Full 2009 Porsche Boxster Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 Porsche Boxster receives a slew of changes, including an optional seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, an enlarged 2.9-liter base engine with a standard six-speed manual, a more powerful direct-injected engine for the Boxster S, revised suspension tuning, numerous styling tweaks and a new version of the optional Porsche Control Management system that features a larger screen and a hard-drive-based navigation system.
While the 2009 Porsche Boxster midengine roadster may differ little from the original '97 model on the outside, there have been countless mechanical and technological updates in the intervening decade-plus. The result is a thoroughly modern performance car that easily retains its top ranking on the fun-to-drive list. As for the styling, we're at least thankful that the first Boxster's exterior, which suffered from the same splattered-egg headlight syndrome that afflicted 911s of that era, has long since given way to the current design and its cool Carrera GT-like headlights. Whether you find the styling timeless or long in the tooth, you have to give Porsche props for continually keeping the Boxster fresh under the skin.
There's a lot of news for 2009, but the biggest is the arrival of Porsche's seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, known as PDK ("Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe" for those who enjoy long German words). Bidding "Auf Wiedersehen" to the conventional Tiptronic automatic, Porsche has replaced it with possibly the best automated manual in the world. PDK's shifts are supremely smooth in full automatic mode, yet quicker than a racecar driver's in manual mode. In other words, it's better than a conventional automatic at being an automatic -- and it's better than you at shifting manually.
Should you find PDK and its steering-wheel-mounted shift buttons a bit too Xbox-y, the base Boxster's standard conventional manual now comes with six speeds rather than five. The base engine also offers an extra 0.2 liter of displacement that yields 10 additional horsepower. Furthermore, the Boxster S's larger engine benefits from direct injection, which boosts power to an impressive 310 hp. There's also some LED exterior lighting to differentiate the '09 model from its predecessors, along with assorted other tweaks such as a retuned suspension, lighter (but still spot-on) steering, an optional button-activated sport exhaust system, a new display screen for the base audio system and an improved optional Porsche Control Management system that provides various high-tech audio, navigation and communications goodies.
If you value driving excellence above all else, the 2009 Porsche Boxster is still without peer at this price point. The outgoing Honda S2000 (2009 is its last year) is much cheaper and almost as capable in terms of handling, but the Boxster is far more luxurious and refined. The Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class has a nifty retractable hardtop, and the Chevrolet Corvette makes gobs of power, but these models are blunt instruments compared to the precise Porsche. Subjective styling considerations notwithstanding, there's more than enough inner beauty here to justify the lofty price tag.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Porsche Boxster roadster is available in base or S trim. The base model comes standard with 17-inch wheels, foglamps, a power soft top that can be operated at speeds up to 30 mph, heated windshield-washer nozzles, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, partial leather upholstery, a trip computer, cruise control and a four-speaker CD stereo with a 5-inch monochromatic display screen. The more powerful Boxster S adds 18-inch wheels and a seven-speaker sound system.
Should you wish to double the base price of your Boxster by sampling from the seemingly endless list of options, Porsche will happily oblige. Highlights include the PDK transmission, the Sport Chrono and Sport Chrono Plus packages (the latter adds launch control for PDK-equipped models), 19-inch wheels in a variety of styles, adaptive suspension dampers, ceramic composite brakes, xenon headlights, a removable aluminum hardtop, a mechanical rear limited-slip differential, a button-activated sport exhaust system, full power seats, aggressively bolstered manual sport seats, automatic climate control, satellite radio and Bluetooth. The revised Porsche Control Management system (PCM) includes a larger 6.5-inch display screen and a hard-drive-based navigation system. In conjunction with PCM, additional options include voice-command functionality, iPod integration, a USB port and a Bose surround-sound audio system with a six-CD changer.
Powertrains and Performance
The base Boxster is outfitted with a mid-mounted 2.9-liter flat-6 that generates 255 hp and 214 pound-feet of torque. The Boxster S steps up to a direct-injected 3.4-liter version that's good for 310 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed conventional manual transmission is standard on both models, while the seven-speed PDK automated manual is optional. The base car accelerates from zero to 60 mph in about 6 seconds, while the S chops about a second off the base car's time. Official EPA fuel economy estimates aren't known as of this writing, but the Boxster is actually quite frugal for a sports car.
Standard safety features for the 2009 Porsche Boxster include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, dual thorax and head side-impact airbags and roll-over safety hoops above the headrests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Boxster's interior boasts premium materials and proper sports car seating, particularly if you ante up for the optional full power seats. The oversized center-mounted tachometer conveys the Boxster's high-performance DNA, although the analog speedometer's tiny numbers and huge range make it more decorative than functional -- the trip computer's digital speedo readout is more useful. Some controls are a bit fussy, but this year's new redesigned center control stack is much friendlier; the touchscreen navigation system is a particular improvement.
The transparent partition between the headrests mitigates wind buffeting at speed with the top down, but top-up motoring is marred by excessive wind noise and gigantic blind spots. Porsche insists that the lighter weight of a soft top is preferable, but the SLK-Class's retractable hardtop, for example, is far more pleasant to live with. The base stereo is laughable, but the optional Bose system sounds good. The Boxster's midengine design spawns two trunks -- one front, one rear -- and they can hold about 10 cubic feet of cargo between them, which is quite respectable for a roadster.
Thanks to its petite size, modest weight and midengine layout, the 2009 Porsche Boxster handles superbly, managing to feel glued to the road and light on its feet at the same time. Body roll is basically nonexistent, and the variable-ratio steering -- lightened a bit for '09 -- is among the best systems on the market. With the optional active suspension, the Boxster rides amazingly well for a sports car.
The base Boxster's 2.9-liter engine may seem a bit underpowered given the car's hefty price tag, but it sounds glorious, and power-starved Porschephiles won't be disappointed by the 310-hp Boxster S. The available button-activated sport exhaust blesses the Boxster with an on-demand exotic midrange yowl. The new PDK transmission is a revelation, providing faultless automated-manual shifting performance for those who would rather not row their own gears. We're not particularly fond of the steering-wheel-mounted shift buttons, however, and drivers will still feel more of a connection with manual-equipped Boxsters.