2006 Boxster New Car Test Drive
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 latest 911.
The headlamp treatment was greatly improved when the Boxster was redesigned for 2005. The revised layout separates the main driving lamp from the foglamp and turn signal cluster, which 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 larger, the track is wider, and the enlarged running gear is covered by wider wheel arches, but the wind tunnel guys went to work on a solution. Their aero-science helped fashion the body panels, A-pillars, the rear spoiler and 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. The inlets up front that feed air to the pair of front radiators (and a third cooler in the S) are bigger than those on pre-2005 models, and the large ducts in the rear fenders are bigger to direct more cooling air to the bigger brake discs.
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. We understand the advantages of this approach (it saves 22 pounds, some luggage room and a bit of cost), but we wonder about that poor driver crossing the Nevada desert whose tire sustains the kind of damage sealant can't help (sidewall punctures, for instance).
The tail clearly separates the current Boxster from pre-2005 models. The seam between body and tail panels now runs above the taillight cluster, which itself has been broken into three elements with more contrast between the red and white areas. And the center high-mounted stop light is now composed of 18 LEDs for a brighter warning.
Boxster S models are 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 is complemented by very nice fake leather and authentic-looking fake aluminum trim, the plastic looks expensive, and the layout is as pleasing to look as it is a rational display of various data.
Despite being larger, the seats are stronger and lighter than those in pre-2005 models, and Porsche developed a patented vibration dampening system to reduce road buzz.
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 isn't too badly compromised.
The navigation system, called Porsche Communication Management ($2,640), is a useful feature. New for 2006 is 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 for 2006. 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 pre-2005 models, the 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.