." Potholes, washboard back roads, and patchwork freeways were all tackled with nary a creak or groan of protest, and the Porsche was as rattle-free at the end of our year as it was when it arrived.
There was a lot more to love about the Boxster, too. Take the observed fuel mileage, for example. Over 27,627 combined city and highway miles, we saw 21 mpg--quite respectable considering that we flogged the ever-loving stink out of the car whenever possible. Despite being driven hard, the Boxster survived the year with no major problems save a leaky coolant hose (the result of a minor accident, not shoddy craftsmanship). We fell for the reasonably spacious front and rear trunks, too, which were great for long road trips. The combined 9.5 cubic feet of storage space meant that passengers didn't end up getting a nine-hour lap dance from their luggage, an all too common situation in many roadsters once the top drops. (Cough. Pontiac Solstice. Cough.) Speaking of tops, not only could the Boxster flip its lid in just twelve seconds, but it could do so at speeds of up to 31 mph--very useful for times when we were running late.
We weren't late too often, though, since the sensational 276-hp, 3.2-liter flat six housed in the Porsche's midsection encouraged early arrivals. With only 22 more hp than the outgoing model, our Boxster S wasn't strikingly fast--it sprinted to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds in our tests--but the engine's smoothness, wide powerband, and beautiful exhaust note invited enthusiastic driving at any and every opportunity. The six's sweet sounds, which nearly sent the Porschephiles on staff into convulsions of joy, triggered more logbook commentary than anything else.
Sweet also described the Boxster's brakes. "As good as the engine is," wrote Lerner, "the brakes may be even better. No doubt the Boxster's weight--or lack thereof--has something to do with it. When you get down to serious threshold braking, the pedal gets very hard, like a racing car's. Advantage: Porsche!" He also echoed the across-the-board affection for the Boxster's steering: "It's precise, direct, and magically responsive to inputs."
But the Boxster wasn't perfect. Or, rather, it wasn't perfect enough. The ink-stained noodleheads here at 120 E. Liberty generally aren't happy unless we've got something to grouse about, and so we groused. Many complaints were centered around the Boxster S's six-speed manual transmission. "Too vague for a clean, quick 2-3 upshift," snarled technical editor Don Sherman. "The throw from fourth to fifth is a bit long and a bit rubbery," chimed in senior editor Joe DeMatio. Even copy editor Rusty Blackwell, who suffered from a stalkerish obsession with the Porsche, observed that "the shift action could be a bit more crisp."
The Boxster's interior was also derided for being too plasticky, and nearly everyone complained that the center console had too many tiny, fiddly controls. L.A. bureau chief Michael Jordan summed it up: "If you were going to accessorize this car, you'd start with the dark, plain interior. It's much improved over the first-generation car, but there are still too many fussy details, like the radio and climate controls. It stems from the German way of operating, which requires a control switch for every little thing." There were few grumblings about fit and finish, however, and the cabin showed little wear after twelve months of hard use. The only quality issues we encountered during our test were a rattling wind blocker (which would have been fixed under warranty had we simply bothered to mention it to the dealer) and an exterior side vent that wriggled itself partially free every couple of weeks or so.
Those minor issues aside, the Porsche seduced Automobile Magazine staffers left and right, and it proved just as popular with our friends--we felt like mechanical bull operators with all the rides we doled out. "I took a bunch of relatives out for some hard miles in the Boxster, and they loved every second of it," wrote one editor after rocketing across Ohio and West Virginia to a family reunion. When DeMatio took the roadster to a barbecue, "there was much giggling and squealing about the 'cool car' from the preteens in attendance. Naturally, I had to take them all out for a spin; one kid looked at me and said, 'You must be rich!' One should never underestimate the power of a Porsche on the proletariat."
But some schlubs remained unconvinced. "Something's missing," wrote assistant editor Sam Smith. "To my goofball judgment, the damn thing's technically near faultless, but I don't drool. I don't sit up nights wondering how many banks I'll have to rob to put a Boxster in my garage." And DeMatio, who praised the car's dynamics, confessed that "something about the Boxster bores me."
As for the rest of us? Consider us the proletariat. We want this Boxster back, too.