Full 2012 Porsche Boxster Review
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Porsche Boxster gains a new limited-production Black Edition model. Otherwise, the lineup carries over unchanged.
Since its introduction in 1997, the Porsche Boxster has been the go-to choice for higher-performing roadsters. As this second-generation 2012 Porsche Boxster takes the stage for a final bow (an all-new model debuts next year), this two-seat drop top retains all of the charm, excitement and Porsche goodness that has kept it at the top of our list.
With a horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine mounted in the middle of the car (rather than the iconic Porsche 911's rear-mounted design), the Boxster enjoys a wonderfully balanced chassis that provides tack-sharp handling. A choice of two distinct engines and special models like the Spyder and Black Edition should serve to broaden the Boxster's appeal.
As one would expect from any vehicle emblazoned with the Porsche shield, the 2012 Boxster surrounds the driver and passenger in a premium cockpit with admirable materials and craftsmanship. Also in keeping with other Porsches, unfortunately, the Boxster's final price tag has a tendency to quickly climb as options are added. Furthermore, there are some compromises common to all roadsters that have to be made. Luggage space is still rather limited, as is headroom for taller folk, while the soft top limits rearward visibility and permits a noticeable amount of wind noise into the cabin.
With the promise of an improved next-generation model on the horizon, it may make sense for some to either hold off on purchasing a Boxster or check out the competition. It's a decidedly small group of rivals, each with their own strengths. The 2012 BMW Z4 and 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK both benefit from added refinement and a folding hardtop roof. But if performance ranks at the top of your must-haves, the 2012 Porsche Boxster is a tough act to follow.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Porsche Boxster is a two-seat convertible that is offered in base, S, Black Edition and Spyder trims. Base models come equipped with 17-inch wheels, a power soft top, cruise control, six-way adjustable seats (power backrest, manual fore/aft and height), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, air-conditioning, partial leather upholstery, Bluetooth and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an iPod/USB audio interface. Stepping up to the Boxster S gets you a bigger engine, 18-inch wheels and red-painted brake calipers.
As is typical for Porsche, myriad options are available. The Convenience package adds adaptive bi-xenon headlights, a wind deflector, auto-dimming mirrors, automatic wipers and automatic climate control. The Infotainment package gets a navigation system, satellite radio and a seven-speaker sound system.
The items in these packages can be added separately along with different wheel sizes and designs, a mechanical limited-slip rear differential, an adaptive suspension, ceramic composite brakes (S and Spyder only), rear parking sensors and a sport steering wheel with PDK shift paddles. Interior options include fully powered seats, three different sport seat designs, heated seats, ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, voice controls, satellite radio, a six-CD changer and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound system.
The Sport Chrono package adds a lap timer, adjustable driver settings and, with PDK, launch control. Then there are the numerous customization choices that will cover just about any interior surface in leather, Alcantara, aluminum, carbon fiber, wood trim or exterior paint.
The Boxster Spyder is a stripped-down version of the Boxster S. Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, more horsepower, the limited-slip rear differential, a lowered sport-tuned suspension, a manually operated lightweight soft top, lightweight sport seats and exterior-paint-matched interior trim. It ditches air-conditioning along with a few trim pieces, while the four-speaker sound system is a no-cost option. Most of the Boxster's options are available on the Spyder, but certain luxury items like the ventilated seats and Bose stereo are not available. If those lightweight seats with the non-adjustable backrests are not to your liking, the regular sport seats from the Boxster are available.
The Boxster S Black Edition shares the same engine with the Boxster Spyder but takes a more generously appointed route in terms of features. On the outside, blacked-out exterior trim and wheels and adaptive bi-xenon headlights lend it a distinct appearance. Inside, the Convenience and Infotainment packages are included along with the premium audio, shift paddles and unique interior trim.
Powertrains and Performance
The base Boxster is powered by a 2.9-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder (flat-6) engine that produces 255 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque. Like every Boxster, it is rear-wheel drive and comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. Optional is a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission known as PDK. According to Porsche, it'll go from zero to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds regardless of transmission. Fuel economy is 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined with the manual and an impressive 20/29/24 with PDK.
The Boxster S gets a direct-injected 3.4-liter flat-6 that produces 310 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. According to Porsche, it'll hit 60 in about 5 seconds. Fuel economy is the same with PDK as the base Boxster and almost equal with the manual.
The Boxster Spyder and Black Edition get a version of the S engine that produces 320 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, the Spyder hit 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. Fuel economy is the same as for the base Boxster.
Standard safety features for the 2012 Porsche Boxster include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, dual thorax and head side-impact airbags and rollover safety hoops above the headrests. In Edmunds brake testing, the Spyder came to a stop from 60 mph in a superb 102 feet -- the other Boxsters are likely to only take a few feet longer.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Boxster's interior boasts premium materials and proper sports car seating, particularly if you spring 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, though the current center control stack is much friendlier than those in past Porsches. The base stereo's sound quality is laughable, with the optional systems being worthy upgrades.
The optional wind deflector mitigates buffeting at speed with the top down, but top-up motoring is marred by excessive wind noise and gigantic blind spots. While the Boxster's soft top keeps weight and complexity down, its competitors' retractable hardtops are far more pleasant to live with. Unlike the spacious BMW Z4, the Boxster's cabin is merely average for a roadster, meaning taller folks may feel constrained. The Boxster's midengine design spawns two trunks -- one front, one rear -- that can hold about 10 cubic feet of cargo between them regardless of whether the top is raised or lowered.
For the Spyder, Porsche takes out some features to reduce weight. The air-conditioning and radio are options, the narrow sport seats are thinly padded and have fixed backrests, the door handles are cloth straps and even the plastic hood that shields the gauges has been tossed. Most notably, though, the power-operated soft top has been replaced by a manual two-piece roof that requires practice, patience and the pity of Mother Nature.
Thanks to its petite size, modest weight and midengine layout, the 2012 Porsche Boxster handles superbly, managing to feel glued to the road and light on its feet at the same time. Body roll is virtually nonexistent, and the variable-ratio steering is among the best systems on the market. It's all that and more when considering the sublime Boxster Spyder.
The base Boxster's 2.9-liter engine sounds glorious, and most roadster buyers will never feel wanting for power. Having said that, more thrust is never a bad thing and the 310-hp Boxster S will certainly not disappoint. Driving enthusiasts will still feel more of a connection with manual-equipped Boxsters, but the 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, so the optional shift paddles are a must-have.