Porsches lower-priced, mid-engine sports car got some major technical and appearance modifications for the 2003 model year. Wind-tunnel work has resulted in a sharper-profiled front end, whose lower edge forms a continuous lip. The front air intakes have more prominent outer edges, which gives the car a lower look and provides greater airflow. The rear end extends lower and is wrapped more solidly around the tailpipe, where wide vents offer improved exhaust-system cooling. Side-mounted engine air scoops have been reworked with body-colored grids.
These aerodynamic refinements which are helped by new VarioCam technology complement increased engine power. The horizontally opposed six-cylinder engines have not changed in size, but both have earned a modest power boost an increase to 225 horsepower for the regular Boxster and a jump to 258 hp for the Boxster S. Twin exhaust pipes on the Boxster S have been redesigned.
For 2003, both versions use the same shock absorbers, and new light-alloy wheels reduce unsprung weight. The rear portion of the Boxsters fabric top has been altered with the addition of an extra top bow. This gives the roof a rounded, balanced shape. A new rear glass window with an electric defroster replaces the previous plastic window. The automatic-deploying spoiler is now considered almost invisible when its in standby mode. A lockable glove box and retractable cupholder have been added.
The Boxster name blends the term used for horizontally opposed engines, called boxers, with the cars roadster body. Rivals include the Audi TT, BMW Z4, Honda S2000 and Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class.
Viewed from the front, the Boxster resembles Porsches rear-engine 911 series. But farther back, the Boxster has an assertive profile all of its own. Front fog lights are standard, and the Boxster S adds rear fog lights. An optional wind deflector mounts behind the seats to reduce turbulence when the top is down. A removable aluminum hardtop is optional.
Alloy wheels on the Boxster S hold 17-inch tires, which can be installed on the base model as an option to replace the standard 16-inchers. Owners who want an extra touch of traction can opt for 18-inch tires. The Boxster S has a firmer-tuned sport suspension, larger brake rotors and a dual exhaust outlet.
Two occupants enjoy leather-faced body-hugging bucket seats. Following a Porsche tradition, the nearly vertical steering wheel telescopes in and out but does not tilt. Standard equipment includes heated power mirrors, heated windshield washer nozzles, a theft-deterrent system, a cassette stereo system and a leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel.
Options include Bose digital sound, heated seats, high-intensity-discharge headlights, parking assist and a navigation system. Cargo compartments at both ends of the vehicle offer a total of 11.2 cubic feet of space, but soft luggage fits the best in the odd-shaped compartments.
Under the Hood
The regular Boxster holds a 2.7-liter, dual-overhead-cam, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine that now produces 225 hp at 6,300 rpm. The engine sits behind the seats and ahead of the rear axle. A five-speed-manual transmission is standard, and a drive-by-wire throttle is used.
Stepping up to the Boxster S brings a 3.2-liter six-cylinder that makes 258 hp at 6,250 rpm; it mates with a six-speed-manual gearbox. Either engine can be used with Porsches optional Tiptronic S five-speed-automatic transmission, which incorporates steering-wheel buttons for manual gear selection.
Side-impact airbags and antilock brakes are standard. Porsches Stability Management System is optional.
Improvements for 2003 are subtle, but they make an excellent sports car even better. Even if acceleration isnt the quickest of the high-performance sports-car lot, few automobiles offer as much all-around driving enjoyment as the Boxster. Few deliver anything close to its level of quick, precise control and racetrack-style moves.
Eager to dash ahead, the Boxster has the ability to keep its tires planted firmly on the pavement, whether the road is straight or curved. To some drivers, the Boxster delivers as much if not more joy as the 911.
The seats are surprisingly comfortable, but the limited cargo space is a drawback. The gearboxes and clutches take a little effort to operate, but theyre beautifully matched to the engines. Everything seems to work in tandem in the Boxster to produce the most satisfying road experience.