By on June 4, 2012

And my reviews is unbelivable like flying saucers

/no more iron horses cuz I’m drivin Porsches

With apologies to Lamont “Big L” Coleman, but I’ve been waiting to use the hackneyed version of his famous punchline for some time. The only problem is that TTAC and Porsche are frenemies at best, adversaries at worst, ever since one of our resident Porsche owners said unkind things about the Panamera.

But so much of life is not what you know, but who you know and while Brendan manages to get Porsche press cars due to his ruddy good looks (or being an AJAC member), I managed to weasel an invite to the customer launch of the 2013 Boxster, thanks to my old friend Robert Burgess of Downtown Porsche in Toronto. In 2003, Robert was with an uptown BMW dealership, and sold my Dad one of the last E39 5-Series cars to come to Canada, and moved on to Downtown Porsche not long after that. Both Robert and I have failed to convince the elder Kreindler to make the leap into a P-Car, but we’ve kept in touch throughout the years.

Attending a customer event wasn’t much different from attending one of the journo-circuit shindigs. One could argue that it was better. My drive partner on this event was a gentleman who spends half the year in Toronto and half the year working as an innkeeper in Provence. You won’t find someone so interesting when PR types invite every Twitter user with more than 500 followers. Rather than be put up at a fancy hotel, I got to go home to my Beanie Baby collection and Wiz Khalifa posters. Of course, there was somebody wearing Piloti driving shoes. There always is.

Within two minutes of our introductory briefing, the Porsche pro drivers were giving us a tutorial on proper seating position. Anyone who has read Jack’s Avoidable Contact series will be familiar with these instructions. Since you don’t need to hear “hands at 9 and 3″ again, we can go over the big changes.

Our testers only came one way; Boxster S mit PDK. Weighing in at 2970 pounds, the 981 S is down slightly compared to the 987, but keep in mind, the wheelbase is 2.4 inches longer, while front and rear tracks are up and rigidity is increased by 40 percent. Porsche reps touted the elevated center console, which they claim was inspired by the Carrera GT and 917. Personally, I think it looks more Cayenne or Panamera inspired, and it shares something in common with the Ford Taurus; it leaves the cabin feeling a bit cramped due to a lack of space for the driver’s right leg. Everything inside is beautifully finished, and memories of the barely acceptable cabins of early water-cooled P-cars are a distant memory. Until you try to use any of them.

Before we depart, one of the drivers comes over, and asks us to “turn off Sport Plus, keep stop-start on, don’t hit the suspension button just yet – oh, you don’t have sport plus. Nevermind”. Wait, what? Stop-start? Evidently, I zoned out during the marketing speech about Porsche’s “commitment to efficient performance”. Credit is due to Porsche for designing the cabin in such a way that all the buttons and switches are elegantly laid out in a way that won’t make your head hurt. I kind of wish they weren’t there in the first place.

The 981, like the 991, and the GT-R and a lot of other cars coming out today, are designed to minimize the once inherent compromises that came as an integral part of owning a fast car. Don’t think the throttle is quite responsive enough? Hit the “sport” button. Want to make a claim on our dental plan? Hit the button below “Sport” to stiffen up the shocks. Want to save a minute amount of fuel and C02 emissions over the course of the year? Turn on the auto-start-stop. Automated dual clutch gearboxes and fast-folding soft tops are soo last model-changeover.

When it comes to outright pace, it’s impossible for this hack to mock the 981. This is a seriously fast car. Our upcoming Hyundai Genesis Coupe video review will show that Jack’s 2004 Boxster S is roughly as quick as a brand new Gen Coupe 3.8 Track. The list of cars that a 981 S would leave for dead is longer than Manute Bol. I’d even wager that a Boxster S would hand a CTS-V or an E92 M3 its own ass in a straight line. It might even be a match for a pre-2011 Shelby GT500 – while the Shelby ‘Stang gyrates under hard acceleration, the  981 simply sets course for straight ahead, and lets the flesh around your eyes peel back, Clockwork Orange-style, as the 3.4L boxer emits an utterly belligerent growl.

Before we forget about the armchair auto critics, let’s discuss the much-feared electric steering system in the new P-Cars. Let me put it this way; if nobody told you that the 981 had EPAS, you wouldn’t know it. Maybe it does sacrifice some outright feel, but with a chassis this communicative, you either have to be a real racer or a hopeless pedant (or both) to really notice or care.

Our street drive was good for sussing out just how the Boxster behaves on public roads, but this car is ultimately wasted on anything that doesn’t have Armco barriers. Porsche was kind enough to set up a handling course in a giant parking lot for us, and while I aced the slalom, I totally screwed the pooch on the “emergency braking avoidance” exercise where we accelerate full throttle, and then brake and steer at the last moment in a direction of our passenger/instructor’s choosing. The first time, I did a daring right/left transition when the instruction said “Brake right”. The second time, I knocked clipped two cones. Blame target fixation and my lack of spatial awareness. I am confident that the Boxster has what it takes to avoid killing small animals that run into the road. As long as someone else is behind the wheel.

Downtown Porsche provided a Boxster S and enough fuel to rip around the back roads of Toronto for 90 minutes. Robert Burgess at Downtown Porsche extended the invitation to myself and TTAC. He can be reached at 416-603-9988

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34 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2013 Porsche Boxster...”


  • avatar
    NMGOM

    Good review, Derek…

    ….and from all other testing and reviews I’ve read, this car is just about as optimum as it gets. And I even thought the previous generation was sweet…
    Porsche’s enactment of electric-assist steering, common with some of their other vehicles, seems to have “got it right”. I can’t wait for the 2013′s to arrive at our local dealer, scheduled for July of this year. They are attempting to woo me away from the old BMW Z4 3.0si, but $65K is still a big chunk of change. Still, if you want a great-handling, beautifully crafted roadster with 10 cubic feet of storage and superb reliability, you can’t do much better for 2-4 times that price. Ferrari and Lamborghini, eat you heart out!

    ——-

  • avatar
    ccd1

    There are two dirty little secrets, you mention one but not the other. The one you do mention is that the whole concept of “sports car” as a category is getting blurred. Back in the day, you knew you when you were sitting in a sports car. Now, especially with the 981, a sports car is just a luxury car that handles well.

    The other “secret” is one that may yet haunt Porsche. Compare a Boxster S to a base 911 convertible and mostly what you get for your extra $20,000 is the 911 emblem on your hood. And it gets worse because, unless you track your car, the base Boxster is more than what you need for street use.

    As Porsches lose weight and gain hp, the case for the higher performance models (read 911) grows less for the majority of its customer base. The Boxster (and soon to be released Cayman) base models are more than you can use on the street, have gotten larger so its less likely you won’t fit in them, and are now as well appointed as the 911 models. The case for getting the 911 over a Boxster/Cayman was already thin and just got thinner.

    • 0 avatar

      I wrote a graph about that but cut it, due to my self-imposed attempt to try and stick to 800 words (I still failed).

      What I said was buy the Boxster, leave the 911 cab to the housewives and d-bags. It’s that good.

      • 0 avatar
        ccd1

        That is not too far from the mark. The biggest reason to buy a 911 is if you don’t fit into the Cayman/Boxster. I’m 6 feet tall and I just barely fit into the current gen Cayman. With the increase in size of the next gen Boxster/Cayman, far fewer people won’t fit. For most people, if you still want a 911, it’s because you always wanted one and have $20,000 (or more) to burn.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Suitcases, surfboards, dogs and probably even child seats, simply does not get along with the Box the way they do with the 911 ‘vert.

        Also, air management is different. At, say, 80mph in the cold, the back of your head and ears gets much colder in the (old) Box than in the 911 ‘vert. In the 911, the well behind the seats allows the air to swirl way down, so the return stream does not pelt your back head as badly as in any roadster. For some darned reason, the S2000 happened to feel much better in that regard than the original Box. But the 911 ‘vert is better still.

        Handling wise, particularly in bumpy turns under power, the Box is much nicer than the 911 ‘vert though. But for practicality, that big well behind the seats simply destroys the Box’ extra little trunk in the rear.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      ccd1,

      I fully agree. And Porsche knows it too. They have already acknowledged that the mid-engine design of the Boxster/Cayman is superior dynamically. So, expect that platform to evolve even more in the future, especially with regard to horsepower and fuel mileage, perhaps even hybridization.

      I also agree with you regarding all this mess about “sports cars”, “sporty cars”, and “sports sedans”. They are now like one continuum; or perhaps vehicles with multiple attributes, rather than being a single “pure” type.

      Take my old BMW Z4 3.0si, for example. Everybody thinks its a “sports car” (as did I). It’s not. It is essentially a grand touring car with some sports car character. And in fact, Wikipedia lists its class as: “Luxury Car-Sports Car-Roadster” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_Z4.) What in the world is that supposed to be? Yes, it is a roadster, but there is little that is luxurious about it!

      Some cars like Camaro and Mustang are essentially “muscle cars”, with increasing “sports car” character. Some cars like the Ferrari 458 Italia are luxurious super-cars with huge amounts of “sports car” character. Some cars like the Porsche Panamera are premium, well-performing sedans with a lot of sports-car character.

      Some cars like the Nissan a GT-R are such an anomaly that nobody knows how to classify them, but with plenty of sports-car character…AND with 4 seats (as do Porsche 911′s and BMW M3′s). Maybe the GT-R needs its own class: the “Godzilla” class (^_^).

      And this mix of “traits” may not even be constant with time. Corvette is a good example of migration in purpose or character. Regardless of what it may have been called initially, it started out life as 2-seater muscle car, and over the decades it has successfully been increasing its sports-car content to be a dominant trait.

      I guess the only “pure” sports cars might be an old Triumph, Austin Healy, MGB, or Sunbeam….or perhaps their modern reincarnations: Mazda MX-5 Miata, and now the Toyota FR-S / Subaru BRZ twins. But where would that leave a 1965 “bathtub” Porsche 356C?

      Unless, of course, you want to take a crack at trying to define “sports car” by listing attributes….?

      ————–

      • 0 avatar
        ccd1

        Porsche has tried to protect its 911 cash cow by making sure that they never put a bigger engine in the Boxster/Cayman. The problem with this strategy is that 265 hp in a sub 3,000 lb car is plenty of power for the streets, let alone the 320 hp in the S. Yes the base 911 has a bit more power for its $80,000 price tag and the 911 S has quite a bit more power for almost $100,000, but who cares???

        More to your point, Porsche with its new versions of both the Boxter/Cayman and 911 is really blurring the line between GT and sports car. Some people will welcome the change while others will miss the more stripped down feel of the “classic” sports car. No doubt, Porsche has made sure that the new cars are more capable than the old ones in terms of racing around a track. But on the street in every day use, will they be more fun to drive???

        Michael Karesh (and others here at TTAC) have talked about the great handling of the RX-8. But just as important as the handling is the fact that you have to affirmatively drive the RX-8. The lack of torque means you have to shift to keep the revs up like the sports cars of old. It requires an engagement with the car that more powerful cars simply do not demand. And it is a big reason why the RX-8 is so much fun to drive. Is the RX-8 the better sports car in terms of performance over just about any Porsche? No. But is it more fun to drive (on the street in particular)? FAR less agreement on that point.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I’m in the DISTINCT MINORITY, because I think and have always thought that the Boxter and Cayman are the Porsches with the best exteriors. The new ones are even better.

      The 911 is a timeless classic and iconic, because it looked so brilliant when introduced, and I’ll be the first to admit it has aged about as gracefully as any sports car that I can think of, save maybe one or two non-mass produced classics (e.g. Shelby Cobra).

      The 911 is like a fine wine, getting more mellow, not “old,” as it ages.

      The Cayman and Boxter are the more aggressively styled Young Turks.

      Still, Porsche had better not rest on their laurels too much, because the VALUE proposition when judging sports cars has not been as competitive at any time that I can recall, with so many offerings at so many different price points, all offering up fine attributes, and a 65k base price ain’t cheap by any stretch in a world where 300+ horsepower V6s and 375+ hp V8s that can hustle on the track, as well, can be had for far less (as in $30,000 less).

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        DeadWeight,

        I agree with your design observation. And I like the “Old Mellow” (911) vs “Young Turks” (Boxster) metaphor.

        I do think that Porsche now realizes that the most cost effective, best ROI pathway is to continue “working” the Boxster/Cayman platform with added horsepower**, better fuel mileage, and …horror of horrors…. hybridization eventually. At this point, there just seems to be more “leeway” and opportunity in the B/C chassis than in the new 911: this current 991 version may be near the end of what can be done with it. (Of course, a counter argument from Porsche may be that once your near perfection, how much more do you need to do? (^_^). My Response: Put in a flat-8, which you had at one time, and get the HP up to 600-650!)

        ** I realize that more than 300-350 HP in a car that light may seem unnecessary, but there is still a “horsepower race” going on among the Big Boys (Ferrari, Lamborghini, et. al.); and it does show a ‘trickle-down” effect into the Lower Realms …. for marketing purposes if no other reason.

        ————

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTheDriver

      Anyone who thinks the performance/capability of the Boxster compares with the 911 has probably driven neither.

      • 0 avatar
        itsfred

        I just read this comment and I have to reply….as a current 2012 Boxster S driver and previous 2006 911 C2 Cab owner. On an everyday mix of back-country twisters, highway, ramps, and traffic I’ll take the Boxster any day every day. I have never driven a car that combined balance, agility, exhilaration, predictability, and responsiveness so perfectly. And it flat out screams (especially with the sport exhaust selected). My left knee has gotten very cranky in my old age (65), so with the Boxster came PDK transmission, the automatic that seems to read your mind and shift faster and smarter than I ever could. Sure the 911 is a classic, but the Boxster feels better planted and ready to follow my every urge.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Man, I really wish this was a folding hard-top. The only high-end sports car like that is the SL550.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I don’t think the SL can be classified as a sports car. Never has been.

    • 0 avatar
      Sinistermisterman

      Why would you want to add absolutely loads of extra weight? That’s all a folding hard top does – apart from look kinda cool.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Not all folding hardtops add massive amounts of weight.
        And much of the any added weight is due to the motors
        and mobile frame members, not the hardtop itself.
        New hardtops are often made of magnesium, carbon fiber, and other ultra light-weight materials.

        For example, the curb weight of a Ferrari 458 Italia coupe
        is 3274 lbs; the curb weight of the 458 Spyder is 3384 lbs.
        That’s only a 110-lb difference, less than the weight of the petit good-looking young lady whom, you would, of course, have accompanying you in the passenger’s seat (^_^)…

        ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrari_458_Italia
        ref: http://www.ferrari.com/English/GT_Sport%20Cars/CurrentRange/458_Spider/Technical_specifications/Pages/Technical_Sheet_458_Spider.aspx

        ———

      • 0 avatar
        Sinistermisterman

        Huh. You learn something new every day. I’m guessing Ferrari are well ahead of the curve though when it comes to using ultra lightweight materials. My experience of mainstream folding roof cars is that the roof mechanism can add several hundred kilo’s to the vehicles weight. If Porsche added one then I’ll guess that they’d take the middle route. Reasonably lightweight, but not quite all alloy and carbon fiber.

    • 0 avatar
      hgrunt

      Sinistermisterman – It may also be that Ferrari doesn’t have the same cost limitations as higher volume car companies do, and can “afford” to engineer the weight down, since their customers wouldn’t have a problem paying for it.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    I’m not much of a convertible guy so of course I can’t wait for the Cayman. I know some don’t like the design direction Porsche has taken with the 981 but I think it added just the right amount of aggression (IMO the Boxster R is what the 987 should’ve looked like from jump).

    The cars look great and I’m sure the Cayman will be equally as impressive.

  • avatar

    I honestly couldn’t tell that was a Boxster from the picture (thought 911).

    I have an irrational dislike of 911s, which is why I’m a fan of the Boxster/Cayman. So, from my perspective, it’s bummer about the styling.

    Obviously not meant as a direct comparison, but I’d rather have any of the other cars you compare it to over the Porsche. Rear seats and a less terrifying maintenance regime win big points.

  • avatar
    christophervalle

    It’s kind of fantastic how many times I’ve read about a new Porsche being 40% more rigid. It would seem that some of their models should be approaching infinite rigidity, an admirable, however unlikely, quality.

    • 0 avatar
      hgrunt

      I thought the same thing when I started seeing lots of reports about how this-or-that company increased rigidity by some percentage. I think the biggest jump I’ve ever seen was when Subaru reported a 125% increase between the GC-chassis to GD models.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    We are fast approaching the day when the Boxster/Cayman will get their day in the sun. The 911 can only run so fast, even w/a huge power advantage. Next year’s LL1s should be interesting.

    All that said, for a convertible I’d go with the Boxster, but for a fixed roof coupe it’s the 911 all day. Call me a brand whore douchebag or whatever, but there are few things cooler than a 911 Coupe. As great as the Cayman is, to me, it’s not one of them. If my money was capped to a Cayman budget I would prob roll the dice on a Evora S instead.

  • avatar

    Faster than the CTS-V in a straight line? Really?

  • avatar
    vanpressburg

    One of my first cars was Skoda- rear engine, RWD. It didn’t have any
    power steering. I felt every rock on the road.
    I understand that Porsche has communicative chassis,
    but can you feel and test the unevenness of the asphalt
    with Porsche’s EPAS ?

  • avatar
    imag

    The interior may be prettier, but the mass of empty button blanks in the center console makes the experience look cheap. You shouldn’t spend $70K plus on a car to see a whole swath of plastic blanks under your arm.

    I don’t know what options fill them, but they don’t seem to come on any car tested anywhere I’ve seen.

  • avatar

    By coincidence I was driving a Shelby 2013 GT500 yesterday. It drives like a brute, sounds like a brute, it is a brute. I am european, the stang is all-american. Now driving the 2012 Boxster you are in GT/race car. A gentlemans race car. If you want to talk about sports cars, the old 911′s required true skill to keep the line and I agree the RX8 demands driver engagement. A sports car is a fast car which requires skill to drive and is designed for the street, not the track.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      theswedishtiger,

      You noted, “A sports car is a fast car which requires skill to drive and is designed for the street, not the track.”

      And that is a very good point that seems to be forgotten. The origin of real sports-cars was the curvy, winding, hilly, narrow roads of Europe (with NO shoulders!). Those cars had only moderate power (not huge), but cornered and handled well, were stable, and allowed a decent speed so that you could have fun and get to where you are going without plodding along.

      But because of those virtues, they were naturals for racing as well, as evidenced by the many tracks and road courses that developed there in the 1920′s and 1930′s. The Nurburgring and LeMans are prime examples on the Continent.

      You will note that British circuits like Brands Hatch, Silverstone, and Goodwood* did not develop until after WWII, roughly coincident with the growth of the traditional small British sports-car that we all know (MG, Triumph, Sunbeam, Austin Healy, etc)

      * Goodwood did have at least a hill-climb track in the late 1930′s.

      ———–

  • avatar
    ccd1

    Derek:

    Great review, but it kind of dances around the bottom line question: is the new Boxster fun to drive on public roads? One of your cohorts already dinged the new 911 for being supremely competent, but boring. Is this car more of the same???

    • 0 avatar
      Mike981S

      Having driven an 981S over several passes in the Alps and through twisties in the Blackforest last month, i can assure you that the Boxster is only as boring as the driver and the road ;)


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