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The Porsche Boxster is a sweet sports car that feels right at home on a race track, yet it's comfortable enough for daily use. Drop the top, listen to the engine as you accelerate down a winding road and you'll know what we mean by sweet. That classic Porsche sound, the balanced handling from the mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, and fantastic brakes are among the elements that add up to an absolute delight for driving enthusiasts.
The 2007 Porsche Boxster and Boxster S are quicker than last year's models, benefiting from additional power.
The headliner is the Boxster S, which gets a bigger engine. The 3.4-liter engine produces 295 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque, 15 more in each case than the 3.2-liter engine it replaces.
Meanwhile, the standard Boxster's 2.7-liter engine gains 5 horsepower for the 2007 model year, now outputting 245 horsepower and 201 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are now equipped with Porsche's VarioCam Plus setup, which provides variable valve intake timing and lift control, resulting in an impressive combination of power and fuel efficiency. With these changes, 0-60 mph acceleration performance has improved for 2007.
Both 2007 Boxster and Boxster S models models are available with an updated version of the Tiptronic S automatic transmission. This new version features improved responsiveness due to new hydraulics and electronics, and also provides variable shift programs, all of which makes the already compelling automatic even more so. That said, we still prefer the manual.
Besides being thrilling to drive, 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 by a relatively low seating position and placement of the drilled aluminum pedals closer to the firewall.
Driver control is improved over previous Boxster models with the latest generation of Porsche Stability Management, which comes standard. Drivers wanting the ultimate in ride control and electronic handling assist should get the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management, which allows the driver to select Normal and Sport suspension calibrations. This active suspension system is a wonder, fulfilling its task of enhancing the driving experience by maintaining chassis equilibrium in all conditions.
New for 2007: Porsche's Tire Pressure Monitoring System comes standard on all models. Also, serviceability is improved in the 2007 Boxster, with coolant and engine-oil filler caps now nestled behind an easily accessible flap, moving out of the way in the rear trunk.
The Porsche Boxster comes in two models. The base Boxster ($45,600) sports a newly bolstered 245-hp, 2.7-liter flat six that mates to a five-speed manual transmission. The Boxster S ($55,500) is aggressively fitted with a 295-hp, 3.4-liter flat six and a six-speed gearbox.
For those who prefer automatic transmissions, Porsche's newly improved five-speed automatic Tiptronic S ($3,210) is an option for either model. The six-speed gearbox used in the Boxster S can be ordered for the standard Boxster as part of a Sports Package ($2,680) that includes Porsche's Active Suspension.
Standard features include automatic climate control, AM/FM/CD, a power top, power mirrors and power windows, with leather trim on the steering wheel rim, shift lever, handbrake lever and door handles. The list of options is seemingly endless.
A wide range of seating options is available: six-way adjustable seats are standard; the first of three options is full 12-way power-adjustable seats with pneumatic lumbar support; second is sports seats based on the standard seats but with more side support; and third is adaptive sport seats with full electric adjustment, plus individual adjustment of the various side supports ($3,050). Heated seats also are available ($480). A full leather interior ($2,095) is optional along with several other upholstery trim packages.
A three-spoke steering wheel comes standard, but it can be supplanted with a smaller-diameter sport wheel or a multi-function wheel fitted in conjunction with the optional Porsche Communication Management system ($2,640). The optional Bose Surround Sound system is available for the Boxster ($1,665) and Boxster S ($950) along with a six-disc changer for the front trunk ($650). Night vision can be enhanced by a bi-xenon headlamp option ($990), and fitting into tight spaces made easier by Park Assist ($530). Custom paint colors are available ($4,315).
The Sport Chrono Package Plus ($920) includes a gauge atop the dashboard that charts sprints and lap times. It also interacts with the engine management system, PSM, PASM, and Tiptronic S (if those are fitted) to provide a sportier driving experience through quicker throttle response, faster shifts and higher limits to the anti-spin control thresholds.
Standard running gear for the Boxster is 6.5x17-inch wheels up front and 8x17 in back, mounted with 205/55R17 and 235/50R17 performance radials, front and rear. The S gets 8x18s at the nose and 9x18s under the tail, wrapped by 235/50s and 265/40s, fore and aft. Boxsters also can be ordered with the 18-inch S wheels ($1,235).
New in 2007 is the availability of 19-inch, forged ally, two-tone wheels. Also available are 19-inch wheels for the Boxster ($2,785) and Boxster S ($1,550), including a 10-spoke Carrera Sport wheel. These big units measure 8x19 in front and 9.5x19 in back and roll on ultra-low-profile tires. Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes ($8,150) are a pricey option, but they improve braking performance and reduce unsprung mass by almost 35 pounds.
Safety features on all models include a unique head airbag protection system. Frontal and side-impact airbags come standard. Safety for taller drivers has improved in recent years for Boxster models, now with a taller safety bar and higher headrests. The side windows have been enlarged to raise the height of the roof. Antilock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (ABD), electronic stability control (PSM), and traction control (ASR) come standard on all Boxsters.
New for 2007, Porsche's Tire Pressure Monitoring System continuously monitors the air pressure in each tire and offers not only extra safety but also the reduced risk of tire damage (including monitoring for the gradual loss of pressure in tires). This feature also helps prevent inconsistent or unequal tire wear and excessive fuel consumption via its warning function.
The Boxster has a quiet look that speaks volumes about Porsche design philosophy. There are no extraneous ducts or style-influenced bulges to be seen. Yet it's modern in the details that first made their way into the Porsche styling idiom through the high-powered Carrera GT (note the mirrors) and the current 911.
The headlight treatment has greatly improved on Boxster in recent years, separating the main driving lamp from the foglamp and turn signal cluster. This not only gives the Boxster nose a more traditional Porsche look, it also allows the foglamps to be placed further toward the car's corners for a better spread of light.
The frontal area and grille openings are large, the track is wide, and the enlarged running gear is covered by wide wheel arches, but aero-science helped fashion body panels, A-pillars, rear spoiler, door handles, and a fully covered undertray to create a more slippery profile with less lift and increased downforce; all good things when speed needs to fight the air.
Even where the eye can't see, the attention to crucial detail contributes to the durability and sportiness of the Boxster. To cite just two examples: small spoilers on the front longitudinal suspension arms that direct airflow to the front brakes to help keep them cool; and small, flexible blades attached to the undertray that steer airflow toward the transmission for the same effect.
To save weight, the Boxster does not come with a spare tire; instead, an air compressor and tire sealant will have to do. However, the addition of Porsche's new tire-pressure monitor should help warn drivers before a situation becomes dire and leaves one wishing for a spare.
Boxster S models are easily distinguished from 2.7-liter Boxsters by their twin oval exhaust tips.
When it first appeared, the Porsche Boxster impressed us with its classic roadster look and road manners, but the interior styling and materials looked cheap and plasticky, and there lacked a general coherence to the switchgear and gauges.
That's all changed. The genuine leather now is complemented by very nice faux leather and authentic-looking faux aluminum trim, the plastic looks expensive, and the layout is as pleasing to look at as it is a rational display of data.
The tachometer takes center stage in the three-gauge instrument cluster. The instruments are black-faced in the Boxster and a light gray in the Boxster S. Data from the Sports Chrono system are displayed in the lower third of the tachometer's dial.
A spiffy console integrates audio and climate controls. Music lovers can upgrade to the Porsche Sound Package Plus, which somehow manages to fit seven speakers; an external analog amplifier, two tweeters, a subwoofer in the instrument panel, and door-mounted woofers and subwoofers on each side. If that isn't enough to pound your eardrums into submission, consider the 11-speaker Bose surround sound system, which includes a seven-channel amplifier. Top-down enjoyment of your tunes will never be too badly compromised.
The navigation system, called Porsche Communication Management, is a useful feature, sporting an electronic logbook that automatically records mileage, journey length, time and date, and other factors for every trip made. In addition, an extended navigation option that can help you find your way back to your starting point, even on roads that don't appear on the navigation system's map, is available. The system is DVD-based via a separate module in the front trunk, which frees up the dash-mounted CD drive for music discs.
Notice we said front trunk. One of the Boxster's delights is stowage both fore and aft, with no compromise to the rear trunk's 4.6 cubic feet even when the top is stowed away. Unlike many two-seat sports cars, the Boxster can haul enough luggage for an extended road trip for two.
Top-down motoring is comfortable. Wind noise becomes detrimental to the experience only above extra-legal speeds. The air deflector does a good job of redirecting the air blasts, but our sense of style often precludes us from using, as it mars the svelte profile of this handsome roadster. The soft top can be raised or lowered at speeds up to 31 mph. Much better than the top on previous models, the current Boxster's top uses a light synthetic fleece fiber to better insulate against rain, cold and noise, and it includes an electrically heated rear glass window. The optional hardtop is made of aluminum and adds 51 pounds.
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 on the 2007 models, and it shows. Porsche claims the Boxster can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, while the Boxster S can perform this feat in 5.1 seconds. Top speeds are 162 mph for Boxster, and 169 mph for Boxster S. It's worth noting that Porsche's factory performance numbers are generally on the conservative side. Both cars are quite fast enough to satisfy any delinquent desires.
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 isn'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 S 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 good for an automatic and would be the logical choice if your Boxster is condemned to a life of urban crawl. The Tiptronic S was revised for 2007 with new electronics and hydraulics resulting in improved responsiveness. 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. From inception, the Boxster has been the epitome of balance. The result of the stiff, light suspension 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. The car's structure is stiff and strong, and stiffer is definitely 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.
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