2003 Porsche Boxster S Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
2003 porsche boxster s review

My last review of a Porsche was more of a love letter than a critique. For that, I make no apologies. The warp speed 911 Turbo is the best thing to come out of Germany since apple strudel. However, in the interests of perceived objectivity, I will resist the urge to shower the 'new' Boxster S with praise. Suffice it to say, the Boxster S is one of the finest driver's cars in the world, at any price.

Damn! This isn't going to be easy, is it? OK, let's start with the Boxster's looks…

It doesn't have any. From the seats forwards, the Boxster is a 911 – a shape no more captivating than a suppository. From the seats backwards, it's the back end of a suppository. The Boxster's push-me, pull-you symmetry is so insipid the Oxford English Dictionary's uses it to illustrate the word 'bland'. The S' newly revised nose treatment, enlarged air intakes and funky twin exhausts do nothing to rectify the visual pabulum. The Stuttgart bean counters that substituted this dull design for the sublime Boxster concept have their place reserved in the Automotive Hall of Shame.

Ah, but you can't see the exterior from the driver's seat, can you? Once you get to grips with a Boxster S – stirring its silken 6-speed, aiming its laser-guided steering, leaning on its unflappable brakes – you won't want to let go. Each mechanical aspect integrates into a cohesive, symphonic whole. The lightweight Boxster's mid-engined layout lets it change direction as willingly as a well-trained hunting dog. At the same time, the slightly tweaked chassis provides an endless stream of confidence-inspiring feedback. The Boxster S is so sure-footed and chuckable an impolite driver could thread it through city traffic as easily as a large motorcycle.

Oh dear. I did it again, didn't I? Right, let's focus on the interior.

If God is in the details, this Boxster is headed straight for Hell. The switchgear is cheap and nasty; a Dualit toaster provides more satisfying tactility. The standard seats are unsuitable for spirited driving, and uncomfortable for the long haul. The stereo is underpowered and under-speakered. Garish red backlighting mars the instrument cluster's eye appeal. Instead of modifying a VW off-roader for doublewide Americans, Porsche should have hired one of VAG's interior designers. A base Polo offers more class, comfort and pizzazz than a specced-up Boxster S.

Of course, the Boxster S' real excitement is produced by its 3.2-litre six-cylinder engine. Take her up to 3500rpms and you can sense the barely suppressed muscularity lurking underfoot. The sprint from there to 5500rpms is short, seamless and exhilarating. Then, at the precise moment when most cars start to run out of puff, the S' welcomes you to Variocamland. That's the mysterious place that provides the extra grunt needed for a final, super-smooth dash to the 7000rpm redline, and whatever lies ahead. The S' engine, up 8 horses on last year's model to 260bhp, may sound like an air raid siren mixed with an industrial juicer, but it transforms a reasonably quick car into a serious player.

Serious? C'mon, it's a hairdresser's car! Perhaps it's the Boxster's curiously asexual shape. Or maybe it's the type of person who bought the roadster when it was new; back when its anaemic 2.5 litre engine precluded it from being a 'proper Porsche'. The car was a big hit with early adopters, who bought a Boxster because it was 'adorable'. They didn't know or cherish the Porsche's illustrious racing history or technological creativity. No matter how quick or agile the machine has since become, the Boxster can't seem to shake its image as a limp-wristed pose-mobile.

Sure, but it's wrong to fault the Boxster S for being both a lifestyle statement for performance challenged posers and a fast, fine handling sports car for straight-up G-force jockeys. The S should be hailed as a meeting point for the two camps. Top down cubbyhole lovers can learn how to negotiate tight corners at speed. Hardcore petrol heads can discover the joys of luggage space and unused breakdown cover. We should all learn to love the Boxster for what it can do, rather than what it represents.

In case you haven't noticed, I'm in two minds about the Boxster S. On one hand, it's a brutally efficient tool for high-speed roadwork. Anyone who loves driving fast can't fail to enjoy the car's strength, honesty and integrity. On the other hand, the Boxster S lacks soul. The eye fails to linger on the shape. The hand resists touching the switches. The ear is not delighted by the sound. Still, I'd quite happily recommend the less than charismatic Boxster S over a standard 911. It's more fun to drive. At the risk of appearing inappropriately smitten, I can't think of any higher praise than that.

Join the conversation
  • Dusterdude @El scotto , I'm aware of the history, I have been in the "working world" for close to 40 years with many of them being in automotive. We have to look at situation in the "big picture". Did UAW make concessions in past ? - yes. Do they deserve an increase now ? -yes . Is their pay increase reasonable given their current compensation package ? Not at all ! By the way - are the automotive CEO's overpaid - definitely! (That is the case in many industries, and a separate topic). As the auto industry slowly but surely moves to EV's , the "big 3" will need to be producing top quality competitive vehicles or they will not survive.
  • Art_Vandelay “We skipped it because we didn’t think anyone would want to steal these things”-Hyundai
  • El scotto Huge lumbering SUV? Check. Unknown name soon to be made popular by Tiktok ilk? Check. Scads of these showing up in school drop-off lines? Check. The only real over/under is if these will have as much cachet as Land Rovers themselves? A bespoken item had to be new at one time. Bonus "accepted by the right kind of people" points if EBFlex or Tassos disapproves.
  • El scotto No, "brothers and sisters" are the core strength of the union. So you'll take less money and less benefits because "my company really needs helped out"? The UAW already did that with two-tier employees and concessions on their last contract.The Big 3 have never, ever locked out the UAW. The Big 3 have agreed to every collective bargaining agreement since WWII. Neither side will change.
  • El scotto Never mind that that F-1 is a bigger circus than EBFlex and Tassos shopping together for their new BDSM outfits and personal lubricants. Also, the F1 rumor mill churns more than EBFlex's mind choosing a new Sharpie to make his next "Free Candy" sign for his white Ram work van. GM will spend a year or two learning how things work in F1. By the third or fourth year GM will have a competitive "F-1 LS" engine. After they win a race or two Ferrari will protest to highest F-1 authorities. Something not mentioned: Will GM get tens of millions of dollars from F-1? Ferrari gets 30 million a year as a participation trophy.