The cars we loved.
Everyone likes being part of an elite club. When it comes to cars, especially sports cars, few brands conjure up images of performance like Porsche. Sure there’s Ferrari and Lamborghini, but Porsche represents the best of German engineering and performance for those who value driving fast. Porsche might make the least expensive cars of the trio, but its 911 line is no less capable. Porsche has a long history of extending the ladder of 911 ownership to “entry-level” buyers with cars that pass for affordable. In the 60’s it was the 912. After that new models no longer emulated the 911’s looks starting with the 914 in the 70’s and the 924/944 of the 80’s. More recently, Porsche introduced the Boxster in 1997 as its new entry-level car.
The roadster’s starting price of about $40,000 was thousands less than a stripped down 911 and offered much of what made it famous big brother so renowned. With its 201 hp 2.5 litre horizontally opposed flat six in the back, the Boxster also had the familiar Porsche 911 dynamics on the road. The very nature of the Boxster recalled the famous Porsches of the 50’s like the 550 Spyder.
Shortly after the Boxster’s introduction, the neo roadster movement sparked by the Mazda Miata had taken on full steam as new models and more variations on the theme began to crowd the marketplace. It seems there was still room for premium makes like Porsche, but with BMW and Mercedes rolling out their own roadsters, Porsche was forced to make its Boxster more competitive. In 2000 the base engine’s displacement was upgraded to 2.7L, now making 217 hp. More importantly a flagship model, the Boxster S was introduced with a 3.2-liter 250 hp flat-six. The Boxster S made the line more competitive against fresh upstarts like the Honda S2000 that offered nearly equal performance for considerably less money.
While Mazda and Hondas of the world may have offered a similar boulevard experience, the Boxster was a Porsche and as such it projected an image of style and performance that came with the Porsche name, even if the Honda S2000 was faster. Interestingly enough, Porsche may have provided the Boxster with its stiffest competition with the introduction of the Cayman coupe in 2006. Although they targeted slightly different markets (roadster vs. coupe), they were similar in that the Cayman is based on the Boxster and is more practical version of it as a fixed roof coupe.
Both the Cayman and Boxster continue to be popular gateways to the Porsche brand. The Boxster was restyled for 2012 with more a 911-like front end appearance and got larger more efficient engines. The base model’s 265 hp is more than previous S models and gets an impressive 32 mpg when equipped with the 7-speed automatic (30 mpg with the 6-speed manual). The new S comes with the same transmission choices as the base car, but is equipped with a smaller (than previous S models) 3.4-litre 315 hp engine. Performance has improved with 0 to 60 times in the high 4 second range and a top speed around 170 mph. For those wanting the ultimate factory Boxster, Porsche offers the Spyder. It’s essentially a stripped down S model with serious weight saving measures. Aluminum doors, carbon fibre seats and light weight wheels made of exotic composites results in a considerable weight savings over a typically loaded S model hampered with air conditioning, radio and real interior door handles (all of which do not come standard in the Spyder). Such austerity measures extend the performance envelope of the Boxster family at the expense of convenience and quite possibly ride quality. If the Spyder is too rich for your blood, there’s always the standard Boxster, the best way to get your foot into the Porsche door.