When the Porsche Boxster debuted back in 1996, it was billed as a no frills, two-seat roadster, and a less expensive alternative to the vaunted 911. Unfortunately, as the Boxster buyer matured, so did the car, out growing its purest sports car roots by adding more and more of the luxury features premium buyers now demand. So, while we welcome a third generation Boxster, we wonder if it can still stir our driving senses.
The 2013 Boxster is about as all-new as Porsches get, with the most dynamic change yet for Porsche’s rippin’ little roadster. As before, it’s available in regular and extra-strength “S” models, and being the performance junkies that we are, we chose the higher output Boxster S for our test.
The new Boxster looks bigger and more imposing than its predecessor; although except for wheelbase and track, most dimensions are little changed. But, it is lighter, faster, and more fuel-efficient. And, most important for us, it still feels like a Boxster. Which is a relief, as the Boxster has always been a car you wear more than one you just drive.
Dubbed the 981, as Porsche-philes know it, the new Boxster has some serious road presence. And we do feel that the 981 moniker is significant, as the new design is reflective of the 918 Spyder hybrid supercar. It really hugs the ground, looking over broad and substantial; and of course we prefer it with the top down, looking like a proper roadster, although one that is anything but basic or inexpensive.
The most striking change is at the rear where a large spoiler slices across the entire width, even into the tail lights. Wheels are 18’s on the base Boxster, 19’s on the ‘S’, and of course you can further opt for 20’s. Almost half of the new body panels are aluminum, and side air intakes have been enlarged for the sake of both appearance and add cooling performance.
Which is needed by the updated 3.4-liter boxer engine hidden amidships. Horsepower bumps up 5 to 315 with 266 lb-ft. of torque. The base Boxster’s new direct injection 2.7-liter flat-six, while smaller, gains 10 horsepower to 265 with 206 pound-feet of torque.
But nowhere is the Boxster’s continuous march upscale more evident than in the leather clad interior. It is without question luxurious. Adopting the Panamera’s upsweeping center console puts all of the numerous sophisticated controls within easy reach. One less welcomed premium upgrade is the new electric parking brake. Even with Hill Hold and auto stop/start we missed the classic center hand brake.
The fully electric cloth top is both bigger and quieter and stashes behind the seats in 10 seconds, and as before, without a boot cover.
One more small complaint is the usual rear blind spots with the top up. Fortunately we kept our eyes straight ahead as we streaked to 60 at our test track in just 4.4-seconds. Our car is a manual with the Sport Chrono Package. The PDK automatic is a tad quicker, but we thoroughly enjoyed selecting our own gears and a quarter-mile time of just 13.1-seconds at 110 miles-per-hour is just fine by us.
Handling, of course, has always been more the Boxster’s forte and we’re delighted that it has only gotten better. Somehow this Boxster managed to feel even flatter than before, still with an incredibly “nailed down” response, but without a jarring road ride. This Boxster also seems to have acquired a bit of a nasty streak, as there’s a new lightness to the rear end. We loved it!
Boxster adds the 911’s electric-mechanical steering, and it is a little dull for out taste, yet delivers more feel than most such units.
Brakes continue to get the job done without drama, stopping the Boxster S from 60 in a short average of 109-feet, thanks to 4-piston aluminum monobloc calipers clamping down on vented brake discs. Still this Boxster is not primarily about absolute track performance, it’s more about putting the top down and exploring. It sounds great, it looks great, and you just want to get in it and drive.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the Boxster S with a manual are 20-City, 28-Highway, and 23-Combined. We averaged 22.5 miles-per-gallon on Premium gas. That makes the Energy Impact Scores closer to family sedan territory than sports cars at 14.3-barrels of annual oil consumption with yearly CO2 emissions of 6.4-tons.
As for pricing, while the base Boxster costs nearly 30 grand less than a 911, its starting price of $50,450 is still pretty lofty. And, things escalate quickly when you step up to the S, which starts at $61,850. Add popular options and you can quickly approach 90 grand. So, while it’s still an alternative to the 911, the Boxster is no longer an inexpensive one.
That said, the luxurious morphing of the 2013 Porsche Boxster has not diminished our enthusiasm for its driving performance one bit. It is everything that it was, and more, and everything you expect in a Porsche. While no car is perfect, in the vaunted world of sports cars, the Boxster is astonishingly close.
Torque: 266 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 4.4 seconds
1/4 mile: 13.1 seconds @ 110 mph
EPA: 20 mpg city/ 28 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 14.3 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 6.4 tons/yr