USD $100,000 Loaded
Quarter Mile: 13.0 seconds at 108.7 mph
Top speed: 173 mph
315-horsepower - 3.4L/315-hp/266-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve H-6
Six-speed manual - 7-speed dual-clutch auto
Customers will be offered the third-generation Boxster in four different models when it arrives in showrooms in early July: Boxster 6MT, Boxster PDK, Boxster S 6MT and Boxster S PDK. (The sublime Boxster Spyder was a second-generation model that is no longer in production.) Base price for the standard Boxster is USD $49,500 while the Boxster S starts at USD $60,900 (add $950 for destination fees).
Various options increase the price up to USD $100,000. The test drive model was at USD $85,000. Is the Boxter S worth 85K?
According to Porsche, the Boxster S with PDK (and Sport Chrono Package) will sprint to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds on its way to a top speed of 173 mph. Momma mia - faster than the traditional Boxter's of past. Lets review the history.
Nearly 20 years ago at the 1993 Detroit Auto Show, Porsche introduced the world to its Boxster Concept. The small silver roadster, with a mid-mounted flat-six and a soft top, was a big departure from the automaker's current lineup (Porsche was only selling the 911, 928 and 968 at the time – and two of those would shortly disappear). With styling evoking memories of the classic 550 Spyder and promises of agile handling and a lower cost of entry, the public quickly embraced the lightweight two-seater.
The first-generation Boxster (Project 986) was manufactured from model years 1997 to 2004. The second-generation model (Project 987) was not all-new, but a significantly updated version of the original platform that ran from 2005 to 2008. The Boxster was upgraded and modernized again in 2009. Add up all the variants, including the more recent lightweight Spyder, and more than 240,000 Boxsters have rolled off the assembly line in the past 15 years.
Hot on the heels of the all-new 2012 Porsche 911, the company has introduced the 2013 Boxster, or Project 981. The all-new and completely redesigned third-generation model is so significantly different from its predecessors that it makes the previous generation upgrades (from the 986 to the 987) appear embarrassingly trifling.
Here are two things you also might want to know about the new 2013 Porsche Boxster S. First, its lateral acceleration, at a nice even 1.0g, is better than the lightweight, wholly uncompromised, utterly focused, bikini-top-wearing 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder.
Second, its 72.8-mph slalom speed happens to be better than the last all-new 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S we tested. Clearly, this car is far from entry-level.
It also stops in 103 feet from 60 mph — within 1 foot of both the above-mentioned cars. That's not only a short stop, but the standard steel brakes hold up well even after repeated runs. Hard to imagine that the optional carbon brakes would be much better.
It might be down 35 hp to the base 911 Carrera, but the Boxster is also marginally lighter than the 911. At 3,066 pounds, this test car was also 34 pounds lighter than the last Boxster S we tested — a sure sign of progress in the right direction.
Another positive sign is this car's 4.9-second 0-60-mph time (4.7 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip). The quarter-mile passes in 13.0 seconds at 108.7 mph — 0.4 second quicker than the last Boxster S we tested and only 0.3 second slower than the all-new seven-speed 2012 911 Carrera S, which has 400 hp.
In other words, there's not only dynamic progress in the Boxster line, there's also 911-threatening performance. But the beauty, in fact the true worth of this new Boxster, is its ability to be both potent performer and a legitimate daily driver.
A large part of the new Boxster's appeal is its folding top which, using a console-mounted button, disappears behind the cockpit in less than 10 seconds even when the car is going as fast as 31 mph. It takes even less time to go back up which, by comparison, makes the old Boxster Spyder's do-it-yourself top look utterly laughable.
Porsche's Active Suspension Management (PASM) also goes a long way in yielding a more comfortable and more capable roadster. Freeway cruising and around-town driving are the realm of the default setting, while punching the dampers up to the Sport setting produces a car with truly world-class handling.
Also, there's more storage room in the Boxster than you'd expect. No, you won't stuff a golf bag in its trunk, but you also won't have any trouble loading it for a weekend trip and bringing home some additional goods. There's enough room in the front cargo area for a portly garden gnome and a bag of groceries, while the rear will easily accommodate one carry-on-size hard bag or multiple soft bags.
Also, the new start/stop feature works seamlessly, but in our hands it didn't produce impressive fuel economy. Over 791 miles of mixed driving we saw only 18.5 mpg.
Calling the Boxster a roadster is true in the sense that its top can be lowered, but there's a distinct sense of enclosure when driving. Those with short torsos will find the top of the door sill above their shoulder level. This high waistline combined with a tall rear deck and roll bars surround both driver and passenger, unlike many drop tops.
BMW's Z4 allows a purer convertible experience, but isn't in the same league when it comes to rewarding the driver. The Boxster's rear-quarter visibility is poor with the top down and miserable with it up. The upshot of this design is that it's easy to enjoy open-top motoring when it's cold or, surprisingly, when it's miserably hot. We drove the Boxster with its top down, windows up and air-conditioning on in 100-degree heat. We were reasonably comfortable and positively dorky.
Fully appreciating the Boxster can't be done without a careful look around its cockpit. Porsche, to put it simply, does interiors right. All switchgear operates with the same degree of precision that's present in this car's steering and brake pedals. The center console and center stack follow the design of the 911, which follows the layout created for the 2013 Porsche Panamera. There are a large number of buttons, but they're grouped logically and most controls are intuitive.
The tachometer is centrally mounted in the instrument panel and flanked by the speedometer on the left and a configurable driver information center on the right, which can display the navigation map as well as vital fluid temperatures, a g-meter or shift indicator. The seats, while reasonably supportive, are very firm. We found ourselves squirming after only an hour behind the wheel, but given the variegated firmness and size of human backsides, we suspect your experience will vary.
Porsche will have you believe that USD $84,120 is a perfectly acceptable price for a Boxster S, that its customers are willing and able to shovel out that much cash for this car. And perhaps they are, but that's a lot of money for an "entry-level" anything — even a Porsche.
What's more, you can option a Boxster up to USD $100,000 should you go absolutely insane with the option selection, but Porsche's à la carte approach does give buyers the rare opportunity to get only the features they want without adding those they don't.
Despite its cost and its nuances, we'll be the first to acknowledge that the new 2013 Porsche Boxster is a stunning automobile — both for the back-road banker and the average accountant. Its dynamic abilities are as remarkable as they should be, given its packaging. And despite being the starter Porsche, it's got enough grunt to satisfy all but the most demanding power brokers.
Porsche doesn’t like to be rushed. But while it took the company’s lab-coated obsessives 16 years to fully redesign the Boxster, the two-seat convertible has steadily evolved into one of the world’s best sports cars.
Flaunting retro-Spyder curves, the Boxster made a splash for 1997 as a more affordable midengine counterpart to Porsche’s revered 911. It’s hard to imagine now, with Porsche cranking out respectable production volumes and sizable profits with the Cayenne S.U.V. and Panamera sedan, but before the Boxster the company had devolved into a one-trick pony, troubled by quality issues and inefficiency. The 911, with only about 15,000 annual sales worldwide, wasn’t enough to keep Porsche afloat.
After dropping plans for a high-price sedan, Porsche bet the farm on the Boxster. But to have any chance at making money on a $40,000 sports car, Porsche had to hire former Toyota engineers — again, almost unfathomable — to tear down, revamp and modernize the entire company.
The efficiency expert James P. Womack wrote in Autoweek magazine, “Porsche wouldn’t be around if they hadn’t stared into the abyss and eaten a lot of crow.” He added, “To make any money on the car, the old Porsche would have had to sell it for $80,000.”
Or, 16 years later, for USD $88,720 — the sticker price of my 2013 Porsche Boxster S test car, larded like a veal chop with $27,000 in options. (At Porsche, the more things change... .) And that was for a model with a 6-speed manual transmission; adding the brilliant PDK 7-speed automated gearbox would have kicked the price to $91,920.
So much for the “affordable” Porsche. But despite some price inflation, the new Boxster starts at a more reasonable level: the base version is $50,450 and the powerful Boxster S starts at $61,850. Still, the perception that if you can afford a Boxster, you may as well buy a 911 doesn’t hold up to scrutiny: the most basic 911 Cabriolet starts around $95,000 and rises rapidly. What’s more, as the Boxster has grown from a 201-horsepower, bare-bones roadster into a modern, 315-horse marvel, it continues to keep pace with the 911’s advances.
The Boxster has sometimes been characterized as a more feminine sports car, and it has been popular among Hollywood stylists and Miami housewives. Porsche acknowledges giving the new version a mild testosterone injection. But whichever sex you credit, the new model is a rare beauty, filled with fine details that accentuate its 1950s-style curves. The doors are deeply scalloped, and the base of the windshield has moved forward nearly four inches.
What is manlier than 20-inch wheels? The Boxster’s optional Classic Carrera alloys — $2,730 extra on the S, plus $185 for wheel caps with the Porsche crest — were shod with milewide Pirelli tires that seemed suitable for a Dodge Viper.
Porsche says the car’s torsional rigidity, the topless body’s resistance to flexing, has increased 40 percent. The wheelbase is 2.4 inches longer, with a lower center of gravity and a wider “track” between the opposing wheels.
Even with many new features, 55 pounds have been trimmed from the base Boxster and 77 from the S. Curb weights range from 2,888 to 2,976 pounds. That’s 300 to 400 pounds less than the Porsche’s main rivals, the BMW Z4 35i and Mercedes SLK350.
A simpler roof design eliminates the metal tonneau cover that used to hide the folded fabric top, saving 26 pounds. Unlike the heavier BMW and Mercedes folding hardtops, the stowed top robs no cargo space — with the engine in the center, behind the seats, the Boxster has trunks front and rear — and opens or closes in just nine seconds. That top also operates at speeds below 32 miles per hour, a convenient feature I tested while gliding across the Manhattan Bridge.
As with the latest 911 and Cayenne, the interior of the Boxster has become legitimately rich, and — by Porsche standards, anyway — more user-friendly. My silver car featured a knockout full-leather Carrera Red interior that looked like a valentine from Stuttgart.
The cabin integrates Porsche’s new banked center console and an optional touch-screen infotainment system. (There goes $3,860.) That package adds a nifty color screen next to the huge analog tachometer, directly in the driver’s view, to display maps, audio and other information.
The base Boxster gets a smaller but stronger engine, a 2.7-liter direct-injection boxer 6 (down from 2.9 liters) with 265 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. The big-boy S keeps its 3.4-liter 6, but it has gained five more horsepower, to 315, and produces 266 pound-feet of torque.
The Boxster forgoes the new 7-speed manual transmission of the 911, but you won’t miss the extra gear. The 6-speed’s precise handshake is as good as it gets on any automobile.
Perhaps because I tested the Boxster right after a Camaro ZL1, with a supercharged, 580-horsepower V-8, the Porsche felt a bit power-shy at first. But when you take full advantage of the magnificent Porsche powertrains, these cars are seriously quick. Porsche conservatively cites a 4.5-second scamper from a standstill to 60 m.p.h. in the S model with the PDK gearbox, and a 173 m.p.h. top speed. That time is virtually equal to that of a Mustang Boss 302, which requires a 5-liter V-8 and 129 additional horses to do it.
In modern fashion, the manual-shift Boxsters are a tad slower, including the S’s 4.8-second run to 60 m.p.h.
As on the 911, owners can order every flavor of alphabet soup. There is, for instance, P.A.S.M., for Porsche Active Suspension Management, and P.T.V., for Porsche Torque Vectoring, which can speed up the outside rear wheel to slingshot the Boxster through corners.
The $1,850 Sport Chrono package features what must be the prettiest yet least-used feature in automobiles, a chronometer that can clock lap times. The reason to order Sport Chrono is that it comes with performance enhancements: its Sport and Sport Plus console buttons give the suspension, throttle and stability control a kick in the pants, and there is a racetrack-ready automated launch control feature on PDK-equipped versions.
The package now includes active transmission mounts, filled with magnetically charged fluid. The mounts stay soft at lower engine speeds to quell noise and vibration, then turn near-solid to keep the transmission from twisting when you hammer the throttle, sending more power to the wheels.
Combine that unbeatable midengine layout, the latest handling gizmos and enormous wheels and tires, and the Boxster becomes one of those “Now what?” cars: you wonder what speed it would take to produce the mildest rubber squeal on public roads. The Porsche’s pure, life-affirming handling continues to outstrip not just European rivals, but also the best versions of the Corvette, Mustang and Camaro.
If there is one point of contention, it is the car’s new electric-assisted steering.
Like every other company desperate to increase gas mileage, Porsche is replacing traditional hydraulic steering with electric-assisted units. Describing the difference in feel between hydraulic and electric steering isn’t easy. But traditionally, steering a Porsche was like shutting your eyes and running your hands over a face — every crease, stubble and dip comes through your fingertips, the image of the road becoming clear.
The Boxster’s electric steering delivers more muted sensations. But we’d better get used to it, because these systems are here to stay; not just for economy, but because electric steering can be linked with stability controls and other performance and safety systems.
And enthusiasts needn’t fear. The Boxster still carves a path with ultimate precision and more control than ever. Porsche’s electric unit, with a feedback sensor not found in most competitors, still feels more natural than others.
The mileage rating is notable, too, peaking at 22 miles per gallon in town and 32 on the highway for the base car with the PDK transmission, and 21/30 m.p.g. for the automatic-shifting S.
If only the price were more, well, 1997. Today, the Boxster has competition for the title of most affordable Porsche: the $49,825 Cayenne V-6. That nearly 2.5-ton family-loving Porsche is fun by S.U.V. standards, but it’s not an open-air two-seater. In other words, unlike the Boxster, it’s not one of the world’s most brilliant sports cars.