As a Boxster owner, I had a vested interest in how Porsche could improve this car. Why it never invited me to a focus group really hurt. I could have told the engineers everything they needed to fix. Despite this egregious error, Porsche went ahead and fixed it anyway-the stuff that needed fixing and some that didn't. And they did a damn fine job.
If a new Boxster were to fly by at 85 mph, you'd be hard-pressed to distinguish it from its older iteration.
"The Boxster's evolution will be gradual, very much like the 911," said Anton Hunger, Porsche's main mouthpiece. "We saw no reason to make radical changes but rather sent the Boxster to the gym for more defined muscles."
I, too, wanted my 1998 Boxster to have more muscles. However, instead of bulking it up, I blew it up with an aftermarket supercharger. I suppose that's what happens when people think they know more than the factory. Grrrrrrr.
Anyway, the idea to give the Boxster and Boxster S more power was achieved not through more displacement or forced-feeding (the Boxster remains at 2.7 liters and the Boxster S, 3.2 liters) but rather by carefully tweaking the induction and exhaust systems. Porsche managed to dig up another 12 bhp for the Boxster and another 20 bhp for the S model.
The extra grunt starts with a new intake and continues its refinements until it reaches the exhaust. To begin with, an even larger air filter helps the Boxster breathe more deeply and minimizes backpressure. Another new feature is the double-chamber air distributor pipe atop the engine. At low rpm, the two cylinder banks draw air separately down shortened runner paths via a closed flap-as though the engine is running a double three-cylinder mill. The effect is more low-end torque. As rpm increases (3000 rpm), the flap opens and the resonance charge effect increases and optimizes power.
Porsche has also completely redesigned the exhaust with larger piping and a more direct route via the wheel arches. The pre-cats are fitted directly into the exhaust manifolds on both models. The S receives a "power manifold" comprised of equal-length pipes on each cylinder that improve the charge cycle and boosts output. The S exhaust leads into newly designed twin silencers fitted crosswise at the rear and are connected by a crossover pipe.
The two models are still distinguished by the tailpipe; the Boxster sports a large single oval and the Boxster S, a twin pipe. The Boxster's internal engine bits are largely the same save the crank's bearing bridge that is made entirely from aluminum. Both engines feature Porsche's VarioCam with timing provided by vane-cell adjusters.
The summation of this largely topical work has increased the base Boxster's output to 240 bhp (almost the same as the first Boxster S) and the S model to 280 bhp. The increased performance is obvious, especially if you're familiar with a first-gen Boxster. The standard car makes the sprint to 62 mph in 6.2 sec., while the Boxster S manages the same feat in just 5.5. If you can find enough road, the Boxster will do 159 mph; the S will clock out at 166 mph.
With styling hints from the new 997, the 987 body features more prominent headlamp and wheel arches. Basically, the Boxster looks more muscular and athletic-the same, yet different. Virtually every bit of sheetmetal is new, as are the headlights, taillights, auxiliary lights and windows-which are now even larger.
Actually, the whole car is larger, including the car's track that has been increased by more than 0.50 in. on both sides. Surprisingly, the Boxster is only 40 lb heavier than before, and in an effort to shed weight, the trunk lids and rear cover are wrought from aluminum. The Boxster's re-design leaves it capable of swallowing huge running gear, up to 19 in. with the biggest tires ever seen on a Boxster. Coupled with the optional PCCB brakes, it's conceivable to build a serious street/track contender.
The cabin has received some major attention as well. While the basic layout is still fundamentally the same, Porsche has tastefully tweaked the interior in ways that make the older cars seem, well, old.
The center-mounted instrument pod has been revised so the three gauges are further apart. The faces are black for the base model and light gray for the S, and both pods are backlit with white LEDs. The surfaces are all covered in either leather, Alcantara or brushed chrome with nary a bit of plastic to be found. Porsche enlarged the glovebox and put new covers on the existing storage bins.
An especially nice touch is the 12-volt socket at the side of the passenger footwell. The seats are also new and available in four flavors: standard, electric, sport and adaptive sport. In addition to three new steering wheel designs (including one with multi-function buttons), the steering wheels are adjustable, both in reach and height (that was my one gripe with the previous Boxster cabin).
I found the cup holders entirely by accident, hidden in a slot above the glove compartment. A retractable arm slides out and a pair of adjustable cupholders pleadingly offer their services. It's a damn sight better than those clip-on units of yore. A few Red Bulls and I was all set.
The new Boxster shares about 50% of its components with the 911, the most rewarding of which is the steering system. Of all its roadster colleagues, the new Boxster is without question the most connected of the bunch. It's a benchmark car in regards to response and control and is significantly improved from before.
At 130 mph, the Boxster is absolutely rock solid, no drama whatsoever. Porsche spent months in the wind tunnel developing a new flat bottom for the Boxster, constructing an undertray that resembles something you'd find on a Ferrari. According to Porsche engineers, the new Boxster punches a smaller hole in the air with a lower Cd of 0.29 (0.30 for the Boxster S). I suppose props need to go to the team that designed the new, three-layer top as well, because its insulating properties are on a par with a proper hard top. Oh, the rear glass window ain't bad either.
As a light rain began to dampen the pavement, a sinuous mountain pass loomed in the distance. Austrians take a special delight in perversely twisted roads and this was no exception. As I left the car to grab a few pics, my feet proceeded to slide down the tarmac as though I was on skis. Walking was a risky proposition-I didn't want to think about driving. Luckily, Porsche Stability Management (PSM) is standard on all Boxsters and while some may gripe about electronic interlopers, PSM is the least intrusive of the lot.
Moreover, the new Boxster is equipped with sizable head airbags should all go to hell. I started slowly, just testing grip, and gradually increased speed. Soon, I was doing what I'd consider a decent clip, not insane but not slow either. A little braver, a little faster, it went on like that for several miles. I figured I'd disengage PSM and see just how much it was helping. I found out on the first hairpin as the Boxster's tail swung wide in a gorgeous power slide. I found I could drive faster with PSM on but look better with it of-what a quandary. I guess there are worse problems to face.
The good news is the new Boxster is a better car, a marked improvement from the previous generation and sexier to boot. The better news is I may actually be able to afford one. Porsche has reduced the ownership costs by 9% for the Boxster starting at $43,000 and 6% for the Boxster S starting at $53,000.
According to Hunger, the Boxster was responsible for the company turn-around."We did not ever think the Boxster would do so well," said Hunger.
I suppose this price break is Porsche's way of saying thank you to its customers. Porsche is ramping up production in both Zuffenhausen and its satellite factory in Finland and is set for a U.S. introduction in mid-January 2005.
I think I'll invite myself to this one.