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2002 Best Sports Car Over $40,000 - Porsche Boxster S

It's hard to believe that not so very long ago, we were wondering if Porsche had lost its way. Various attempts at front-engined machines, both exotically and popularly priced, had foundered, and the long-lived 911, though still beloved, was growing long in the tooth. Then along came the Boxster—presaged by an unspeakably gorgeous 1993 show car—and the question evaporated.

With a horizontally opposed flat six (now water-cooled) to serve up the classic Porsche wail, a chassis expertly tuned to supply all of the roadholding and brilliant steering feel we'd come to expect of 911s, and, if anything, even more balance and poise—owing to its mid-engined design—the Boxster was Automobile Magazine's 1998 Automobile of the Year.

The styling, though whittled one beauty notch down from the show car by the productionization process, still achieved instant classic status. The two-seat roadster was even more practical than the 911, with storage trunks front and rear. If there was any complaint, it related to the original Boxster's lack of ponies. It wasn't slow, but a car and chassis this capable cried out for more.

Enter the Boxster S. With 250 horsepower (versus 217 in an "ordinary" Boxster), even more stupendous brakes, and a six-speed gearbox, this represents our idea of the complete sports car. Evidence of visitation by the cost cutters still plagues the interior, but some of the world's best engineers have their fingerprints all over everything else. If you plan to buy one sports car and keep it forever, this is the one, a quality driver's car with no peer.