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2009 Porsche Boxster S

It's tough to think of a better way to celebrate 80-degree July weather than with one of Zuffenhausen's finest roadsters. The Porsche Boxster S is simply one of the most enjoyable ways to travel your favorite roads. Sure you can bomb along at 120 mph without much warning (aside from the howling wind), but the Boxster also rewards a responsible driver in a way that few fast cars can. Even at nearly legal speeds, the car's impeccable balance, grip, and road feel are a joy.

Everyone seems to love the fancy new PDK gearbox, but that praise seems to be for cars also fitted with the optional Sport Chrono Package, which adds a sport button (and $1320 on top of the price of the PDK). Without the sport button, the PDK's impressive reflexes are a little dulled. It's still possible to select the gears manually, but I find the push up/pull down nature of the stick to be unnatural and the buttons on the wheel are not as user-friendly as a traditional set of paddles. I know Porsche owners moving from Tiptronic-equipped cars to the PDK system are used to the wheel-mounted buttons, but everyone else will probably find the system to be counter-intuitive.

Your best bet is to opt for the six-speed manual, saving $3420, and use that money to add sport exhaust, Porsche's active suspension management, and other go-fast goodies. Actually, the frugal enthusiast could opt for an absolute base Boxster's mere 255 hp and $46,600 sticker and not be let down. These roadsters are so much fun to drive and the slower car isn't slow.

Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor

The Porsche Boxster has always been near perfection and this 2009 Boxter S is no exception. Although I must admit, I was disappointed to see that it was equipped with the PDK transmission instead of a traditional manual. Mechanically, PDK is a great transmission but, like Phil, I found the user-interface - especially the steering-wheel-mounted buttons - more awkward and difficult to use than paddles. So, as with most automated manuals, I played with it for a while but got frustrated and stayed in auto mode for the rest of my time in the car.

The moment I sat down, I noticed that the console is less cluttered and better organized than previous generations of the Boxster. I was happy to see that the numerous - and sometimes unmarked - tiny buttons that littered the central console in previous Boxsters' had been dropped in favor of clearly labeled, fingertip-sized controls. The swing-out cupholders - which are hidden behind a small, flip-down door above the glove box - are a great space saver. Upon first inspection the arm felt flimsy, certainly not strong or secure enough to hold my heavy stainless steel coffee mug. But the crab-claw adjuster tightens firmly, and was more than stout enough to endure sudden stops and rough terrain.

This car is huge fun when pushed hard and driven fast but - in part because it is a convertible - the joy of driving on slower two lanes while taking in the scenery and soaking up the aural goodness of the Porsche in-line six is far more rewarding. Long live the Boxster.

Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor

You could blindfold me, throw me in a car, fire up the engine, and I'll tell you if it's a Porsche or not. The distinct sound of a Porsche boxer six is one of the most recognizable sounds in the automotive world; it never gets old, and most importantly, it never disappoints. When the chance to drive a Porsche Boxster S for an evening arose, I jumped to the occasion. Then I giggled all the way to the parking garage with keys in hand.

Our test unit was equipped with Porsche's PDK transmission, a $3420 option. While the PDK pulls off lightning-fast shifts that are smoother than any driver could duplicate, there's just something missing when a sports car only has two pedals to work with. As if any Porsche should need a sport button, but the car would've benefited greatly had it been equipped with the $1320 Sport Chrono Package, which as Phil noted adds a sport mode.

This Boxster S came with $7500 in options including: $500 for heated seats, $900 for ventilated seats, and $695 for Bluetooth. If it were buying one, I'd ditch all three of these; opt for the manual transmission, pick up the Sport Chrono Package for $960, and a limited-slip differential for $950, and then find the nearest race track.

Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator

The Boxster's sterling reputation for balance, capability, and forgivingness is well earned. These traits pay off whether you're driving flat out or just cruising empty back roads. Anyone can feel like a great driver in this car by grabbing a lower gear, stepping on the accelerator, and rocketing through a corner.

I'll readily join the gang griping about PDK. But rather than moan about purist traditions, I'm taking exception with Porsche's execution. Those steering wheel-mounted buttons are terrible. Figuring out whether to push or pull for the next shift typically requires looking down at the steering wheel. Shifting with the wheel turned requires lifting a hand and hunting for the button. Sure, an automaker might be able to get away with this in a midsize sedan, but this is a Porsche! Even though it's not a manual, the transmission is still an integral part of the driving experience. The interface needs to be intuitive and functional when driving fast. The solution is simple: two paddles mounted on the column. Left paddle downshifts, right paddle upshifts. Of course, PDK itself is very good. Shifts are quick and smooth both in auto and manual modes. It's also great at idle, with a decent amount of creep dialed in.

Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor

Base price (with destination): $57,650
Price as tested: $65,165

7-speed PDK transmission $3420
Heated front seats $500
Seat ventilation $800
Porsche wind blocker $375
Automatic climate control $550
Bluetooth $695
Bose high-end sound package $990
Floor mats in exterior color $90
Universal audio interface $95

Fuel economy:
20 / 29 / 23 mpg

Size: 3.4L in-line six-cylinder
Horsepower: 310 hp @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 266 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

7-speed PDK automatic

Weight: 3042 lb

18 x 8-in front; 18 x 9-in rear
235/40ZR18 front, 265/40ZR18 rear tires