For Porsche purists, the ultimate Porsche sports car would be the 911, predominantly for its successful racing heritage. But coming from a manufacturing point of view, the Porsche Company was bleeding badly and to add insult to injury, the late 1990s economic crisis hit the entire world. Upon seeing the fate of the company in the 1990s, Porsche executed a memorandum of understanding with Toyota to learn and benefit from Japanese lean manufacturing methods. Porsche needed to produce an economical version of a sports car while still maintaining its integrity as a sports car builder.
Porsche also turned to Dutch automobile designer Harm Lagaay, who was instrumental in designing the 911 and 924. The first generation (986) Porsche Boxster was introduced in 1996, powered by a water-cooled 2.5-liter flat six-cylinder engine. The Boxster’s name is derived from the word “boxer,” referring to the vehicle’s horizontally opposed or “boxer” engine, and the word “roadster,” referring to the vehicle’s two-seat capacity and convertible top. It was also inspired by the 356 Cabriolet, Speedster and 550 Spyder.
Sharing technology and componentry among their product lines became the very philosophy that dragged Porsche out of the pit of despondency for the last century and it’s still working well today. The Porsche Boxster saved the company and all these years and three distinct generations later, it has lost none of its appetite by wearing the Porsche iconic badge. A super car it may not be, but a superstar among sports cars it most undoubtedly is.
Like its predecessors, this latest third-generation, mid-engined 981-series Boxster S I tested has more than a little in common with its older brother, the 911, that chose to place their engines behind their drivers.
Influenced by the Carrera GT super sports car, the center console is elevated forward with its racing style raised gear control gives the driver the feeling of being even more integrated. The short distances between the multi-function steering wheel and gear lever or selector make for a definitely sporty feeling. The important functions and settings for operating the vehicle are grouped in logical clusters on the center console. This button configuration allows quick and intuitive operation of individual functions very much similar to all Porsche models. The same goes with the classic three round instruments of the Boxster model line, with the centrally positioned rev counter and the ignition lock to the left of the steering wheel.
Also new is the 4.6-inch VGA multi-function display in the instrument on the right. In addition to the most important on-board computer functions, the screen also features the map display for the optional PCM with navigation module.
The New Sports Seats Plus is 14-way adjustable and offers the driver and front seat passenger both greater long-distance comfort as well as good side support during aggressive driving.
Never before in the history of the Porsche Boxster was a change of generation so clearly apparent at first glance: Together with its convertible top line extended far to the back, the new Boxster cuts a very elegant silhouette. Another factor contributing to its sportier appearance is that the body is a mere 32 millimeters longer than before, while the overhang at the front has been reduced by 27 mm. So the Boxster remains a compact roadster.
The body of the new Boxster models has been completely redesigned. More than 46 percent of the new Boxster body shell is made of aluminum that comprises the front end, floor and rear end, the doors and both luggage compartment lids. Lightweight design is used in the interior as well. For example, the cockpit holder is made of die-cast magnesium. The basic structure of the roll-over bars behind the seats is also made of aluminum but the bars themselves are made of steel.
Particularly new is the dynamic depression on the door, which guides the incoming air to the striking intake in the rear side section, so you can see where the roadster breathes. The more distinctive shapes of the wings, doors, intake air guide and top further accentuate the wheel housing. The Boxster comes with 18-inch wheels featured as standard while the Boxster S is equipped with even more imposing 19-inch format wheels – each with its own individual design. Twenty-inch wheels are available as an option.
The extensively redesigned Porsche PDK, this Boxster S, offers seven gears. The gear changes without interruption to the power flow, making for faster sprints and lower fuel consumption. I immediately realized that the shift points are significantly quicker in as it goes thru the gears and blips the throttle as I down shift. Overtaking is also supported by a PDK function; as I press the accelerator pedal briefly but firmly, the PDK understands that a sprint is imminent and selects the lowest possible gear to ensure the fastest possible overtaking maneuver through quicker acceleration. That results to a sudden surge that pushes you down on the sport seats. Enhanced performance has also been matched by a more powerful braking system, which is not new to all Porsche ranges. The new Boxster S boasts larger front axle brake discs borrowed from the 911 Carrera.
The Boxster S 3.4-liter engine boasts of an output of 315 horsepower at 6,700 revolutions per minute and 360 Newton-meters of torque at 4,500 rpm to 5,800 rpm that is matched with a lightweight chassis. The basic geometry alone created the very best criterions for this: 60 mm longer wheelbase for greater stability at very high speeds; a wider track on both axles for additional better stability and agility in bends; and larger tires for even better adhesion to the limit. The proof: When equipped for optimal driving dynamics, the new Boxster S laps the Nurburgring-Nordschleife in seven minutes and 58 seconds. That is 12 seconds faster than the comparably equipped predecessor model. Options such as the enhanced Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), dynamic engine suspension, Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) and the optional 20-inch wheels ensure the very highest driving performance.
In developing the new Boxster chassis, Porsche engineers attached particular importance not just to driving dynamics and agility, but also to improved comfort and practicability. As with the front axle, many components have been made lighter, but without compromising stiffness and rigidity. The axle components are primarily made of aluminum.
Oh let us not forget the “Sport button” now fitted as standard that aroused my curiosity. Upon acceleration, it provided a further increase in performance. This feature apparently applies to both the engine’s fuel intake and the shifting strategies of the PDK. In relation to the chassis and the engine, the new Boxster with PDK delivers a completely new driving experience.
The new Boxster S has matured quite a lot and yet it is the least expensive Porsche you can buy, so it stands at the gateway of marque ownership. On top of all its other superb functions, it is also tasked with welcoming new people to the brand and making a statement: we are Porsche and this is what we do.
On the strength of that argument, relationships will be forged that could result in a lifetime of Porsche dedication on building outstanding vehicles and faithful ownership to the brand. The Porsche Boxster is as important as that.