Porsches entry-level model packs a mid-mounted six-cylinder engine. The Boxster debuted early in 1997 after several years on the concept block. Serving as the German automakers contender for the roadster market, the two-passenger rear-drive Boxster convertible drew abundant praise when it went on sale, drawing a new group of buyers to Porsche dealerships. Styling harks back to the original Porsche 356 of the 1950s and to the seldom-seen 550 Spyder and RS60 models of the past. The Boxster name blends the term used for horizontally opposed engines (boxers) with the cars roadster body.
A Boxster S with a stronger engine arrived for 2000. Boxster rivals include the Audi TT, BMW Z3 and M roadster, Honda S2000 and Mercedes-Benz SLK.
An electronic stability system called Porsche Stability Management became optional this year and also is used in the larger, rear-engine 911 series. This system integrates the cars antilock brakes with traction control to help maintain stability in difficult situations.
Base-model Boxsters get a new cloth headliner for the fabric top, like the one on the S model, to help keep noise levels down. A new three-spoke steering wheel contains a Porsche crest, and new carpeting has been installed in both the front and rear storage compartments. Stabilizer bars mounted behind the headrests gain softer coverings this year. New LED interior orientation lights help the driver locate the ignition switch, door latches and other interior items at night, and they also promise to add a touch of extra elegance to the cockpit. Self-dimming inside and outside mirrors are grouped in an option package with rain-sensing windshield wipers.
The front-end appearance is similar to that of the rear-engine 911 coupe and convertible, as redesigned for 1999. But farther back, the Boxster has an assertive profile all of its own, based on the mid-engine configuration. The power-operated fabric top has a plastic rear window. A removable aluminum hardtop is available as an option and contains a glass window with a defogger. A rear spoiler and front and rear fog lights are standard, and an optional wind deflector mounts behind the seats to reduce turbulence in the cars interior when the top is down.
Alloy wheels on the Boxster S hold 17-inch tires, which can be installed on the base model as an option to replace the customary 16-inchers. Owners who want an extra touch of traction can opt instead for 18-inch rubber on either model. The S model also has a firmer suspension, bigger brake rotors and a dual exhaust outlet. Cargo compartments at both ends offer a total of 9 cubic feet of space, but that doesnt mean you should haul out the big suitcases. Soft luggage fits the best in the oddly shaped compartments.
Two occupants enjoy leather-trimmed, body-hugging bucket seats with power recliners and a drivers-side height adjustment in a down-to-business cockpit. Following a Porsche tradition, the nearly vertical steering wheel telescopes in and out but does not tilt. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and handbrake, heated power mirrors, power windows and locks, a cassette stereo system, heated windshield washer nozzles and a theft-deterrent system. The S model adds remote keyless entry and variable intermittent wipers, as well as a sport suspension and 17-inch tires.
Under the Hood
Base-model Boxsters get a 2.7-liter, horizontally opposed DOHC six-cylinder engine that produces 217 horsepower. The engine sits behind the seats and ahead of the rear axle. A five-speed-manual transmission is standard. Stepping up a notch is the Boxster S, which has a 3.2-liter DOHC six-cylinder that makes 250 hp and mates with a six-speed gearbox. Both engines can be used with Porsches optional Tiptronic five-speed-automatic transmission, which incorporates steering-wheel buttons for manual gear selection. Traction control, side-impact airbags and antilock brakes are standard.