Versus the competiton:
Porsches are conceived as driver’s machines. They are twisty-road dance partners, not to mention fashion statements extraordinaire. Few other cars have such a recognizable shape and sound.
The entry-level Boxster is one of the most livable sports cars around. Starting at $42,600, it has the style and performance of the more expensive models, yet it is as livable as a family sedan. It feels as much at home in the grocery parking lot as it does blazing down the highway. Point it toward a track and you can almost feel it smile. Competitors include the Corvette and Honda S2000.
The Boxster first hit the road as a 1998. In the last couple of years it has been given a shot of adrenaline, in the form of a larger engine and more horsepower. There’s a Boxster S for those who need even more performance and power.
The 2.7-liter, six-cylinder sits right behind the driver and ahead of the rear wheels, creating a nearly ideal 50-50 front-rear weight distribution. This balance is one of the key reasons Boxsters grip the road as if they have suction cups for wheels. This horizontally opposed engine has a low center of gravity, as well. A twin-resonance induction system borrowed from the larger 911 works with variable valve timing to spread power across a wide rpm range. This engine pulls nicely at low speeds, but it really shows its muscles when you rev it up. Gas it hard and the muted howl from the induction system signals the awakening of a deeper spirit. The sound alone is intoxicating, but it’s even better because it is accompanied by a nice push right between your shoulder blades.
Slip the gearshift lever to the next notch, punch the gas again and it’s like a replay in fast forward. Porsche says it hits 62 miles per hour (which is 100 kilometers per hour) in 6.6 seconds.
The five-speed gearbox mates to a beautifully weighted clutch. Every shift can be executed so smoothly that it feels almost like an automatic. Tactile responses like that make every minute behind the wheel worth the price.
The Boxster lacks the brute force of a Corvette and the razor-sharp ride of the Honda S2000, but it is easily more comfortable than either on a daily basis.
Handling has always been one of Porsche’s strengths, and the Boxster, because of its mid-engine layout, is exceptional. The test car’s 17-inch wheels and stiffer suspension, which are part of the sport package, make a good car even better, yet there is very little penalty in terms of ride harshness. PorscheÕs stability control, a $1,230 option, controls skids by cutting power and braking one wheel at a time.
Much of the fun of having a convertible is the ease with which the top can be raised and lowered. The Boxster excels here, too. Flip one latch and the top electrically lowers in 12 seconds. On cool mornings, leave the side windows up and the glass windblocker between the headrests keeps wind from swirling back into the cockpit, making top-down trips free of wind fatigue.
Anot her reason the Boxster is a livable sports car is because it contains two small trunks, one in front and one in back. The trunks should be able to accommodate luggage for two people for a long weekend trip.
Complaints? The Boxster sits low, so getting in and out is not easy, and the windows creaked and squeaked against the top when the weather was cool. A removable hardtop is an option.
The Boxster’s base price is $42,600. Options on the test car included metallic paint, sport package, 17-inch wheels and PorscheÕs stability control system. The sticker price was $48,885.
Four years or 50,000 miles. Point: The Boxster is pure driving delight. It is powerful, light on its feet and very handsome. The power top goes up and down in a few seconds.
Counterpoint: The windows squeak against the top in cold weather and the low seating position requires a certain amount of agility.
En ine: 2.7-liter, 217-hp 6-cyl.
Transmission: Five-speed Rear-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 95.2 inches
Curb weight: 2,778 lbs.
Base price: $42,600
As driven: $48,885
Mpg rating: 19 city, 27 hwy.