PORSCHE Boxster S Review

OUR TEST CAR: PORSCHE Boxster S (987) PDK 2013

PORSCHE Boxster S - Page - 1
It's no secret that Porsche has always kept a bit of a leash on the Boxster so that it didn't get up and bite the 911. As the latter now has a new generation, the engineers working on the Boxster were allowed to take their ambitions further.

You have to keep in mind that the Boxster has a more aggressive strategy of updates per generation change when compared to the all-traditional 911, which could mean that the gap between the two is smaller than ever.

Even though it may seem like the Boxster has none of the 911's pedigree, this is not true. The Boxster connects to iconic open-top Porsches that appeared before the 911, such as the 550 and even the company's very first car, the 356.

And it was the first Boxster that helped Porsche stay on its financial feet when it arrived back in 1996. People had been waiting for Porsche to reintroduce a model slotted under the 911 for quite some years, so the Boxster was received with an open heart.

Nevertheless, it was more of an experiment and this meant that the first generation of the car came with certain weaknesses. The adolescent drawbacks were all addressed by the second incarnation of the Boxster, which went on sale in 2005, alongside a fresh generation of its big brother, the 997 911.

The Porsche Boxster has won the reputation of a car that punches the guy who dares say "a real man drives a coupe". Now that its parole officer has become a bit more tolerant, we're curious to see how much of a show it can put on.

The answer came from a Boxster S which the factory had tattooed with all the right stuff, such as the PDK gearbox, the Sport Chrono package and other tarmac torture instruments.

When compared to the Porsche 911, the Boxster has always looked generous in terms of how much a new generation changed its appearance. And while that statement could probably be true for any car in the world, the 2013 Boxster is serious about its new identity.

There aren't too many Porsche models that have put designers through such an effort to change things and it all has to do with... women. Porsche wanted the new Boxster to look more masculine so that it could leave behind the "it may be a girl's car" impressions of the past.

All that drawing was not in vain, as the Boxster looks more confident from the first glance. It's purpose-built aura has been enhanced and this starts with the proportions.

The 2013 Boxster is 1.3 inches (32 mm) longer, with its wheelbase gaining 2.4 inches (60 mm) and the flatter windshield now sitting 3.9 inches (100 mm) further. Height is down 0.5 inches (13 mm) and while the width remains the same, the front track has grown by 2.4 inches (60 mm) and the rear one is 0.7 inches (18 mm) larger.

The front fascia sees the headlights and the side air intakes battling for attention. The headlights are especially strong in appearance - make eye contact with the Boxster and you'll feel its personality.

Much of the aforementioned lower stance of the Boxster comes from its new soft top. Porsche didn't use its marketing machine to promote the Boxster's roof like it did with the Panel Bow Top of the new 911, but the two share the benefits of extended magnesium and aluminum use.

The cloth roof's silhouette makes you want to wink at the car when you see it. It now flows more towards the back of the car, it's more accomplished.

Looking below, we find one source of the added testosterone, in the form of the bolder shoulder line. Even the doors are more sculpted, allowing the air to flow more freely into those rather hungry intakes on the rear fenders.

No part of the car reveals its German DNA better than its rear. As we move a bit further away from the car, the symmetry of the rear fascia lines becomes even more striking. The dominant figure here is an edge that runs the entire vehicle length, connecting the rear wing and the taillights.

The details have been simplified and chief among these revisions is the absence of a folding top lid. This makes it easier to notice the features of the car. For example, the Boxster's exhaust has always been placed on the center, but now it looks like it belongs there even more than in the past.
The interior of the Porsche Boxster mirrors the body of the car in terms of how many things have changed. The new cabin makes that of the previous model look like it comes from something further away than just one generation.

The overall quality feel has gone up considerably. The sporty ambitions are no longer the only visible aim of the car and you feel a bit spoiled by the execution of the details as you settle in your seat.

There are a few important elements, such as the instruments and the infotainment unit on the center console, which come in black even if you choose a different color for the cabin. A glance around the cabin of our test cars quickly reveals that black on red just doesn't cut it. Porsche does allow you to order the aforementioned elements in various colors, but you have to pay for it.

Of course, the driver still feels like a star inside the Boxster. Once you're behind the wheel and move past the feeling that this is a tad too large, you'll discover that everything is in the perfect position. The driving position, the buttons, they're all exactly where they should be.

Like many of those who happen to be the smallest child in the house, the Boxster steals some toys from its brothers. The controls for the navigation, audio, climate and even seats all come from the Porsche 911. The same goes for the cupholders, which now intrude the passenger's personal space sliding out from above the glovebox.

Even the instrument cluster is borrowed from the 911, but it now only offers the three center dials, losing the additional two on the sides. The speedo and the cocky rev counter are joined by a configurable display.

Tick the box for the optional Sport Chrono pack and you'll get the possibility to use the aforementioned display in order to show a G meter. Of course, this also brings a chronograph at the top of the center console.

Speaking of the console, this follows the guidelines set by the Panamera, like all Porsche models launched after the four-door coupe. Couple this with the lack of a hand brake lever (the operation is now electric) and you'll understand why the layout feels tidy despite the button abundance.

Another important asset of the 987 Boxster is a wheelbase increase. This is welcome, as the interior space has gone up noticeably and our knees seemed to benefit the most from this.

We're in a totally unfavorable rush hour environment and yet the Porsche Boxster doesn't seem to be sweating at all. What's more, thanks to the car's usability, we can say the same about ourselves.

The increase in length is negligible, so the Boxster remains a cute little Porsche when it comes to maneuvering though tight traffic. We must've thanked designers for the shorter front overhang about a dozen times as we were desperately trying to make our way out of the city today.

The Boxster has a total lack of respect for inertia. Helped by optional features such as the PDK gearbox or PASM adaptive suspension, our test car responded to any change in movement with a suppleness that made the boulevards around us seem a bit larger than usual.

This Porsche is a sports car that you can enjoy in the city. The powerplant doesn't have the resources to send you two times past the legal speed limit whenever you step on it, which is great. However, it does tickle you with its immediate response, so you never end up being frustrated about having a powerful car and feeling gagged on urban roads.

The visibility is OK in all areas, but the rear one is limited when you put the top on. Thus, you really have to opt for the front and rear parking sensors. Another optional feature that you want inside the city is the Power Steering Plus. The electro-mechanical steering works well for urban driving in its standard form, but ticking the aforementioned box makes parking even easier.

There's a side of the Boxster that doesn't like the city too much though and that's its underbody. Its best for the two not to meet but the news is pretty good. Despite having the ride height of a high heel shoe and lacking a lift system, the Boxster doesn't require you to generate a huge jam whenever you reach a speed bump. A decently-slow approach is enough to get over the darker sides of the road, you simply have to pay attention.

The two trunks mean you can dedicate at least one of them to your female companion, so shopping is covered too. And while you're using the Boxster for such activities, you'll notice that its wow factor isn't smaller than that of a 911.

As a driver, it's relatively easy to forget that the Porsche Boxster is an open-top machine. It only takes one series of bends to convince you that Porsche's compact roadster packs serious performance.

The Boxster is a bit of a paradox. This car is a collection of sub-systems. None of its vital organs functions in a classic way. Porsche's engineers have taken the suspension, gearbox, rear axle, power steering and translated them all into their own hypertechnological language.

Make no mistake though, all the systems work as one when you're behind the wheel. You do feel there's a bit of magic going on, but not because the aids are intrusive. You don't feel the electronics at work, you only witness the car taking physics' abuse with grace. The handling is crisp, with the car closely and swiftly following your orders.

Like in the case of the new 911, you can't really say that the introduction of the electro-mechanical power has brought any important drawbacks. The steering offers good feel and precision and has a nice way of adapting its weight to the driving conditions.

Porsche's Torque Vectoring, which offers a limited slip diff and brakes the inner rear wheel during cornering, allows you to reach amusing cornering speeds. The understeer is almost completely eliminated, being reduced to a mere fussing sensation in the steering wheel.

The elongated wheelbase makes the Porsche Boxster more stable, during both cornering acceleration and braking. However, this is a car that prefers to be driven without passing the borders of grip land. Once you get into an oversteering state, you have to be extremely sharp with the throttle and the wheel, as the vehicle can get bit twitchy when making the transition between various states.

If you insist on using the Boxster for amateur motorsport, forget drifting, autocross is the way to exploit its dynamic assets.

Porsche's Boxster S has an incredible power dependability: the delivery is linear, there's enough kick to make you happy and flexibility is its second name. Once you reach the superior area of the rev counter, the engine shows an even sharper face, but the transition is still linear.

We've just left a moderate corner and we're pulling away with the pedal to the metal in second gear. A few minutes ago, the PDK was shifting imperceptibly, now it's sending a small shock wave through the car as we go into third. Nice move.

Now we're eager to lose as much speed as possible as a cheeky hairpin seems to be heading our way. The steel brakes are doing a great job, despite having used them just as hard one or two corners back.

The only problem comes from Porsche's annoying PDK buttons, which are neither intuitive, nor pleasant to use. The Boxster shares this issue with the 911: you can order proper paddles, but you have to give up the multifunctional steering wheel if you want them.

In a straight line, the 987 Porsche Boxster doesn't seem much faster than its predecessor. Then again, it couldn't be, as the difference in terms of power to weight ratio is not that big.

The Porsche Boxster offers a joy that's missing from many machines that can outrun it. This is the kind of car that you have to push hard in order to go truly fast. And in this process of stretching its legs, you come alive, you enjoy the involvement and the sensations.

Don't be afraid to go for the normal Boxster. Yes, you lose some grunt, but the aforementioned principle works just as well for it too.

Compared to the Porsche 911, the Boxster feels purer, it gets closer to the idea of no-compromise sports car. The handling offers the same balance up to the limits of grip, but the Boxster is easier to control once you go past this point. While we expected to reach this conclusion, we were surprised to find a better PASM ride (read: less unsettled) in the Boxster S rather than in the 911 Carrera S Cabriolet.

Porsche makes sure that the two don't share customers though. The differentiation is done in many areas, but we'll talk about the dynamic one here. When it comes to straight line performance, a 315 hp Boxster S such as the one we drove needs the PDK's launch control to match the 0 to 62 time of the entry-level 350 hp 911 Carrera Cabriolet with a manual. As for the part with the bends, the Boxster doesn't get access to the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control like the 911 does.

Alas, the Boxster has some sins too. If you're the kind of driver that also needs other emotions besides speed-generated ones, you won't find them here. The Boxster S we drove was fast and you could feel the velocity, but there was no other flavor. A more thrilling exhaust tone would help, but this would require Porsche to rewrite its entire book of Boxer engine building.

And there's a second bad deed of the Boxster, which took place when we wanted to simply cruise. The Boxster is generally good for such activities. The drive is usually vibration-free, the soundproofing is decent and the powertrain is calm enough when you want it to.

The PDK gearbox even comes with a coasting function that disconnects then engine when power is not required, simulating what you could do with a manual. Just try not to be violent in the first moment when coming back on the power, as this can cause a jolt.

The coasting feature aims to boost mpg and speaking of this, the PDK-fitted Boxster S we drove returned an average efficiency of 21 mpg (11.3 l/100 km).

So here we are, cruising along nicely when we decide to overtake. We mash the throttle and get the maneuver over with, but after we return to normal driving, the car won't let the grumpy mood go away.

Even with the powertrain in "Normal", the Boxster takes longer than usual to let go of the gear it had used for the kickdown, refusing to upshift and return to relaxed driving at first.

Both the aforementioned issues are shared with the 911 and to some they're not a problem. Regardless of that, they are things you can live with and it's not difficult to focus on the bright sides of the Boxster.
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autoevolution May 2013
In the city
Open road
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83user rating 52 votes
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