Porsche 911 Boxer
VEHICLE TYPE: mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door roadster
BASE PRICE: $61,850
ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 24-valve flat-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 210 cu in, 3436 cc
Power: 315 hp @ 6700 rpm
Torque: 266 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
TRANSMISSIONS: 6-speed manual, 7-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 97.4 in
Length: 172.2 in
Width: 70.9 in Height: 50.4 in
Curb weight (C/D est): 3150 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 4.3-4.7 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 12.9-13.3 sec
Top speed: 173 mph
FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST):
EPA city/highway driving: 19-20/27-30 mpg
More Aggressive and Exotic Looks
A new generation naturally brings new styling, and we think the latest Boxster looks great. Nearly one inch has been pared from the front overhang, and the windshield is shorter and has been moved toward the front of the car by nearly four inches. The proportions are more aggressive and exotic than before. Large air intakes in front of the rear wheels define the sides, starting as creases in the doors. The headlights mimic those of the upcoming 918 supercar. The turn signals are pinched out of the taillights, and the resulting crease spans the entire rear of the Boxster to form the rear spoiler and house the reverse light. Other than that admittedly original flourish, the design is clean and free of excessive ornamentation. Like all Porsches, the front fenders are clearly visible from the driver’s seat. In the latest Boxster, a strong crease runs along the inside edge of the fenders, which makes them appear less rounded than those of the previous model, or even the new 911.
Interior space is excellent, and an extra inch of rearward travel has been added to the seats—a boon for tallish drivers. Like the exterior, the interior is completely new yet feels familiar. The familiarity comes from the Boxster’s joining the rest of the Porsche family in adopting a tall center console that houses the shifter and a number of secondary switches. The quality of the interior’s plastic parts is impressive and makes the optional Leather package seem unnecessary. New seats, borrowed from the 911, offer terrific lateral support and hours of comfort.
Prices start at $50,450 for the base Boxster. Adding $10,000 worth of options is an easy thing to do, at which point it might be worth considering the $61,850 Boxster S. Either way, you’ll end up with a car that strikes us as a bit of a bargain, especially when compared with the $94,650 911 cabriolet. The Boxster remains the only mid-engine sports car in its class, and we’d wager that this new version will sit right up front when it meets its peers in a future comparison test.
Known internally as the 981, this Boxster generation has grown by 1.3 inches in overall length, and its wheelbase has stretched by 2.4 inches. Torsional rigidity is up by 40 percent, and the center of gravity falls by nearly a quarter of an inch. To keep mass in check, aluminum is used more extensively than before, a magnesium instrument-panel support was adopted, and the top design is lighter. According to Porsche, the regular Boxster weighs in at 2882 pounds, or 55 fewer pounds than the previous version. The Boxster S sheds more weight—77 pounds—to come in at an estimated 2970 pounds. Maybe that new platform wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
New Bones, Familiar Hearts
A couple of things Porsche didn’t radically change were the Boxster’s flat-six engines. The base versions decrease in displacement from 2.9 liters to 2.7 due to reduced bore and stroke measurements. Still, a new intake, cylinder-head revisions, and a less-restrictive exhaust freed up 10 additional hp for a total of 265 horses at 6700 rpm, but torque falls by 7 lb-ft to 207. The men from Stuttgart claim a 0-to-60-mph time of 5.5 seconds for the base Boxster; the perhaps more impressive assertion is a 15-percent improvement in fuel economy. Boxster S models, like the ones we drove in Europe, retain their 3.4-liter flat-six engine, but intake and exhaust modifications raise the power by five to 315 hp at 6700 rpm. A variable intake adds some low-end torque and smoothes the power delivery, but peak torque remains at 266 lb-ft. Flat-foot the 3.4, and power builds without any dips or surges. We’d like a bit more torque to push us a bit harder into the seat, but we can’t complain about the engine’s joyous sound at the 7800-rpm redline or the likely conservative 4.8-second 0-to-60 claim. Although the Boxster S has been tuned to maintain a respectful distance from the latest 911—the same basic 3.4-liter makes 350 hp in the base Carrera—there still is some room to create more powerful derivatives. A redesigned Cayman coupe is on the way, for example, and we’d expect something like the Boxster spyder to reappear at some time. (A four-cylinder version may still emerge, as well.)
Another obvious line in the sand between the Boxster and 911 concerns the two cars’ manual transmissions. Boxsters get last year’s six-speed manual; the new 911 has the novel seven-speed manual transmission. In addition to keeping some parts unique to the 911, cost seems to have been the main reason for carrying over the previous six-speed. We’re not going to question the decision: The transmission is brilliant, with short throws and a satisfying mechanical feel that the $3200 seven-speed dual-clutch automatic can never replicate. However, the PDK dual-clutch seven-speed is also pretty outstanding. The latest PDK fitted to the Boxster boasts reduced shift times and fuel-efficiency improvements. Downshifts occur quickly, and there is no hesitation or delay when you demand a multigear downshift. The gearbox will happily snap off a six-to-two swap, and there’s something satisfying about that, too.
Electric Power Steering: Good, but Something Has Been Lost
We’re learning to come to terms with the electric power steering. As in the new 911, the nuanced road feel, tiny vibrations, and tactility of the previous hydraulic steering system are gone, victims of a quest for refinement. Steering feel was a major differentiator between previous Porsche sports cars and their competition, and now that the unfiltered and direct conduit between road and driver has disappeared, we miss it. The electric power steering requires less work than it did before, thanks to lighter weight. It’s faithfully accurate, but at the same time it’s less involving.
It also takes less work to exploit the chassis’s impressive grip. The track of the new platform is up to 1.6 inches wider at the front and up to 0.7 inch wider at the rear. The extra width adds a measure of stability that makes it very, very easy to drive quickly. Some of the nimbleness and compact feel of the previous generation is gone, but overall cornering stability is improved, and you feel more secure approaching what likely are higher overall limits. Some of that security might be due in part to the active transmission mounts. Like the active engine mounts available in the 911, the Boxster’s magnetorheological transmission mounts (a part of the optional Sport Chrono package) can stiffen or relax. The mounts soften to keep the powertrain isolated in less aggressive driving; get frisky, and they stiffen to ensure that transmission movement doesn’t affect dynamics. Also newly available in the Boxster is PTV, or Porsche Torque Vectoring. PTV incorporates a locking mechanical rear differential that works with individual rear brakes to help the Boxster turn into a corner. Even with the stability control fully shut off, PTV’s brake-intervention function remains active to aid turn-in and handling.