2007 Porsche Boxster Expert Review:Autoblog
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Modern cars are a funny thing. So many of us get caught up in the trappings that we forget how nice it is to just get in a car and drive for the pure enjoyment of it. We're stuck fiddling with iPods, connecting our Bluetooth phones, and accepting legal boilerplate that reminds us not to input the waypoint for the nearest Taco Bell while driving. The car in which this all takes place becomes an afterthought -- a mere platform for all of the other "entertainment" sources. Listen, we're not knocking it -- we enjoy the bells and whistles as much as the next guy. The thing that's important to remember, however, is that you can still climb inside a ride in which the car itself is the attraction, and where the act of driving is the in-car entertainment. Sometimes, you just have to get back to basics, and this brings us to the Porsche Boxster.
All photos ©2007 Alex Núñez / Weblogs, Inc.
Memorable cars push emotional buttons, and the Boxster has done that since it first appeared as a stunning concept back in 1993. Largely an homage to Porsche's iconic 550 Spyder, the mid-engined show car set tongues wagging and ultimately made its debut in toned-down form as a '97 model. Since then, the car has subtly changed its appearance, gained power in both the base and "S" models, and spawned the delectable Cayman coupe. The icing on the proverbial cake is that it's attainable -- not inexpensive compared to some other cars in its class, but certainly not outlandishly priced, either. Most drivers are more likely to catch a unicorn in their backyards than park a real 550 Spyder in their garages, but thanks to Porsche, the modern equivalent can definitely be had.
Not everyone shares that sentiment, though. When told we had the car, one person responded, "Nice, but I'd probably like it more if I were a Porsche person." Another said I'd look like a guy out driving his wife's car, as if the Boxster is some sort of 21st century take on a white mid-80s VW Cabriolet. Nonsense. I have no qualms admitting I'd like to someday be Porsche Person -- you know, the kind who actually owns one. And as for the Boxster being a chick car, let's put it this way: If you handed me the keys to one finished in blazing purple with the Barbie logo on the doors, I'd take them with a smile and begin introducing myself to strangers as Ken. You see, the Boxster's that kind of fun. As luck would have it, the loaner that Porsche Cars North America sent our way was Arctic Silver Metallic, and that color obviated the need to assume the identity of a gender-neutral Mattel doll. Bully for me.
The standard Boxster is refreshing exercise in simplicity when one refrains from going ga-ga with the option sheet. A quick scan of the cockpit confirms that the car has everything you need. You've got your ignition in Porsche's traditional spot to the left of the three-spoke wheel, which happens to be devoid of redundant controls. It doesn't tune the radio, it turns the car. How novel! The center stack is home to an AM/FM/CD radio so confounding that you will want to rip it out and cast it to the roadside, anyway. Below that is the heating/air-conditioning interface, which is far more manageable. The standard leather seats adjust six ways and the tester's optional heaters help make the Boxster a usable open-air car well into Autumn. Incidentally, the only other spots adorned with animal hides are the steering wheel rim, shifter knob and boot, and parking brake handle.
The instrument binnacle presents the driver with a large center tachometer, the speedometer to its left, and temp/fuel gauges to the right. Porsche integrates a multifunction display into the lower portion of the tach, which we generally configured to display the car's speed. A slim flip-down panel on the passenger side conceals a pair of swing-out cupholders that look like appendages R2-D2 might extend from his body. They're really good, though, ratcheting shut to secure beverage containers in a Teutonic death grip. We've read complaints from other reviewers about some of the interior materials, but we really had no problems with what the Boxster offered in that regard. The soft-touch dash coverings looked and felt fine, for example. Would it look impressive awash in French-stitched leather or Alcantara? Sure, but this is a sub-$50K (base price) sports car, and Bentley accommodations are not expected.
It's a familiar sight on the road by now (the current body style has been on sale since 2005), but spending time with a Boxster nestled a few feet away in the garage grants a newfound appreciation for its styling. As was mentioned before, parts of the car clearly harken back to the 550. At no time is this more evident than when you view it from behind and realize that the shape of those sculpted rear haunches had its genesis over 50 years earlier. Don't call it retro, though -- it isn't. While Porsche obviously maintains ties to the past in its cars, the Boxster doesn't wallow in nostalgia. Heritage elements aside, this is a dashing, modern sports car that comes across as a well-thought-out whole. Its rakish windshield conveys a sense of speed even when the car's parked. The subtle upturned front lip isn't tacked on; rather, it's part of the single-piece front bumper cover. There's no spoiler hanging off the bodywork; the Boxster just keeps it hidden until its needed. The wide, oval, central exhaust outlet communicates the car's sporting nature while helping maintain its overriding visual sense of balance and symmetry. Finally, the tester's optional 15-spoke 19" wheels sit in their cutouts like four exclamation points. They're modern-looking in every sense, yet there's still a throwback cue hidden in their design. If the spokes are looked at in groups of three, the familiar shape of the classic Fuchs wheel becomes evident. Discovering little easter eggs like this is fun and all, but then you get behind the wheel and it's as if you've just stepped into your own private carnival.
The love affair begins the moment your posterior hits the driver's seat, which feels just about perfect. Quickly set your driving position (the backrest angle's the only element that's powered on the standard seats) and you're ready to go. Clutch in, turn key, and the 2.7L flat six nestled behind you blats to life. The unique exhaust note is like a siren's call to your right foot, so no one'll hold it against you if you blip the throttle a couple of times for good measure. That sound can't truly be appreciated until you're properly underway, however. For 2007, the Boxster range adopted the very same engines found in its hard-topped Cayman stablemate. On the spec sheet, the base motor's peak horsepower increases by 5 to 245 @ 6500 rpm, while torque rises to 201 lb-ft from 199. "That's all?" was a question posed to us a few times over the week. "It's enough," became the standard reply. Porsche states that the 2.7 propels the Boxster from zero to sixty in just 5.8 seconds, and while we can't scientifically verify that, it sure feels that way. Top speed is said to be 160, and for that we'll just have to take them at their word. Truth is, we've driven cars with twice the power that aren't half as fun as this.
Light clutch effort and a slick shifter for the 5-speed gearbox make the Boxster feel very accessible from the get-go, and before long, you'll find yourself looking for open space in which to wind out the gears. While the techno-opera of the engine reaching its crescendo is deeply satisfying, it's the car's dynamics that will ruin you forever and have you checking the "P" section in the "For Sale" listings every week. The steering, suspension, and brakes are nothing short of excellent, and the Boxster, with its superb balance and communicative nature, literally becomes an extension of yourself. What you think, it does, and it does so in a way that is absolutely confidence-inspiring. Seriously, if the Boxster is this entertaining, the S must be mind-numbingly so. On the highway, around town -- it doesn't matter. You begin looking for excuses to go out and drive. I ordered Chinese take out one night from a joint ten miles away, just because getting there and back required a blast on the parkway and some back-roads driving after that. Cars like this are the reason you got your license as a kid; you just didn't know it at the time. And lest anyone forget, all this goodness comes in an open-air package. The power top is a snap to use -- unhook a single latch and hit a button -- plus it can be raised and lowered at speeds up to 40 mph or so. It's as if Porsche knows you don't want to voluntarily stop driving unless absolutely necessary. Rain? Ease off, top up. Sunny again? Repeat. Top down. Go!
If all that's not enough, the Boxster also shows itself to be both efficient and highly practical (especially for a 2-seat roadster). It sports an EPA rating of 23 city/32 highway, and during our time with it, we averaged over 23 mpg, even though we would unabashedly dip into the loud pedal whenever the opportunity presented itself. And if you're wondering how one can describe the Boxster as being practical, it's the car's dual trunks. Between the deep front boot and the second one in back, you can easily carry a weekend getaway's worth of luggage for two people. (We can also report that the rear boot happens to hold two bags of Home Depot mulch perfectly.) One of the only disappointments is that you can't see the engine. It's stashed out of sight, with only the fillers for engine oil and coolant visible and accessible from the aft trunk. If you try to show off the motor, you'll soon find yourself doing an impromptu re-enactment of that old Dustin Hoffman commercial for the VW Type 3. Oh well. It's there, and that's what counts.
The good times came to an end after seven wonderfully engaging days. They don't let you keep these things forever, unfortunately. Over that time, however, I learned that $50,995 can buy happiness in the form of the Porsche Boxster, a rolling epiphany capable of turning the casual driver into an enthusiast, and an enthusiast into a true believer. Don't take them for granted just because you see 'em around; go out and drive one if you can. The Boxster surpassed every expectation I held, and today, I believe.
All photos ©2007 Alex Núñez / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
A modern classic gets more power.
The Porsche Boxster is a sweet sports car that feels right at home on a race track, yet it's comfortable enough for daily use. Drop the top, listen to the engine as you accelerate down a winding road and you'll know what we mean by sweet. That classic Porsche sound, the balanced handling from the mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, and fantastic brakes are among the elements that add up to an absolute delight for driving enthusiasts.
The 2007 Porsche Boxster and Boxster S are quicker than last year's models, benefiting from additional power.
The headliner is the Boxster S, which gets a bigger engine. The 3.4-liter engine produces 295 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque, 15 more in each case than the 3.2-liter engine it replaces.
Meanwhile, the standard Boxster's 2.7-liter engine gains 5 horsepower for the 2007 model year, now outputting 245 horsepower and 201 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are now equipped with Porsche's VarioCam Plus setup, which provides variable valve intake timing and lift control, resulting in an impressive combination of power and fuel efficiency. With these changes, 0-60 mph acceleration performance has improved for 2007.
Both 2007 Boxster and Boxster S models models are available with an updated version of the Tiptronic S automatic transmission. This new version features improved responsiveness due to new hydraulics and electronics, and also provides variable shift programs, all of which makes the already compelling automatic even more so. That said, we still prefer the manual.
Besides being thrilling to drive, the Boxster is a comfortable sports car with ergonomically superior seating contours and a steering wheel that can be adjusted for both reach and rake. The taller driver, not always welcome in the two-seater world, is thoughtfully accommodated by a relatively low seating position and placement of the drilled aluminum pedals closer to the firewall.
Driver control is improved over previous Boxster models with the latest generation of Porsche Stability Management, which comes standard. Drivers wanting the ultimate in ride control and electronic handling assist should get the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management, which allows the driver to select Normal and Sport suspension calibrations. This active suspension system is a wonder, fulfilling its task of enhancing the driving experience by maintaining chassis equilibrium in all conditions.
New for 2007: Porsche's Tire Pressure Monitoring System comes standard on all models. Also, serviceability is improved in the 2007 Boxster, with coolant and engine-oil filler caps now nestled behind an easily accessible flap, moving out of the way in the rear trunk.
The Porsche Boxster comes in two models. The base Boxster ($45,600) sports a newly bolstered 245-hp, 2.7-liter flat six that mates to a five-speed manual transmission. The Boxster S ($55,500) is aggressively fitted with a 295-hp, 3.4-liter flat six and a six-speed gearbox.
For those who prefer automatic transmissions, Porsche's newly improved five-speed automatic Tiptronic S ($3,210) is an option for either model. The six-speed gearbox used in the Boxster S can be ordered for the standard Boxster as part of a Sports Package ($2,680) that includes Porsche's Active Suspension.
Standard features include automatic climate control, AM/FM/CD, a power top, power mirrors and power windows, with leather trim on the steering wheel rim, shift lever, handbrake lever and door handles. The list of options is seemingly endless.
A wide range of seating options is available: six-way adjustable seats are standard; the first of three options is full 12-way power-adjustable seats with pneumatic lumbar support; second is sports seats based on the standard seats but with more side support; and third is adaptive sport seats with full electric adjustment, plus individual adjustment of the various side supports ($3,050). Heated seats also are available ($480). A full leather interior ($2,095) is optional along with several other upholstery trim packages.
A three-spoke steering wheel comes standard, but it can be supplanted with a smaller-diameter sport wheel or a multi-function wheel fitted in conjunction with the optional Porsche Communication Management system ($2,640). The optional Bose Surround Sound system is available for the Boxster ($1,665) and Boxster S ($950) along with a six-disc changer for the front trunk ($650). Night vision can be enhanced by a bi-xenon headlamp option ($990), and fitting into tight spaces made easier by Park Assist ($530). Custom paint colors are available ($4,315).
The Sport Chrono Package Plus ($920) includes a gauge atop the dashboard that charts sprints and lap times. It also interacts with the engine management system, PSM, PASM, and Tiptronic S (if those are fitted) to provide a sportier driving experience through quicker throttle response, faster shifts and higher limits to the anti-spin control thresholds.
Standard running gear for the Boxster is 6.5x17-inch wheels up front and 8x17 in back, mounted with 205/55R17 and 235/50R17 performance radials, front and rear. The S gets 8x18s at the nose and 9x18s under the tail, wrapped by 235/50s and 265/40s, fore and aft. Boxsters also can be ordered with the 18-inch S wheels ($1,235).
New in 2007 is the availability of 19-inch, forged ally, two-tone wheels. Also available are 19-inch wheels for the Boxster ($2,785) and Boxster S ($1,550), including a 10-spoke Carrera Sport wheel. These big units measure 8x19 in front and 9.5x19 in back and roll on ultra-low-profile tires. Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes ($8,150) are a pricey option, but they improve braking performance and reduce unsprung mass by almost 35 pounds.
Safety features on all models include a unique head airbag protection system. Frontal and side-impact airbags come standard. Safety for taller drivers has improved in recent years for Boxster models, now with a taller safety bar and higher headrests. The side windows have been enlarged to raise the height of the roof. Antilock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (ABD), electronic stability control (PSM), and traction control (ASR) come standard on all Boxsters.
New for 2007, Porsche's Tire Pressure Monitoring System continuously monitors the air pressure in each tire and offers not only extra safety but also the reduced risk of tire damage (including monitoring for the gradual loss of pressure in tires). This feature also helps prevent inconsistent or unequal tire wear and excessive fuel consumption via its warning function.
The Boxster has a quiet look that speaks volumes about Porsche design philosophy. There are no extraneous ducts or style-influenced bulges to be seen. Yet it's modern in the details that first made their way into the Porsche styling idiom through the high-powered Carrera GT (note the mirrors) and the current 911.
The headlight treatment has greatly improved on Boxster in recent years, separating the main driving lamp from the foglamp and turn signal cluster. This not only gives the Boxster nose a more traditional Porsche look, it also allows the foglamps to be placed further toward the car's corners for a better spread of light.
The frontal area and grille openings are large, the track is wide, and the enlarged running gear is covered by wide wheel arches, but aero-science helped fashion body panels, A-pillars, rear spoiler, door handles, and a fully covered undertray to create a more slippery profile with less lift and increased downforce; all good things when speed needs to fight the air.
Even where the eye can't see, the attention to crucial detail contributes to the durability and sportiness of the Boxster. To cite just two examples: small spoilers on the front longitudinal suspension arms that direct airflow to the front brakes to help keep them cool; and small, flexible blades attached to the undertray that steer airflow toward the transmission for the same effect.
To save weight, the Boxster does not come with a spare tire; instead, an air compressor and tire sealant will have to do. However, the addition of Porsche's new tire-pressure monitor should help warn drivers before a situation becomes dire and leaves one wishing for a spare.
Boxster S models are easily distinguished from 2.7-liter Boxsters by their twin oval exhaust tips.
When it first appeared, the Porsche Boxster impressed us with its classic roadster look and road manners, but the interior styling and materials looked cheap and plasticky, and there lacked a general coherence to the switchgear and gauges.
That's all changed. The genuine leather now is complemented by very nice faux leather and authentic-looking faux aluminum trim, the plastic looks expensive, and the layout is as pleasing to look at as it is a rational display of data.
The tachometer takes center stage in the three-gauge instrument cluster. The instruments are black-faced in the Boxster and a light gray in the Boxster S. Data from the Sports Chrono system are displayed in the lower third of the tachometer's dial.
A spiffy console integrates audio and climate controls. Music lovers can upgrade to the Porsche Sound Package Plus, which somehow manages to fit seven speakers; an external analog amplifier, two tweeters, a subwoofer in the instrument panel, and door-mounted woofers and subwoofers on each side. If that isn't enough to pound your eardrums into submission, consider the 11-speaker Bose surround sound system, which includes a seven-channel amplifier. Top-down enjoyment of your tunes will never be too badly compromised.
The navigation system, called Porsche Communication Management, is a useful feature, sporting an electronic logbook that automatically records mileage, journey length, time and date, and other factors for every trip made. In addition, an extended navigation option that can help you find your way back to your starting point, even on roads that don't appear on the navigation system's map, is available. The system is DVD-based via a separate module in the front trunk, which frees up the dash-mounted CD drive for music discs.
Notice we said front trunk. One of the Boxster's delights is stowage both fore and aft, with no compromise to the rear trunk's 4.6 cubic feet even when the top is stowed away. Unlike many two-seat sports cars, the Boxster can haul enough luggage for an extended road trip for two.
Top-down motoring is comfortable. Wind noise becomes detrimental to the experience only above extra-legal speeds. The air deflector does a good job of redirecting the air blasts, but our sense of style often precludes us from using, as it mars the svelte profile of this handsome roadster. The soft top can be raised or lowered at speeds up to 31 mph. Much better than the top on previous models, the current Boxster's top uses a light synthetic fleece fiber to better insulate against rain, cold and noise, and it includes an electrically heated rear glass window. The optional hardtop is made of aluminum and adds 51 pounds.
The Porsche Boxster feels all grown-up, self-assured and solid in purpose, as though it no longer has to lag in the shadow of the 911 Carrera.
Turn the key and the Boxster's flat six burbles to life; there's no mistaking it for anything but a sports car engine. Both engines are more powerful on the 2007 models, and it shows. Porsche claims the Boxster can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, while the Boxster S can perform this feat in 5.1 seconds. Top speeds are 162 mph for Boxster, and 169 mph for Boxster S. It's worth noting that Porsche's factory performance numbers are generally on the conservative side. Both cars are quite fast enough to satisfy any delinquent desires.
Proper sports cars, it has long been contended, have three pedals on the floor, and so it is with the Boxster. At their very best, sports car drivers are one-person jazz combos, juggling the interplay of shifter, steering wheel and pedals in a polyrhythmic balance of manual dexterity. Remove the clutch and it just isn't the same. Porsche does manual shifting as well as anyone, and there's no reason to fear the clutch. In short, we recommend going for the manual.
However, the latest Tiptronic S is so good that electronic de-clutching should no longer be considered shameful. There's certainly no shame driving a Boxster with Tiptronic S, which is good for an automatic and would be the logical choice if your Boxster is condemned to a life of urban crawl. The Tiptronic S was revised for 2007 with new electronics and hydraulics resulting in improved responsiveness. If a Boxster fell out of the sky and it was equipped with Tiptronic S instead of our preferred manual, we would no doubt find a way to be content with our good fortune.
At the heart of all good sports cars is a good, balanced chassis. From inception, the Boxster has been the epitome of balance. The result of the stiff, light suspension is a bigger helping of sports-car goodness, a more savory blend of power and control. Even with a curb weight of some 3,000 pounds, the Boxster is like a dancer that seems able to accept or reject gravity's rule as it suits its own, artful progress down the road. The car's structure is stiff and strong, and stiffer is definitely better when it comes to building sports car chassis.
The Porsche Boxster is big enough to keep its place in the daily dogfights and is just the right size for an escape from the maelstrom. Top up, it's quiet and comfy; top down, the world wraps itself around you and you can't help but blip back a jolly response with your right foot. The Boxster is pure Porsche. Our only cautionary note against impulsively rushing down and snapping one up is to check off options carefully, as they can escalate the price considerably.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Greg N. Brown filed this report.
Porsche Boxster ($45,600); Boxster S ($55,500).
Options As Tested
full leather interior ($2,095), Bose surround sound stereo ($1,665).
Porsche Boxster ($45,600).
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