2005 Boxster New Car Test Drive
It was entirely appropriate that our first taste of Porsche's new, second-generation Boxster was on a race track. Porsche's heritage is closely tied to motorsports and its production cars reflect the attention to detail that separates winners from also-rans. We found the Boxster right at home on the track, but don't mistake it for a race car. The new Porsche Boxster is far too comfortable, far too full of electronic amenities, far too useful for the daily grind, than to relegate it to the short-term abuses of the track. This is a car meant to be enjoyed every day, rain or shine.
It's been a long eight years since the Boxster first wowed us with its high fun factor, and it was definitely due for a major overhaul. Never rushing to market, Porsche responded as it usually does, building upon the Boxster's essential goodness with a completely new layer of cockpit friendliness and open-road performance. This is no merely freshened platform. Some 80 percent of this newest Boxster is new to the model. More than half of the car is borrowed from the 2005 911 Carrera, including the steering, front structure, seats and electronics. And it's all good.
Driver comfort, essential to the forming of a true sports car/driver bond, has been improved with the new Boxster. Solutions include ergonomically superior seating contours and a steering wheel that can be adjusted for both reach and rake, bringing Porsche into the modern world. The taller driver, not always welcome in the two-seater world, is thoughtfully accommodated in the new Boxster by a lower seat mounting point and placement of the drilled aluminum pedals closer to the firewall. Safety for these folks has been increased as well from an inch taller supplemental safety bar and two-inch higher headrests. To accommodate these nods to increased survivability in the event of a roll-over, the side windows are larger and the folding top a bit higher. However, because this is a sports car, and because Porsche has the resources and willingness to do so, the folding top was reengineered, its frame constructed of aluminum and magnesium for reduced weight and thus reduction of the car's center of gravity, which is even lower than the previous Boxster's.
Driver control also has been increased due to newly developed variable-ratio steering and the latest generation of grip-enhancing Porsche Stability Management, which now comes standard on all Boxsters. A switch allows the sport-minded driver to disable PSM (at least until the braking threshold is reached), but the driver wanting the ultimate range of ride control and electronic handling assist will want to spend the bucks on Porsche Active Suspension Management, or PASM, ($1,990). This system allows the driver to select Normal and Sport suspension calibrations, and in either mode PASM is a wonder, fulfilling its task of enhancing the driving experience by maintaining chassis equilibrium in all conditions.
Porsche Boxsters come in two flavors, fast and faster. The base Boxster ($43,800) sports a 240-horsepower 2.7-liter flat six that mates to a newly developed standard five-speed manual transmission. The Boxster S ($53,100) is fitted with a 280-horsepower 3.2-liter flat six and a six-speed gearbox. The six-speed gearbox can also be ordered on the base Boxster as part of a Sports Package ($2,680) that includes Porsche's new Active Suspension Management system (PASM). For those who prefer automatic transmissions, Porsche's five-speed automatic Tiptronic S ($3,210) is an option for either Boxster model.
Safety improvements are among the most significant changes to the new Boxster. New passive safety features include a unique head airbag protection system, a first for any roadster and just one aspect of a wide array of safety systems and structures. Night vision can be enhanced by a bi-xenon headlamp option ($990), and fitting into tight spaces made easier by Park Assist ($530). Dynamic safety was increased by the simple expedient of fitting larger brakes, wheels and tires. For the first time the front brake rotors are cross-drilled, gripped by four-piston aluminum monobloc calipers. Don't worry about what that means except that these are among the best brakes in any production car.
Standard running gear for the Boxster is 6.5x17 up front and 8x17 in back, mounted with 205/55 and 235/50 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 can be ordered with the 18-inch S wheels ($1,235) or one of the three 19-inch wheels that also are optional on the S ($2,785 on the Boxster; $1,550 on the S). These big units measure 8x19 in front and 9.5x19 in back and roll on ultra-low-profile tires.
If you're the kind of driver who might, on occasion, want to stretch PASM's sensors to the max, consider ticking off the box for the Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes ($8,150). Not that the standard brakes are underachievers. Still, the composite brakes are from another world of deceleration. They give your right foot the sure-edged sensitivity of a diamond cutter, and they also reduce unsprung mass by almost 35 pounds, which helps make the Boxster feel more like a lithe dancing partner than a two and a half ton hunk of technology.
As with all Porsches, the need to be pampered is fully satisfied in even a bare-bones Boxster, which really isn't close to being anything like a stripper. Leather adorns the steering wheel rim, shift lever, handbrake lever and door handles; the air is conditioned and the ears are assaulted by, respectively, automatic climate control and a stereo tuner/CD unit; roof, mirrors and windows are all at the electronic mercy of thoughtfully placed switches.
But, as with every Porsche, many thousands of dollars can be added to the bottom line with just a few ticks of the options list. So why not start with a full leather interior ($2,045)? Then check out the wide range of seating options: six-way adjustable seats are standard; the first of three options is full 12-way power-adjustable seats with pneumatic lumbar support; second is sport 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 are also available ($480).
If you don't want the standard three-spoke steering wheel, it can be supplanted by a choice of two additional configurations: a smaller diameter sport wheel or a multi-function wheel fitted in conjunction with the optional Porsche Communication Management system ($2,640). Stereo freaks can upgrade to a Bose Surround Sound system ($1,665 in the Boxster; $950 in the S) and put a six-disc changer in the front trunk ($650).
Gadget freaks, and drivers wanting the get the most out of their Boxsters, will definitely want to order the S.