2004 Boxster New Car Test Drive
Now seven years old, the 2004 Porsche Boxster is officially a classic. We fell in love when we first drove it and that love has not diminished over time in spite of other roadsters now vying for our affection.
Porsche has been improving on this mid-engine roadster ever since its introduction as a 1997 model. Boxster got a bigger engine and an improved interior for 2000, and Boxster S was introduced that same year with an even more powerful engine. There were significant improvements for 2003, though they are subtle. All of these improvements enhance the quality of the original without affecting the basic attraction.
The basic attraction is the Boxster's embodiment of the Porsche 356 Speedster and 550 Spyder. Steering response, clutch take-up, shift tension between gears, all are familiar in a fashion that can only be labeled Porsche. Yet the Boxster has that mid-engine, pivot-at-its-center feel, with none of the tail-heavy temperament that was the hallmark of the rear-engine 911 for so long.
The standard Boxster offers plenty of performance, and its engine was revised last year (2003) for quicker acceleration. More important, it sounds much better. Dipping into the throttle at higher revs rewards the driver with a deep, muscular whoosh of air rushing through the intakes that's satisfying, intoxicating. Yet the Boxster engine is quite tractable, great for putting around residential areas or busy parking lots at low rpm. It handles superbly yet rides very nicely, a wonderful balance.
We prefer the Boxster S, though. Boxster S retails for $9,000 more than Boxster, but, after all, it's your money. The S does everything better than the Boxster while maintaining what makes the original wonderful. The 3.2-liter engine delivers noticeably more thrust than what's on tap from the 2.7-liter. Though the standard Boxster is no softie, the Boxster S has firmer suspension tuning. Most important, the S is gratifyingly distinguished by its bright red brake calipers, easily seen through the elegant spokes of its specially designed wheels. Gotta have 'em.
From a practical standpoint, the Boxster is eminently livable. The top can be raised or lowered at a moment's notice, making top-down motoring an easy decision. It rides smoothly and feels tight and rigid. It's impressively free of the vibration that normally accompanies convertibles. It may not be as comfortable as a new 911, but its seats are supportive and comfortable and it comes with a high level of standard equipment. There are other roadsters that cost less, but the Boxster offers a style and character that is uniquely Porsche and very satisfying. In short, we've never tired of driving the Boxster.
Porsche Boxster ($42,600) comes loaded with leather seats, automatic climate control with a pollen filter, a double-lined power top with a glass rear window, telescoping steering wheel, AM/FM/CD, power windows, power locks, and a remote key fob with buttons to unlock the doors, the hood and the trunk lid. It also comes standard with side-impact airbags (and, of course, dual frontal airbags).
Powering the Boxster is a 2.7-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine. Boxster comes standard with four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with four-piston calipers and Bosch ABS. It's equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels and an automatic rear spoiler.
Boxster S ($51,600) differs primarily by its performance equipment. The S comes with a 3.2-liter engine, a six-speed gearbox in place of the Boxster's 5-speed, a sport-tuned suspension, and 17-inch wheels. The S is distinguished by its additional front air intakes.
Porsche is notorious for offering a lot of options and Porsche owners are notorious for ordering them. Among them: premium Bose audio systems, a wind deflector ($375) that reduces buffeting when the top is down, Park Assist ($530), Porsche Stability Management ($1,235), various wheel and tire combinations, and a long list of interior trim options that allow a buyer to individualize and enhance the car. It's easy to (happily) drive a $50,000 Boxster off the lot and it's not hard to spend considerably more.