2005 Porsche Boxster

Charlie Magee
Front Passenger Side View

The ninety-minute drive from Stuttgart to Freiburg is all autobahn, so the Boxster gets an early chance to stretch its legs. Although the power output has gone up from 258 to 276 hp, the difference in straight-line performance is marginal: 0.2 second off the 0-to-62-mph time, while top speed goes up from 165 to 168 mph. But in real-world terms-torque delivery and throttle response-the uprated 3.2-liter flat-six offers more urge, feedback, and immediacy. Maximum torque of 236 lb-ft (up a scant 7 lb-ft) is now available between 4700 and 6000 rpm. Although peak power is delivered at an unchanged 6200 rpm, the redline was lifted to 7200 rpm, ensuring seriously beautiful noise.

There's no better place to sample this Boxster music at full volume than up a sweeping hill where the hungry intake rasp and the full exhaust roar are echoed by tall walls of stone and lines of trees. Schauinsland is ideal. A stone's throw away from the picture-postcard city of Freiburg by the Rhine, this hill-climb is in the foothills of the Black Forest. You can tell that this road was used for competition recently, because there is double-thickness Armco barrier lining most of the 127 corners that lead from the start at Friedrichshof to the finish line at the summit. Last year, the Green Party interfered, and the track's license was temporarily suspended. The record for this seven-mile drive stands at an incredible 4:59.20 minutes, but there was no chance of repeating this, because the police had posted a radar-enforced 43-mph speed limit.

So we shed the driving gloves, put on our shades, lowered the roof (it still needs to be latched and unfastened manually), and took our time sampling the spectrum of early-autumn scents that ranged from ripe ceps to wild brambles. It might not be what you want to do with a new Boxster, but taking it easy revealed some surprises, such as the composed ride. Although our test car was shod with optional nineteen-inch Michelins, the suspension tremble in the steering wheel and the occasional front-end pitch we remember from last year's car have all but disappeared. And who would have thought that the rev-hungry 24-valve engine would happily hum up the hill in fourth without protesting, except in tight hairpins.

Drivers Side Aerial View

Switzerland's most famous hill-climb is at Ollon-Villars, but the prospect of having to traverse the entire radar-infested country was so off-putting that we chose instead the run from St.-Ursanne to Les Rangiers, a convenient two-hour drive from Freiburg. A mere 3.3 miles long, this has a flat-out bottom section that gives way to a top part (Little Susten) that could easily double as an Alpine pass. The current speed king is a Frenchman who mastered the track in an F3000 single-seater in 1:48.71. We arrived in St.-Ursanne just in time for a downpour that would have floated Noah's ark. While photographer Charlie Magee tore out what little remains of his hair, I tried to discern the racing line followed by such famous Swiss drivers as Clay Regazzoni, Jo Siffert, and Herbie Mller.

In conditions like these, the Boxster's Sport mode, available with the Sport Chrono option, strikes a nice balance between safety net and abyss. The faster throttle response, more aggressive rev limiter, less intrusive stability-control calibration, and tauter damper setting (in cars fitted with the optional PASM, or Porsche Active Suspension Management) allow you to push the car without falling down the hillside. You get a taste of full-throttle wheel spin in first and second in the dry, which is extended to third when it's wet. In addition, you get a mild tail sidestep in the dry and more than enough oversteer on slippery blacktop. The hairy-chested can deactivate stability control and adjust their driving style accordingly. The mid-engined Boxster needs more sliding space than the rear-engined 911, so it's imperative to turn in early and to lay the power down quickly. If you're not absolutely confident about what you are doing, there will be too much initial understeer and subsequently not enough road for the full-throttle (or lift-off) maneuver that is bound to follow.

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