Thundering down the Tail of the Dragon in Porsche’s tweaked Boxster
Porsche Boxster – IntroductionPorsche Boxster – Photo Gallery: An illicit afternoon in a swanky hotel room must feel the same as pressing the new, more powerful 2007 Porsche Boxster on a sublime ribbon of Tennessee asphalt. Driving this Teutonic wonder on the tantalizing Cherohala Skyway and serpentine Tail of the Dragon produced spine-tingling anticipation, extreme elation, dank fear, and then guilt. Afterward we felt bad for having so much fun that it hardly seemed fair or right, but then we went right out again in a regular Boxster with a five-speed manual. You know what they say: Once a cheater, always a cheater.
When the Porsche Boxster debuted in 1997 it had a 201-horsepower, 2.5-liter horizontally-opposed “boxer” engine. Ten years later, the 2007 model boasts a 2.7-liter boxer engine pushing 245 horsepower, up five horsepower from 2006. And torque, which we all know is the real indication of a car’s ability to haul ass, is up to 201 lb.-ft. between 4,600 and 6,000 rpm, an increase of two lb.-ft. from last year.
Porsche Boxster – Boxster S Power Bump
Already one of the best roadsters in its class, the Boxster S is now even better with the addition of the same 295 horsepower, 3.4-liter powerplant used in the Cayman S. That represents a gain of 15 horsepower and 15 lb.-ft. of torque over last year’s model, which is like adding more muscle and more speed to New Orleans’ already quick and talented running back Reggie Bush – the idea’s just plain exciting.
Porsche Boxster – VarioCam Plus Technology
Gains in both engines were made via tweaks to the engine design and by adding the same VarioCam Plus technology that’s used in the Porsche 911 and Porsche Cayman S. VarioCam Plus is like having a miniature accountant in the engine. He’s constantly monitoring airflow and making adjustments to the cams and valves to insure there’s no waste and that maximum power is the bottom line. The most enjoyable benefit of this improvement is the engine’s broad torque band and its ability to deliver maximum power all the way from 4,600 rpm to 6,000 rpm.
Porsche Boxster – Performance
Porsche claims the new Boxster accelerates to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, has a top speed of 160 mph, and still manages 23 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. During our sweet, stolen afternoon with the Boxster we can attest to its improved performance, but our screaming around in third gear near redline for most of the time played havoc with our mileage. Love hurts. The Boxster S delivers a 0 to 60 time of 5.1 seconds and a top speed of 169 mph. Those are bodacious specifications and downright libidinous on a road like the Cherohola Skyway.
Porsche Boxster – Transmissions
The base Boxster comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission that gets the job done, but when you’re spooling the car out over a really great road, you can’t help but wish there was one more gear, just a little more oomph. The six-speed manual that’s standard on the Boxster S is a sweet affair. Like all Porsche shifters, it’s as precise as the action on a well-oiled rifle. A five-speed Tiptronic S auto-manual transmission is available for both models, making electronically perfect shifts via controls on the steering wheel.
Porsche Boxster – Sport Chrono Package
Porsche says that Tiptronic works best when combined with the optional Sport Chrono Package because it shifts gears quicker and holds gears longer against the redline limiter. It also reduces the intervention of the Porsche Stability Management system to allow a little more wheel slippage, like when you’re accelerating out of a turn and the back end comes out a little bit and then snaps back when you stomp on the gas – way, way cool. The package also includes a stop watch in a binnacle on top of the dash that looks nifty, but we can’t imagine using it.
Porsche Boxster – Boxster vs. Boxster S
Differences between the base Boxster and the Porsche Boxster S lay primarily in the powertrains. The Boxster S is more powerful, and it comes with a standard six-speed manual transmission as opposed to the five-speed gearbox on the base model. The Boxster S also boasts slightly larger front brakes to compensate for its greater power, and gets 18-inch wheels and tires instead of the Boxster’s standard 17-inch rims and rubber. Finally, high-performance Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes, valued for their light weight and fade resistance, are only available on the Boxster S.
Porsche Boxster – Prices
You’ll pay for the added performance that the Porsche Boxster S delivers. The standard model costs $46,395 while the Boxster S is almost $10,000 more expensive at $56,295 (including $795 destination charge).
Porsche Boxster – Popular Options
Though each Boxster comes well equipped right out of the box, Porsche buyers want to give their new dream car a custom look or specification, so there is a long list of options available. Among the most popular add-ons are metallic paint ($825); a navigation system ($2,970); a Bose surround sound audio system ($1,665); a full leather interior ($2,095); and our Guards Red Boxster S test car was equipped with matching red seat belts ($340) that added a dashing, race-car touch.
Porsche Boxster – Active Suspension
If we were ordering a Boxster we’d include the Sport/Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), which provides two suspension choices: “Normal” and “Sport.” The system takes readings from sensors that monitor steering, speed, brakes, body movement, and engine torque and then continuously adjusts the shock absorbers for optimum balance and control. When Sport is selected, the difference is immediately noticeable, with a more solid feel, better turn in, more immediate braking and even less body roll. It’s like the difference between skating on slightly dull blades versus super sharp ones.
Porsche Boxster – Exhilarating Drive
Driving this classically-inspired, modern roadster confirms what its looks suggest – it’s a road-eating machine whose sole purpose is to thrill, though the Boxster and Boxster S don’t have scary power to make you feel like the next turn taken too quickly might be your last (its big brother the 911 Carrera can inspire that fear). The Boxster is just fast enough so that if you go hard into a corner, taking full advantage of its superb road-holding abilities, and then step hard on the gas the effect is totally exhilarating.
Porsche Boxster – Ride Quality
The Boxster isn’t all high-octane thrills, though; its ride is compliant and comfy enough to pleasurably cruise even bumpy roads and the adaptable transmission allows you to race around at 65 mph in second gear or amble along at 35 mph in fourth. And the cabin, even with the top down, is surprisingly serene – normal conversation with your passenger is possible. The optional wind deflector that fits between the headrests plays a large role in suppressing wind noise.
Porsche Boxster – Seat Comfort
During spirited driving, the Porsche Boxster’s seats feel like custom race buckets, but they’re spacious and comfy on long hauls, too. There’s also enough cargo space (nearly ten cubic feet total) for a weekend’s worth of luggage for two. Which is perfect, because then you can take your spouse with you and enjoy the car with a totally clear conscience.
Porsche Boxster – Flawless Communication
There aren’t many cars on the road that incorporate the driver so wholly into the experience that the machine feels like an extension of your body: turn your hands and the Boxster turns, press down your foot and it speeds forward without a moment of hesitation. Plus, you can even feel if the road surface changes from smooth to slightly pebbly or even sandy. This level of involvement increases your confidence and enjoyment exponentially.
Porsche Boxster – Safety Systems
So confidence inspiring is the Porsche Boxster that we felt comfortable switching off the electronic wizardry of Porsche’s Stability Management, which uses ABS (antilock brakes), ASC (anti-slip, or stability, control), EDC (engine drag control), and ABD (automatic brake differential) to help keep the car from sliding and going off-course. At first we were fearful, because on a road like the Cherohola, bad things can happen quickly. But we found the level of control and confidence the Boxster provides compensated for the lack of electronic intervention.
Porsche Boxster – Intoxicating Exhaust Note
Adding to our driving experience was the Porsche Boxster’s intoxicating exhaust note, which was like a theme song for our afternoon of amour. Above 4,000 rpm the exhaust builds to a crescendo – BLENNNNN! – before you shift gears, release the clutch, and wind it up again.
Photos courtesy of Porsche cars North America