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Completely redesigned for the 2005 model year, the Porsche Boxster is a superb sports car that feels right at home on a race track yet is comfortable enough for daily use. This is a car meant to be enjoyed every day, rain or shine, commuting or competition.
Porsche says it changed 80 percent of the Boxster for 2005, taking more than half of the car from the 2005 911 Carrera, including the steering, front structure, seats and electronics. And it's all good.
The Boxster is a comfortable sports car, with ergonomically superior seating contours and a steering wheel that can be adjusted for both reach and rake. The taller driver, not always welcome in the two-seater world, is thoughtfully accommodated in the Boxster by a relatively low seat mounting point and placement of the drilled aluminum pedals closer to the firewall.
Driver control is improved over the pre-2005 models with new steering and the latest generation of Porsche Stability Management, which comes standard on all Boxsters. Drivers wanting the ultimate in ride control and electronic handling assist should get the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management, or PASM, ($1,990). This system allows the driver to select Normal and Sport suspension calibrations. In either mode, the active suspension system is a wonder, fulfilling its task of enhancing the driving experience by maintaining chassis equilibrium in all conditions.
With so many upgrades and updates with the '05 model, it's not surprising that the Boxster receives mostly tweaks for the 2006 model year. Safety improvements and upgrades to the navigation system polish a brilliant vehicle.
The Porsche Boxster feels all grown up, self-assured and solid in purpose, as though it no longer has to lag in the shadow of the 911 Carrera.
Turn the key and the Boxster's flat six burbles to life. There's no mistaking it for anything but a sports car engine. Both engines are more powerful than those on pre-2005 models. Porsche claims the Boxster can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, while the Boxster S can perform this feat in 5.2 seconds. Top speeds are 159 mph for Boxster, 167 mph for Boxster S. Porsche's factory performance numbers are generally on the conservative side. Both models qualify as Low Emissions Vehicles. Both cars are quite fast enough to satisfy any delinquent desires. If anyone needs to get to 100 mph in less than 14.5 seconds (S: 12.3 seconds), then check into the next Skip Barber driving school for therapy.
Proper sports cars, it has long been contended, have three pedals on the floor, and so it is with the Boxster. At their very best, sports car drivers are one-person jazz combos, juggling the interplay of shifter, steering wheel and pedals in a polyrhythmic balance of manual dexterity. Remove the clutch and it just ain't the same. Porsche does manual shifting as well as anyone, and there's no reason to fear the clutch. In short, we recommend going for the manual.
However, the latest Tiptronic is so good that electronic de-clutching should no longer be considered shameful. There's certainly no shame driving a Boxster with Tiptronic S, which is pretty good for an automatic and would be the logical choice if your Boxster is condemned to a life of urban crawl. The Tiptronic was revised for 2005 with differential gearing and retuned software to reduce hunting among gears when going uphill or downhill. If a Boxster fell out of the sky and it was equipped with Tiptronic S instead of our preferred manual, we would no doubt find a way to be content with our good fortune.
At the heart of all good sports cars is a good, balanced chassis. The Boxster has from inception been the epitome of balance. The redesign for 2005 kicked it up a notch, however. Though the basic suspension layout remains as before, almost every element was re-engineered, from its retuned springs and shocks to larger wheel bearings, from its wider front track to the stiffer but lighter rear suspension.
The result is a bigger helping of sports car goodness, a more savory blend of power and control. Even with a curb weight of some 3,000 pounds, the Boxster is like a dancer that seems able to accept or reject gravity's rule as it suits its own, artful progress down the road. Of the 44 pounds of weight added to the Boxster for 2005, 40 of them were invested in making the car's structure stiffer and stronger. Torsional stiffness was increased by 9 percent and resistance to flex enhanced by 14 percent. Stiffer is better when it comes to building sports car chassis.
The Porsche Boxster is big enough to keep its place in the daily dogfights and is just the right size for an escape from the maelstrom. Top up, it's quiet and comfy; top down, the world wraps itself around you and you can't help but blip back a jolly response with your right foot. The Boxster is pure Porsche. Our only cautionary note against impulsively rushing down and snapping one up is to check off options carefully as they can escalate the price considerably.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Greg N. Brown filed this report.