Porsche Boxster: Is it as advertised?

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We asked to test the base Boxster to see what you really get for your money with this, the lowest priced Porsche sports car. The reasons were two-fold. First, Porsche has become an icon for sports car lovers. Secondly, the competition has improved dramatically. Finally, with a base price of about $49,000 US what are you really getting outside the legendary name. We came away with a mixed review.

What we asked for and got was a very basic two-door roadster with a six-cylinder engine, responsive handling, and a five speed manual transmission. It had a harsh, sports car like ride, a noisy, sports car like interior, and nearly useless cupholders, in sports car like fashion. In other words, this was a true sports car that lacked only one thing to be memorable, power. The optional engine on the S model is highly recommended if you want to do anything dramatic in a Boxster. Of course, that is going to add about $8000 to the base price for the additional horsepower.

The base model comes with a with five speed manual, antilock 4-wheel disc brakes, side airbags and a power soft top with a heated glass rear window, and 16-inch wheels. Other than that you get a terrifically stable chassis, storage room under the front and rear hatches, and the Porsche nameplate.

Inside you feel surrounded by a display of poor ergonomics that would be unacceptable on cars without such a pedigree. The materials appear average in quality, the radio performs poorly and its display is unreadable in the sunlight. The small radio station push buttons are too small and too numerous. Yes, the ignition is still on the left side of the steering wheel as tradition persists.

Mom’s view: The Boxster has been a good entry model for Porsche and is certainly easier to drive in town than the more expensive models as it responds quickly to driver input. In fact, this car is all about handling and braking. The engine in the base form is adequate, but some stick shift sedans are faster until there is a corner in the way. Gas mileage was over 20 mpg and I even got 24 on the highway. We had the five speed manual transmission and I was surprised at how easy it was to shift into every gear except second. For some reason it hung up on me, but this was a fairly new car and probably just needed a little attention from the service people.

What is terrific about the Boxster, besides its cute looks, are the two trunks. You have one in front and one in the rear which sits on a platform above the rear mounted engine. It takes a while to get used to opening the rear hatch and seeing your fluid sticks in a small compartment next to your groceries, but the combined 9 cubic feet of cargo space is most appreciated. Another plus is how fast and easy it is to operate the top. It acts so rapidly that it is tempting to use it at a traffic light, but I didn’t.

My vote on the Boxster is that is just does not do it for me as a Porsche. I enjoy its practical aspects, but find the fact that there are so many other cars that cost less and are just as responsive disconcerting. If I am driving a Porsche I want to know it when I hit the gas pedal. I am also unhappy with the latest findings from J.D. Powers that were not friendly to Porsche until this year. That was probably due to its gas hoggish SUV, which we tested at its introduction and couldn’t even, get the key to work. Now, years later, Porsche as apparently done its homework and moved up in quality as well as price.

Young working woman’s view:

The case I am trying to make is that the Boxster is fun, but difficult to justify based on performance or pedigree. The competition in this price category is intense with the hot Chevrolet Corvette, much less expensive Mazda Miata, all wheel drive Audi TT, new BMW Z4, high output Honda S2000, and powerful Nissan 350Z all competing in this segment and many offer more performance than the base Boxster.  So the question emerges is the Boxster as advertised? In other words, is this a real Porsche? That is difficult to judge because it does have the great stopping power and it handles extremely well and that is what Porsche is known for. So I would have to vote yes, this Boxster is as advertised, but just barely because it does not have the acceleration.

Young working male’s view: Still working making sandwiches and going back to school. In case you don’t remember, minimum wage sucks. So, with that in mind I am evaluating a Boxster in nearly base form that costs about $50,000. For that you get a four-year, 50,000-mile warranty, automatic climate control, leather seats, and a radio that belongs in another decade among other things.

Safety is always important and the Boxster has side and front air bags, above average lights, side impact beams, an energy absorbing steering wheel, a sturdy chassis, a retractable rear spoiler, and terrific ABS brakes. It also comes in bright red just in case the police can’t see you clearly.

The ride was quite stiff with a lot of thumps coming from the large tires, there was a small amount of body flex, but not significant to impair the sharp handling, and some squeaks from the top and doors. There was no doubt that this is a sports car from the minute you drop down into the nice seats and let out the accommodating clutch to the sunburn on your nose. It is a fun ride, despite the large blind spots caused by the surprisingly thin top. Yep, this is a Porsche.

Dad’s view: Just not enough engine to take advantage of the chassis is my verdict. The engine enjoys exercise, but it is best used for passing and parading. Look for 0 to 60 times in the mid-six second range.

Whether you are driving with the top up or down the wind noise is considerable even with the wind blocker in place. I also believe that the large turning radius of 35.8 ft. was excessive for such a demure sports car.

We only had the Porsche for a few days so we didn’t get to give it our usual deep testing, but there has been little change since we tested the same model five years ago. My recommendation is to order the S model. As for my verdict, visually this is a Porsche and all the wannabes ask about it, but those in the know pass it by literally and figuratively. On the other hand the Cayman is yards better for just ten percent more.

Family conference: Our verdict is simple. The Boxster is long in the tooth, expensive, and although it handles very well, lacks the power to be a player in this price bracket. We recommend you wait for the new model, order an optional S model, or find a used Carerra for the same price. It is not that the Boxster isn’t a hoot to drive, it is simply one of values. Yes, this is a Porsche, but why must an owner live in fear of less expensive competition? Clearly, it would take a true Porsche lover to justify the cost of a base Boxster without options. Final findings: This is a Porsche, but not the Porsche. Pay more and get more or swallow your pride and look at the competition. If your ego does not allow this, the base Boxster is the least expensive way to own a new Porsche.