Versus the competiton:
After watching the Republican National Convention, I was determined to be more inclusive, to review more cars for the common man.
I even called the manufacturers and said: “Look here, not everyone can buy luxury automobiles, fancy sport coupes and convertibles. Start shipping more affordable metal.”
I have witnesses to this, my colleagues Frank Swoboda and Martha Hamilton.
I felt good, noble, upstanding. Then Porsche sent the beautiful “speed yellow” 2000 Boxster S roadster. Suddenly, my desire to reform faded like the will of a politician receiving a campaign contribution, and I understood. Seduction is a powerful thing.
My guilt didn’t last long. Rationalization has a way of giving waywardness a pleasant face. In what had been a week of torrential rain, the Boxster S arrived on a sunlit day. I figured that if God didn’t want me to drive this one, he would not have provided such lovely weather.
I lowered the top, which was done easily. It involved undoing a single latch in the center of the windshield header, pushing a console button and letting the sunshine in.
I’d loved Boxsters since 1993, when I first saw a concept model on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. I was among the first to drive a production model when the car went on sale in 1997.
Heck, I regarded it as a commoner’s Porsche — a sparsely outfitted mid-engine car with nearly perfect 50-50 weight distribution and the best handling imaginable.
But over the past three years, Porsche began upgrading the car — more horsepower, better interior materials, better brakes, more tinkering with the suspension. The Boxster S is the current culmination of those improvements.
It has a bigger, more powerful engine than the standard Boxster — a 3.2-liter, 250-horsepower, horizontally opposed, liquid-cooled six-cylinder model vs. a 2.7-liter, 217-horsepower version of that engine in the standard car.
Porsche installed a third radiator to better cool the Boxster S’s bigger engine. The regular Boxster has two small radiators mounted underneath the front hood.
The Boxster S is faster, going from zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.7 seconds, compared with 6.4 seconds for the regular roadster. Not that anyone with common sense should care. In a traffic environment controlled with cameras, speed limits and police who trailed the Boxster S like ants in pursuit of wet sugar, I didn’t do any peeling away from stop signs or green lights.
Ah, but there were moments. I sinned mightily on the empty back roads of a southern state that, for purpose of avoiding self-incrimination, will go unnamed here. But even in that wanton behavior, I never got to use the sixth gear of the Boxster S’s six-speed manual transmission. There was no need for it.
But the car’s cross-drilled brake discs, a la those found in the Porsche 911 Carrera, did help much, as did its excellent tractio n-control system, which came into play on some gravel-strewn roads.
My enthusiasm for the car’s practically perfect front-rear weight distribution grew. The Boxster S took curves with nary a wiggle. It went exactly where I aimed it. That was fun!
But it also was lonely enjoyment, sneaking and speeding around those back roads. I soon tired of it. I longed to be with the masses and was stunned by the realization: I do not want to be inclusive as much as I want to be included.
I’ll review a more affordable vehicle next week.
Nuts & Bolts
2000 Porsche Boxster S Complaints: Very limited storage space. It’s not a comfortable car for long-distance trips. In damp weather, the ventilation system seems to have a very difficult time defogging the windshield and side windows.
Praise: The Boxster S is the automobile as art, which is why aficionados love it despite its practical shortcomings. It is designed for people who l ove the fe el of the road.
Head-turning quotient: Attracts too much attention and way too many uniforms. Want to make a law enforcement officer’s day? Just try speeding in the “speed yellow” Boxster S on any major highway.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Good ride on trips of 100 miles or less over good roads. But ride feel declines as trip length increases, largely because of the car’s sport-tuned suspension, which is built more for handling than for comfort. Superior acceleration and handling.
Capacities: Seats two people. Holds 16.9 gallons of fuel. Premium unleaded is required (don’t try cheating with lower-octane gasoline in this one).
Mileage: About 20 miles per gallon in mostly highway driving.
Price: Base price is $49,930. Dealer invoice on base model is $43,700. Price as tested is $55,045, including $4,350 in options (full leather interior and other goodies) and a $765 destination charge. Price does not include federal luxury taxes, or state and local levies and fees.
Purse-strings note: There is no substitute for Porsche. If you want this one, and can afford it, buy it. If you want something else, buy that. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re getting something “just as good.”