Porsche stunned the sports-car-loving public a few years ago with the advent of its incredibly popular Boxster model.
The German specialty auto manufacturer does one better for 2000 with the Boxster S model, which delivers a host of performance upgrades. The question is if the new model boosts the Boxster to the top of the pyramid in the highly competitive mid-priced sports car market.
The major components added to the Boxster S include an engine with larger displacement and more horsepower, a six-speed manual transmission, standard 17-inch wheels and tires, a revised suspension and bigger brakes. That’s the Boxster S story in a nutshell: a more powerful car that handles and stops even better than the original model which is still in production. An $8,500 difference in base price separates the two models, although both are usually ordered with lots of options that can drive the price up, up and away.
Fortunately, one thing that Porsche didn’t mess with in the creation of the super Boxster was the basic roadster design , simply one of the most elegant and alluring visual statements on the road. Porsche dips deeply into its rich history for some of the design elements in the Boxster, but in execution the car looks completely contemporary. And slick aerodynamics helps the Boxster S achieve a commendable 26 miles per gallon in highway driving, quite good for a high-performance roadster.
The Definitive Boxster S
To the base price of $49,930, our test car added such options as traction control, cruise control, a premium sound system with CD player and the integrated wind deflector that fits behind the seats to smooth air flow in the cabin when the top is down. True Boxster aficionados, however, will recognize that our test car was not the ultimate Boxster S. For the definitive Boxster experience, the car should have been equipped with the optional 18-inch wheels and tires, and the sports suspension package consisting of extra-firm springs and dampers, reinforced stabilizer bars as well as the body lowered by 10 mm.
Despite all the other enhancements in the new Boxster model, it is the larger motor that will be the big incentive for auto enthusiasts. The original Boxster was and is a highly regarded car, but most everyone who drove it wanted a bit more power on tap. The new Boxster engine delivers better acceleration and a higher top speed, although the latter may not mean much to American drivers.
Of course the bottom line is the overall Boxster driving experience, and at this point in the review, true believers in the Porsche cult may want to turn the page. Despite my enthusiasm for the original Boxster , I seriously considered buying one , I found the new version a bit short of expectations in several key areas. There’s no doubt that since my last review of the Boxster a couple of years ago, the standards for mid-priced sports cars have been elevated.
Needs More Snap
Despite the increase in power, the Boxster still doesn’t feel quite as snappy as I’d like. Porsche claims that the car will reach 60 miles per hour in just less than six seconds. The car is fast, but it doesn’t deliver quite the mid-range torque punch necessary to deliver a whopping burst of acceleration when passing slower vehicles on demanding roads.
I also wasn’t exactly blown away by the new six-speed manual transmission. When compared to the precise shifting observed in the new Honda S2000, the Boxster’s tranny feels a bit sluggish.
And finally, there is the matter of the car’s handling. And here I must admit that the installation of the special suspension and wheels and tires undoubtedly would improve the Boxster’s handling. But since I only had access to the model in question, I had to evaluate what was at hand. In particular, I found the car’s turn-in , how a vehicle responds to the initial steering input , to be less than razor sharp. Although the Boxster S is a fine handling automobile, there are several sports cars that seem to invoke a more precise feeling of overall control on demanding country or mountain roads.
On the other hand, the Boxster’s ride character is outstanding for a sports car. Not once in my week behind the wheel did I feel any particular pain from the car’s inability to successfully cope with the vagaries of California’s declining road quality.
Overall, I also found the Boxster’s interior comfortable and the gauges and controls easy to access and use. The seats are outstanding both in terms of comfort and support for spirited driving.