2013 Porsche Boxster Review
The best driver's car in its segment just got a whole lot better.
- Absolutely perfect aesthetic update
- Great brakes inspire confidence
- New high-tech features aid handling
- Inevitable switch to electric steering
- Underwhelming increase in power
- Confusing, stressful options list
Do you remember that last negative review you read about that disappointing new Porsche? Well, we can't either — and we looked for one. (Spoiler alert: This article won't be a negative read either.)
The Boxster, one of the most successful sports cars on the road today, has just gone through a redesign, one that's more evolutionary than revolutionary. So while the vehicle doesn't look all that different to the naked eye, the Boxster has been improved in every way. Engineers of this generation Boxster focused on reducing the car's weight and increasing its efficiency, all the while providing greater performance and more fun behind the wheel. And they did a hell of a good job.
As before, the Boxster is available only in base and S trims, the latter being the more powerful, performance-oriented model.
It remains the same beloved car it has always been; i.e., a mid-engine convertible with seating for two. Thanks to a body shell composed of 47 percent aluminum, both variants now tip the scales at less than 3,000 pounds, with the base trim coming in at just 2,888 pounds; the outgoing model weighed in at 2,950 pounds with the manual transmission and 3,009 pounds with the PDK gearbox.
While still unmistakably a Boxster, the new model features an all-new body that's longer, wider and lower. It also features a redesigned convertible top that's fully electric and no longer needs a compartment lid to stow while lowered. This new roof operates incredibly quickly — it opens and closes in less than nine seconds--and at speeds up to 31 mph.
Another Porsche hallmark remains true for the new Boxster, and that's a features and options list so complex and large that it'll induce panic attacks in the indecisive. In addition to the usual packages and options found on most luxury cars, nearly every piece of the interior can be customized as well. One of the simpler options, however, is wheel choice. In addition to the standard 18-inch and 19-inch rollers (Boxster and Boxster S, respectively), buyers can opt for any of three stylish 20-inch wheels.
Under the Hood
Changes to the Boxster's two engines aren't drastic, but they're significant enough to keep the baby Porsche in the efficiency game. The base model's direct-injection powerplant is now based on the 3.4-liter unit in found the S. Compared to the previous engine, it shrinks from 2.9 liters down to 2.7, and despite an expected drop in torque (down roughly 7 lb-ft to 207), its newfound ability to rev higher helps it actually see a gain in horsepower, up 10 ponies to 265 total - nearly a perfect 100 horsepower per liter.
The driving force behind this change is greater efficiency, which is successfully achieved with new fuel-mileage figures of 20 mpg city/30 mpg highway, or 22/32 mpg with the dual-clutch PDK transmission. This new economy, a 10 percent improvement, doesn't come at the cost of performance either, with a claimed zero-to-60-mph time of just 5.2 seconds (with the PDK and Sport Chrono package, otherwise 5.4 seconds with just the PDK , or 5.5 seconds with the standard manual). With the manual, the base Boxster tops out at 164 mph, while the PDK loses 1 mph.
The engine in the Boxster S stays at 3.4 liters but receives a minor 5-horsepower boost in output, to a new total of 315. Torque stays dead even at 266 lb-ft. Needless to say, the additional power of the S makes for quicker performance over the base Boxster, with a possible zero-to-60 mph time of just 4.5 seconds (again, PDK and Sport Chrono) and a top speed of over 173 mph. The downside to this extra displacement and power is a bit more thirst for fuel, with an economy rating of 20 city mpg/28 highway with the manual, or 21/30 mpg with the PDK.
Both engines can be mated to a traditional 6-speed manual transmission or Porsche's tongue-twisting, dual-clutch paddle-shifter, the Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (we'll stick with calling it PDK, thanks). The redesigned PDK still sports a seventh gear and adds a new ability to "coast," which helps it achieve better fuel-economy numbers while its ultrafast shifting and gearing also score it the quickest performance.
While the Boxster's new exterior is attractive, its cabin is simply stupendous, a sports-car master class in architecture and design. It takes a cue from Porsche's latest interior stylebook, one introduced in the Carrera GT supercar and now implemented in the rest of the company's offerings.
The centerpiece of the new cabin is a "raked" dash that slants dramatically down toward the seats and places important controls, particularly the shifter, inches from the steering wheel. The classic 3-gauge instrument panel sports a color display for important vehicle information, which complements the standard 7-inch touch screen on the dash, used for audio and basic settings (or advanced navigation and communications if equipped with the PCM system). There are two optional audio systems available, including a 7-speaker 185-watt Sound Package Plus or a premium Bose system good for 445 watts across 10 speakers.
On the Road
Porsche recently let us loose with some PDK-equipped Boxster cars. After getting comfortable in the flawless new interior, we began to put the convertible through its paces.
The good news is that it remains quite a lively performer, and the decrease in weight (66 pounds in our PDK'd S example) definitely helps with the Boxster's ever-so-tossable demeanor. Everything is beautifully sorted, and good Lord does this car love the curves. With its near perfect weight distribution (46/54), not to mention the new torque-vectoring system, the latest Boxster is simply astonishing in its determination to turn.
Admittedly, our tester cars were of the higher S spec, but the new Boxster had no trouble accelerating, feeling slightly quicker than the previous generation, but still not exactly jaw-dropping. While the PDK performed beautifully as well, we did wish that there was a traditional manual on hand to try. Considering we don't live on a racetrack, those extra tenths of a second just aren't that critical to us, and we'd really rather have a good old stick to row. Call us old-fashioned.
When it comes time to bringing the Boxster to a halt, the brakes are more than up to the task. They're simply phenomenal — outrageously strong, progressive and controllable, showing no fade throughout our spirited drive. Brakes this good have become a bit of a hallmark for Porsche.
The downsides are few and amount to splitting hairs, but we feel it's worth keeping one of our favorite cars honest, especially considering it's a $60,000-plus performance car lauded for its feel. We're probably beginning to sound like a broken record with this one, but the electric steering simply doesn't match the feedback of the previous generation's hydraulic system. Needless to say, this complaint is obviously something we (and other enthusiasts) will need to get over, as it's simply the way the industry is going. We'll have count on the "drivers first" leaders like Porsche to continue improving their steering systems as we get used to them.
Right for You?
If you've admired the Boxster in the past, you have no reason to stop now. Improved in all regards and sporting a near-perfect new look, the baby Porsche remains the one to beat for the segment. Having sold 210,000 of these to date, it goes without saying that the wizards in Stuttgart have been doing things right with the Boxster.
That said, the real beauty of this car lies in its impeccable performance-minded driving manners, and that may or may not be critical for you. If not, many of the Boxster's competitors can provide similar specs, if not higher, for less dough — Nissan's 370Z or Audi's TT being two obvious examples. However, there's only one option that delivers that unbeatably sorted Porsche feel, and for those who can appreciate that, the Boxster wins hands down.
Prices for the new Boxster models begin at $49,500 for the base model and $60,900 for the S.
(As part of an automaker-sponsored press event, Porsche provided MSN with travel and accommodations tofacilitate this report.)
James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side as Senior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.