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Expert Reviews 1 of 7
By Richard Truett
June 12, 1997
I have a thirtysomething accountant friend who is a very hip and style-conscious person. She loves the Boxster. One of my fortysomething supervisors, who is raising a teenage son and who shoulders a heavy load in her job, is a bit more conservative.
She loves the Boxster. I have a teenage neighbor who is seriously into high-performance Japanese motorcycles and fast American cars. He loves the Boxster. Then there's Fred, my portly dachshund. He is naturally drawn to German cars, especially ones where
he can put his nose out the passenger-side window. And even he loves the Boxster. Now that I have had a chance to drive the Boxster, you can count me in too. I love the Boxster. In fact, who doesn't? The line of buyers waiting for Porsche to
build them a Boxster stretches into next year. Porsche factories are working overtime to meet the surging worldwide demand for the new sports car. After having recently test-driven the mighty Jaguar XK8, the BMW Z3 2.8 and the Mercedes-Benz SLK, I can
report than none delivered the pulse-increasing excitement and sheer fun of the Boxster. Porsche got every aspect of this car right. From the way it sounds to the way it looks to the way it is priced, the Boxster is a winner. PERFORMANCE, HANDLING
The Boxster is powered by a 2.5-liter, horizontally opposed ''boxer'' engine. This is the first Porsche six-cylinder engine that sports double-overhead cams, 24-valves and water cooling. Horsepower is rated at 201. Buyers can choose between a
five-speed manual and the optional five-speed ''tiptronic'' automatic transmission. The tiptronic feature lets you shift the automatic electronically. It adds a hefty $3,150 to the price tag. Our silver test car came with the tiptronic transmission, not
an option that I would buy. The Boxster's powerful rear-mounted engine makes an otherworldly sound, as if it were powered by plutonium or some other exotic fuel. As you rev it up, a sort of whirring turbine-like whooshing engulfs you and makes your
heart race. If you love the finely tuned mechanical noises of a high-performance engine, you'll drive the Boxster like I did most of the time: with the radio off. The engine idles with just a hint of impatience. When you rev it up, it smooths out
considerably. Regardless of what speed you drive, there is instant power under your right foot. Acceleration comes on strong and fast. Porsche says the Boxster will go from 0-to-60 mph in 6.7 seconds, which is about a half-second slower than the BMW Z3
2.8 and equal to the Mercedes-Benz SLK, the other two high-profile German sports cars that are new this year. Speed isn't everything. Style counts too - especially in a sports car. While the classy Boxster is a shade slower to 60 mph than the BMW (and
half a dozen other sports cars), I'm convinced you won't have more fun, attract more looks or enjoy the trip more in a Corvette, Cobra, Camaro, Supra or anything else.
There is no other sensation I know of that is equal to the sound and fury of the Boxster's engine winding up and shifting through the gears. When the tachometer needle reaches about 6,300 rpm, the engine sounds like an Indy race car. The tiptronic
transmission functions as sort of an electrically shifted manual gearbox. It works OK, but I would never consider owning any true sports car with anything other than a real manual transmission. In addition to being the most efficient way to get the
horsepower to the wheels, a manual gearbox lets the driver exert more control over the car. Two buttons on the steering wheel allow you to shift the tiptronic transmission up or down when you wish. Or you can leave it on the automatic mode, where it will
shift for you. In the morning before the engine warmed up, I found the automatic shifts somewhat rough. I didn't use the tiptronic mode much; it seemed too gimmicky. The Boxster has a true sports car feel. The four-whee
l independent suspension system provides a quiet ride that does a credible job of absorbing bumps. The Boxster is a sports car that uses parts made for a sports car, unlike the Mercedes and BMW, which use parts plucked from sedans and coupes. The
power-assisted four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are industrial strength, and the rack-and-pinion steering is tight and responsive. Our test car averaged 24 mpg in combined city/highway driving. FIT AND FINISH The Boxster's retro styling
makes the car an instant classic. That curvaceous body is at once new and familiar. We've seen some variation of those downward sloping, inner curving fenders used for years on the Porsche 911. Those with long memories might recognize a trace of '50s
Porsches in the Boxster's hindquarters. The shape of the stylized headlights, taillights, wheels and single exhaust tip gives the Boxster its own personality. There is not one thing about the Boxster's shape that I would change. It's a styling and
design masterpiece, a car that captures Porsche's rich history while at the same time conveying up to the minute styling and technology. With its smooth curves and sealed underbody - in which no parts are exposed - the Boxster slices through the air
with extreme efficiency. At speeds of 75 mph or greater, a rear spoiler automatically extends from the lip of the trunk. The spoiler uses the passing air to press down on the rear of the car for better traction. For an added measure of safety, the
Boxster is equipped with built-in rollbars behind the seat. Dual air bags are standard. The view from the driver's seat is good. Even though the Boxster's nose slopes downward, you easily can judge the distance between the front of the car and curbs
when you park. The firm leather-covered bucket seats are comfortable but a bit narrow. The Boxster likely will be a tight fit for people who weigh more than 250 pounds. The seats cradle your midsection and hold you firmly in tight corners. The
cloth convertible top is easy to operate. All you do is unfasten the latch and press a button. It takes 12 seconds for the top to drop into a well behind the rear seats, where it is stored out of sight. For a two-seat sports car, the Boxster offers
plenty of cargo room. There is a deep well in the front of the car just ahead of the spare tire that probably could hold two medium-sized bags. In the rear of the car there is another storage area big enough for another bag. The engine is buried in
the middle of the car. You add oil and coolant from the rear compartment. Our test car had a full array of power accessories - everything except cruise control. The air conditioner is a computerized affair that works well - once the car is moving. It
was a little slow to cool the car on warm days when first starting out. There were a few things I didn't care for. The panel that holds the switch for the electric mirrors w
as loose, and the instrument panel, though nicely shaped, seemed like it had just been stuck on the dash. It even moved slightly when I pressed against it. The Boxster is available with an optional hardtop, but it doesn't add anything to the car's
looks. I like it just the way it comes at $39,980 plus tax. Because of heavy demand, you may have to wait awhile to get a Boxster - unless you want to pay thousands more to have one now. The Boxster is a great car for $40,000, but it's not worth
$50,000. Porsche is working to meet heavy demand by increasing production and by hiring an outside firm to assemble the cars. By late next year, demand should be brought in line with production, and you shouldn't have to pay over sticker. After I
took my hip, style-conscious accountant friend for a ride, we started scheming to find (legal) ways to come up with $40,000. I was thinking that if you drive something that's worth $10,000 and save another $10,000, you could financ
e the other $20,000 for five years and the payments would be about equal to the amount you would pay each month for a regular family sedan. Such a plan would require patience and discipline. I want the Boxster now. So I've decided to approach the
boss, try some inspired begging and plead for a triple-digit raise. As for my friend, she made a beeline for the nearest lottery machine. The Boxster is a car that, once you drive it, you are spoiled, and you don't want to stop.
Specifications: 1997 Porsche Boxster Base price: $39,980. Safety: Dual air bags, anti-lock brakes, side-impact protection and front and rear crumple zones. Price as tested: $45,134.
EPA rating: 17 mpg city/26 mpg highway. Incentives: None. Truett's tip: By any standard of measurement, the Boxster is a terrific sports car. Boxster's performance, handling, styling, value, generous level
of equipment and quality make this low-slung roadster a tremendous automobile.