Porsche's Purest Sports Car, if Anyone Notices
After nearly 11 years in production, the midengine Porsche Boxster doesn't rank like it used to. During commutes across the Los Angeles concrete diaspora, the 2007 Porsche Boxster S disappears into the ocean of cars as if it were a Plymouth Voyager. The parking valets don't fight for its keys anymore and the car wash guys don't feel obliged to break out fresh clean towels to dry it.
So what? The two-seat roadster remains the best pure driving machine Porsche builds.
Now running the same 295-hp 3.4-liter, 24-valve, flat-6 used in the Cayman S, the Boxster S mixes the Cayman S's instantaneous reflexes with the mechanical connection that only comes with an open roadster. The Boxster S may not excite the gas station attendants like it once did, but drive this car once and there's every chance you'll never want to drive anything else.
Cayman Breeds a Better Boxster Engine
When the Cayman S coupe was introduced last year, there was some mechanical distinction between it and the Boxster S roadster. Sure they both packed Porsche's signature flat-6 just forward of their rear wheels, but where the Boxster S used a 280-horsepower 3.2-liter version of that engine, the Cayman S had a 3.4-liter variation rated at 295 hp. For 2007, however, that distinction is gone, as the Boxster S now uses the same 3.4 as the Cayman S.
At first glance the major differences between the old 3.2 and the 3.4 don't amount to much more than an increase in cylinder bore size from 93.0 to 96 millimeters and a slight increase in compression ratio from 11.0:1 to 11.1:1. However, the 3.4 uses the same cylinder heads as the 911's 3.6-liter flat-6, which includes Porsche's Variocam variable valve timing system.
That means the 15 pound-foot bounce in peak torque rating — at 4,400 rpm instead of 4,700 rpm — and how all that torque hangs around until 6,000 rpm makes the biggest difference in performance.
That generous torque band makes this an extremely easy car in which to go very fast. But it also makes it a very pleasant car in everyday use. The Boxster S will happily putter along in traffic all day, cycling between 15 and 45 mph, with the transmission left in 2nd gear and never show any strain. You don't have to go fast in the Boxster S to have fun, but when you go fast it's an amazing amount of fun.
And it goes fast. But launching the 3,100-pound Boxster S for maximum acceleration isn't a subtle affair. Dump the clutch at about 4,800 rpm, and after some destructive-sounding axle tramp, the car whomps to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds. The quarter-mile goes by in 13.4 seconds at 104.6 mph. That's right on top of the 5.0-second 0-60 time and 13.2 seconds at 105-mph performance we measured for the 2,954-pound 2006 Cayman S last year.
Porsche's Tiptronic five-speed automatic is an option, but most Boxster S buyers will do the right thing and choose the standard six-speed manual transmission. Introduced as part of the Boxster's major updating back in 2005, the six-speed has nice short throws and a light, precise action.
The ratio spread between the four lower gears is nicely tight, with 5th being a slight overdrive (0.97:1) and 6th (0.82:1) an even deeper overdrive best reserved for freeway cruising. Combine those cogs with a short 3.875:1 final-drive ratio and the flat-6's plump torque curve and it's tough to imagine a friendlier, more entertaining sports car drivetrain. Well, at least it's tough until you start your imagining with the word "turbo."
Coccyx-Based Chassis Tuning
With the Boxster's engine positioned just forward of its rear wheels, this car's center of gravity is somewhere between the driver's coccyx and the base of his skull. This results in the driver feeling as if he's smack in the middle of the action. Which he is. The scales indicate that without the driver aboard, the Boxster S carries 53.3 percent of its weight on the rear tires.
There are struts at all four corners, so there's nothing particularly exotic about the Boxster S's all-independent suspension. But the suspension is brilliantly effective, particularly when matched with the relatively large optional P235/35ZR19 front and P265/35ZR19 rear Michelin Pilot Sport tires.
Although there's some body roll, the Boxster S is a veritable rocket through the slalom test, clocking an astonishing 71.1-mph average speed. It's not as quick as the narrowly focused Lotus Exige S (74.0 mph), but it's just barely slower than the stiffer-structured Cayman S (72.2 mph). It also orbited the skid pad at an unbelievable 0.96g and stopped from 60 mph in just 105 feet. Both are supercar numbers. In the Boxster, corners aren't so much attacked as they are autopsied with scalpellike precision.
Despite its awesome grip, the Boxster's ride is compliant and comfortable. Even if a wheel dips into a good-size pothole at the apex of a corner, the car doesn't lose its composure or inflict much pain upon its occupants. This is a great-handling and very forgiving car, with absolutely sensational variable-ratio rack-and-pinion steering.
When Porsche introduced the Cayman, it bragged that the hardtop's structure had 100-percent greater bending resistance than the zip-top Boxster. That may imply that the Boxster's structure is somehow a compromise. It isn't. This is one of the stiffest roadsters around. Drive it over train tracks with the top down and the cowl barely seems to shift.
With modest-size trunks both front and rear, the Boxster S will carry enough luggage for two over a long weekend. It's also luxuriously appointed with well-shaped (heated) seats, power this and that and leather-wrapped everything.
With the top down, the wind doesn't so much intrude upon the cockpit as wrap around it. And the lack of anything between the driver and the exhaust system means this engine's glorious voice is more vivid than in any other Porsche.
Our only comfort complaint regards the Boxster's narrow footwells, which can make heel-and-toe shifting difficult for anyone wearing boots. So wear ballet slippers instead. Or go barefoot. Or if that doesn't work, hack off your outside toes until your feet are slim enough for the Boxster. It's worth it.
Of course, none of this comes cheap. Even before options, the Boxster S is $56,295 and our test car stickered for a breathtaking $64,805. Porsche has never been shy about charging two arms, two legs and half an abdomen for its options. Our tester's extra-cost items included its metallic silver paint ($690), gorgeously chocolate leather upholstery ($2,525), bi-xenon headlamps ($1,080) and $185 for wheel center caps with the painted logos.
Combining the Boxster chassis with the 3.4-liter engine's broad torque curve results in something almost mystical — a Porsche that mixes all the best sensations of early open Porsches like the original 356 Speedster and 550 Spyder, with an easygoing muscularity and shocking level of comfort. The 2007 Porsche Boxster S is a car that's impossible not to love — and impossible to drive without having two trunkloads of fun.
It's not like the parking valets, car wash guys or pump jockeys can afford it anyhow.