Vehicle Overview
Porsche’s lower-priced mid-engine sports car got some major aerodynamic and appearance modifications in 2003. Wind-tunnel testing resulted in a sharper front end. More prominent outer edges on the Boxster’s front air intakes boosted airflow.

The engines didn’t change in size, but they earned a modest power boost — an increase to 225 horsepower for the base Boxster and 258 hp for the Boxster S. A new rear glass window with an electric defroster replaced the previous plastic window, and a lockable glove box and retractable cupholder were added.

A new S Anniversary Edition of the Boxster goes on sale as a 2004 model. The trim commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 550 racecar and features silver exterior paint and a more powerful version of the 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine.

A newly optional sport exhaust system goes on the Boxster S. The Boxster name blends the term used for horizontally opposed engines — called “boxers” — with the car’s roadster body. Rivals include the Audi TT, BMW Z4, Honda S2000 and Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class.

Viewed from the front, the Boxster resembles Porsche’s rear-engine 911 series. Farther back, the Boxster has an assertive profile all 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 and can be optioned on the base model in place of the standard 16-inchers. Owners who want extra traction can order 18-inch tires. Compared to the base model, the Boxster S has a firmer sport suspension, larger brake rotors and a dual exhaust outlet.

Two occupants enjoy leather-faced body-hugging bucket seats. Following 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 CD 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 offer a total of 9.1 cubic feet of space, but soft luggage fits best.

Under the Hood
The base Boxster holds a 2.7-liter, dual-overhead-cam, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine that’s mounted behind the seats but ahead of the rear axle. It produces 225 hp at 6,300 rpm. A five-speed-manual transmission is standard.

The Boxster S has a 3.2-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder that makes 258 hp at 6,200 rpm and works with a standard six-speed-manual gearbox. Either engine can use Porsche’s optional Tiptronic S five-speed-automatic transmission, which incorporates steering-wheel buttons for manual gear selection. The Boxster S Anniversary Edition features a version of the 3.2-liter six-cylinder that makes 264 hp.

Side-impact airbags and antilock brakes are standard.

Driving Impressions
The subtle improvements in 2003 made an excellent sports car even better. The Boxster’s acceleration isn’t the quickest of the high-performance lot, but few automobiles offer as much all-around driving enjoyment. With quick, precise control and racetrack-style moves, the Boxster is eager to dash ahead. Whether the road is straight or curved, this sports car keeps its tires planted firmly on the pavement.

The seats are surprisingly comfortable, but limited cargo space is a drawback. The gearboxes and clutches take a little effort to operate, but they’re beautifully matched to the engines. Everything seems to work in tandem in the Boxster.