Trickle down can be a wonderful thing whether you're talking wealth, wisdom, power, or Porsches. Less than a year after the 911 received a major mechanical pick-me-up, Porsche engineers passed the lessons learned to the junior members of their sports car family. The 2009 Porsche Boxster benefits from more power, higher fuel efficiency, quicker acceleration, and the latest automatic transmission technology.
This is the second generation of Porsche's 987 platform introduced in 2005. While the unibody, suspension layout, and exterior metal is for the most part carryover, a host of alterations have been incorporated into the new editions of the Boxster, Boxster S, Cayman, and Cayman S.
Like the 911, these mid-engined models are all powered by a new third-generation water-cooled flat-six engine code-named 9A1. Ranging in displacement from 2.9-liters (Boxster and Cayman) to 3.8-liters (Carrera S), this engine uses the 118mm cylinder spacing common to all Porsche sixes dating back to the original 911 but with a host of updates, including a simpler cam drive and a two-piece cylinder block yielding lighter weight, reduced friction, and a higher (7400) redline. True to Porsche form, power and efficiency both rise.
Boxster and Cayman models are equipped with 2.9-liter versions of the new engine fed by port fuel injection and rated at 255 hp for the convertible and 265 hp in the coupe. That's a rise of 10 and 20 horsepower respectively over the 2008 models. Stepping up to the more expensive S models hikes the displacement to 3.4 liters and ups the power to 310 and 320 hp respectively, in no small part because the larger sixes benefit from direct fuel injection (straight into the combustion chamber rather than the intake port).
The other major powertrain news is a shift from Porsche's antiquated Tiptronic transmission to a new PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe) 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission manufactured by ZF. Hang on for a long list of benefits: multiple shift modes, no interruption of power delivery during gear changes, a handy launch-control function, a 30-pound weight savings, quiet and efficient top-gear cruising, and a generally all-around pleasant disposition. What's not to like? PDK costs an extra $3420 and some of the hands-on driving fun is sacrificed to the gods of refinement and automation. Another issue is how you shift this automatic. The dual-slot console lever works fine but the buttons mounted in the steering wheel spokes do not. Pressing for a downshift and squeezing the back side of the spokes for an upshift, a throwback to Tiptronic, is counter-intuitive. Also, shuffling the wheel in the heat of cornering battle can result an accidental brush of a spoke button followed by an unintended shift.