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2006 Porsche Boxster review

November 16, 2005 10:48 AM EST | Convertibles , Luxury Brands , Porsche | Email to Friend

View large imageA midengine design and classic Porsche styling, not to mention sublime steering and brakes, give the Boxster appeal that's hard to ignore.

Pros
Supreme handling characteristics, pinpoint steering, plenty of usable power especially in "S" model, usable cargo compartment, fast power-top operation.

Cons
Options are costly, interior controls are a little busy.

What's New for 2006
Changes for the Boxster this year include a new optional tire-pressure monitor and a 19-inch Carrera Sport wheel design. The navigation system has been improved, and an available electronic logbook function has been integrated with the communication management system.

Introduction:
Although the 911 has been the staple of Porsche's lineup for over three decades, the debut of the Boxster in 1997 ushered in a new era of the more affordable Porsche convertible. With its compact, midengine layout and formidable handling prowess, the flat-six-powered Boxster quickly became one of the best-selling cars in the luxury roadster segment. Although many of its competitors, such as the BMW Z3 and Mercedes-Benz SLK had equally prestigious names, the Boxster's thrilling driving experience was often enough to keep buyers from looking any further.

The year 2000 saw the introduction of the more powerful "S" version, which boasted more power -- 250 horsepower compared to the standard Boxster's 217 ponies -- along with upgraded brakes and suspension. Although the S is more expensive than the regular Boxster, it bridges the performance and financial gap between the base Boxster and the 911 Cabriolet. In 2003, both Boxsters received minor upgrades to keep them relevant in the face of faster, more refined rivals. More power is always nice, and the upgrades to the Boxster's variable valve timing system (called VarioCam) netted eight more horsepower on each engine, for a total of 225 in the base car and 258 in the S.

For 2005, Porsche made its most significant revisions yet. The Boxster's 2.7-liter flat six-cylinder increased its horsepower rating from 225 to 240, and the S's 3.2-liter six moved from 258 to 280 hp. As a result, both models increased their top speeds -- 159 miles per hour for the Boxster and 166 mph for the Boxster S. Corresponding 0-60 times are 5.9 and 5.2 seconds. Also new was the addition of head airbags that complement the current side airbag system. The head airbags deploy from door window side rails. In addition, Porsche tweaked the brakes for improved performance and added its stability control system to the standard equipment list.

Now in its 10th year of production, Porsche's captivating Boxster remains a purpose-built sports car that's designed to go fast and provide optimum feedback while demanding the driver's undivided attention. It rewards skilled pilots with an unparalleled thrill ride and an unrivaled exhaust note.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
This midengine, two-seat roadster comes as either the Boxster or the Boxster S. The standard equipment list on both models includes such features as leather-trimmed seats with power recline; a leather-covered steering wheel, gearshift knob, armrests and handbrake handle; a seven-speaker CD stereo; and a power top. Optional equipment includes items like full leather power seating, automatic climate control, a Bose digital sound system, bi-HID headlights, rear parking assist, a three-piece wind deflector, heated seats, a navigation system and a removable aluminum hardtop. Porsche's active suspension management system is also optional on both models, and ordering it specifies a 10mm lower ride height. The standard Boxster comes with 17-inch wheels, while the S wears 18-inch wheels; 19s are optional on both.

Powertrains and Performance:
Both models use a horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine. In the standard Boxster, it displaces 2.7 liters and produces 240 horsepower. The Boxster S uses a 3.2-liter version of the same engine with 280 hp. A five-speed manual transmission is fitted to the Boxster, while the Boxster S gets a six-speed unit. An automatic, Porsche's five-speed Tiptronic S automanual, is also available for either car. Other Boxster S upgrades include higher-rate springs and shocks, longer control arms and standard lightweight 18-inch wheels. Porsche claims that the standard Boxster will sprint to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, while the S accomplishes the same feat in just 5.2 ticks of the watch.

Safety:
Side airbags, traction control and four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard on both Boxsters. Electronic stability control, dubbed PSM, is also standard, and a tire-pressure monitoring system is optional. The side airbag system includes head-protecting airbags that deploy from the door window sills. To date, no crash tests of the Boxster have been conducted.

Interior Design and Special Features:
The Boxster's seats are firm and supportive, and substantial bolstering holds occupants in place on tight turns. Like the 911, the Boxster's cabin is good-looking but a little confusing at first glance. The gauge cluster is well laid out, but the climate and radio controls can be hard to decipher. Materials quality has been improved over the years, so at least now you feel like you're in a high-dollar sports car. With two cargo areas (one up front and one in back), there is ample cargo space available.

Driving Impressions:
As a commuter vehicle, the Boxster's tight steering, brakes and clutch can make it a chore around town. Buy a BMW Z4 or Mercedes SLK if your primary driving environment resembles the mega-mall parking lot. Rather, the Porsche Boxster shines as a weekend-getaway vehicle, providing comfort and space for two adults and their luggage with driving characteristics that are thoroughly enjoyable at speed.

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