As everybody knows, Porsche has been hit hard with brand expansion disease. Whereas it used to be that a Porsche was a sports car, now the company instead seeks to make "the Porsche of" SUVs, luxury sedans, (and soon) smaller SUVs, grand touring coupes, and so on. Happily, there's no confusion as to what the Boxster is. It's a true sports car and, as the latest version proves, its focus and its excellence is undiluted by Porsche's forays into other types of vehicles.
There may have been a time when the Boxster was seen as the junior Porsche, a car for those who couldn't afford the real thing -- meaning, a 911. The latest Boxster has taken several steps to bury that perception for good.
The first comes in the form of the completely new sheetmetal. Previously, the Boxster's shape was a little bit soft, and the car suffered from proportions that were just a tad off -- especially when compared to the pitch-perfect concept that presaged its arrival. In contrast, the latest one has been toned and sharpened. It has a shorter front overhang, a longer wheelbase, and a wider track. It's still unmistakably a Boxster, but it's subtly more aggressive and now carries an undertone of Porsche's mid-engine supercar, the Carrera GT. Credit particularly the more prominent side air intakes; the thinner, more vertical headlamps; and the sharp-edged rear spoiler, which is so neatly integrated into the tail lamps. Also neatly integrated is the folded canvas top, whose front section is shaped to match the contour of the body, allowing it to present a clean appearance when lowered without the bother of a snap-on boot or the complexity of a hard boot. Another neat feature of the convertible top is that it can be raised or lowered when rolling along at up to 31 mph, which is a great convenience. You'll want to keep the top down as much as possible, not just because it's an awesome way to travel but also because top-up visibility is restricted due to the small rear and side windows.
A second area where the Boxster has grown up is in the cabin. Early iterations of the Boxster suffered from a hard-plastic-lined interior that seemed built to a price. The latest Boxster has shed the cheap plastic and now uses materials commensurate with what you would expect in a Porsche. The steering wheel, the door panels, the dash, and the center console have all been upgraded. Speaking of the latter, as in other Porsches -- Panamera, Cayenne, 911 -- the Boxster interior is now bisected by a high, ramp-like center console that, like the center stack, is littered with black buttons. The high console puts the shifter in a great spot but it does lack for stowage space -- there's nowhere to readily stash a cell phone, for instance.
Then there's the engine. The early Boxster had pretty modest engine output (only 201 hp when it debuted); although the S offered more. In the intervening years, output of but the standard Boxster and the S has steadily crept up. It does so again with this redesign, as the regular version is now rated at 265 hp and 206 pound-feet of torque, and the S puts out 315 hp and 266 pound-feet. Commendably, Porsche at the same time was able to shave off a few pounds (55 pounds in the Boxster, 77 pounds in the S).
It's now to the point where the Boxster is a plenty quick (0-60 in as little as 5.2 seconds) and the S is a screamer (4.8 seconds to 60 mph with the manual transmission, 4.5 seconds with the PDK and Sport Chrono package). Top speed is a heady 173 mph. I was blown away by the way the Boxster S could instantly make surrounding freeway traffic seem like it was standing still -- at any speed in any gear. And, as has always been the case, is does so accompanied by the hypnotic, tearing-paper sound of the signature, horizontally opposed Porsche six. It is hypnotic and addictive, and it's even more present than in the 911 because the engine is right behind your ears.
And then there's the element that has always been great -- the Boxster's mid-engine handling balance. There's nothing like it outside of the supercar arena. It gives this Porsche perfect fluidity, naturally eager turn-in, and fabulous controllability. The new, electric power steering still has perfect weighting; and if it no longer has perfect tactility, that's only in comparison to the previous one. No matter, this is still a car you just want to keep driving. It's a pure sports car, and a pure Porsche -- redemption for those who thought the company might have become too distracted elsewhere to make such a thing.
2013 Porsche Boxster S
Base price (with destination): $61,850
Price as tested: $88,720
3.4-liter six-cylinder boxer engine
6-speed manual transmission
4-wheel vented disc brakes w/ 4-piston aluminum monoblock, red-painted calipers
8 x 19 in front, 9.5 x 19 in rear wheels
Power convertible top w/heated glass rear window
Manual seats with power recliners
Power side mirrors
7-in touch screen audio system w/CD player and 4 speakers
Automatically extending rear spoiler
Twin-tip, center-exiting exhaust
Options on this vehicle:
Premium package w/adaptive sport seats $5265
Infotainment Package w/Bose $3860
Carrera red natural leather interior $3535
20-inch Carrera Classic wheels $2730
GT silver metallic paint $2580
Sport Chrono package $1850
Porsche torque vectoring $1320
Front and rear park assist $860
Vented seats $730
6-disc CD/DVD changer $670
Multi-function steering wheel $615
Light design package $340
Power steering plus $270
Heated steering wheel $270
Wheel caps w/Porsche crest $185
Key options not on this vehicle:
Porsche ceramic composite brakes $7400
7-speed PDK transmission $3200
Sports exhaust system $2825
Special metallic paint $2580
Mahogany interior package $1790
Carbon interior package $1790
Air vent slats in leather $1190
Contrast stitching on steering wheel rim $1025
20 / 28 / 23 mpg
Horsepower: 315 hp @ 6700 rpm
Torque: 266 lb-ft @ 4500-5800 rpm
Curb weight: 2910 lb
20 x 8 inch front, 20 x 9.5 inch rear aluminum alloy
235/35ZR20 front, 265/35ZR19 rear tires
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