2013 Porsche Boxster Road Test & Review

Lyndon Bell
by Lyndon Bell
January 25, 2013
7 min. Reading Time

Racing along a twisting mountain road in the 2013 Porsche Boxster is an experience more akin to riding a magic carpet than driving a car. The Boxster seems to glide along in sympathy with the twists and turns of the road. It’s so smooth, you’re almost tempted to get out and look to see if the car is really touching the ground.

Yes, it really is that good.

Known by Porsche’s internal designation as the type 981, the heavily revised second generation Boxster was introduced at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show. Improved in every way over the type 987 model it replaces, the 981 has a longer wheelbase, a wider track, and runs larger wheels than its predecessor. Yet, it is also lighter.

The first Porsche model to be designed specifically as a roadster since the Boxster’s spiritual predecessor, the 550 Spyder (also known as the “James Dean” Porsche), the mid-engine Boxster’s powertrain layout makes it in many ways superior to Porsche’s flagship 911 sports car.

In fact, were the two equally powerful…

2013 Porsche Boxster Road Test & Review: Models & Prices

The 2013 Porsche Boxster lineup consists of two models; Boxster and Boxster S.

The standard Boxster (my test vehicle) is equipped with a mid-mounted 2.7-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine capable of producing 265 horsepower. The Boxster S uses a 3.4-liter flat six, which makes 315 horsepower. Behind the wheel, the primary visual cue is the color of the tachometer’s face. The standard Boxster uses a black tach, while the Boxster S gets a silver one.

While both Boxster models use four-piston calipers in their braking systems, the S gets larger front brake rotors than the standard Boxster.  Boxster S also rides on 19-inch wheels, as opposed to the 18-inch wheels the standard Boxster uses. Both cars are offered with a choice of a six-speed manual, or a seven-speed dual-clutch sequential manual gearbox.

Base price for the standard Boxster is $50,400; the Boxster S starts at $61,850. Both prices incorporate the $950 destination charge Porsche applies to its sports cars.


2013 Porsche Boxster Road Test & Review: Design

I was immediately smitten with the Boxster the first time I saw it. With its fluidly curvaceous lines and Porsche heritage styling cues, the gracefully flowing design held considerable appeal. The new model, obviously influenced by the Carrera GT supercar from 2004, builds upon that original Boxster’s design and proceeds to render it effete.

Now, before I lose you to a litany of sexist and misogynistic accusations, please know I mean where the previous design looked almost feminine in its grace, the type 981’s lines are drawn harder and more masculine. It’s like the difference between Brad Pitt’s square jaw and Angelina Jolie’s softly subdued facial contours. In other words, where the 986 looked graceful like a dancer, the type 981 looks tightly drawn like a fighter.

Interestingly, in photographs, while the difference between the two cars is evident, it’s less pronounced than when you see the rippling musculature of the 981 in person. The extruded shoulder line, tracing as it does a serpentine contour from the tail to the nose of the new Boxster defines its profile and elongates the appearance of the Porsche. Meanwhile, the exaggerated sculptural inset of the intake and exhaust vents on the sides of the car seem to make the new Porsche model sit closer to the ground.

This, combined with the way the wheels are pushed out to the edges of the body make the 981 Boxster look firmly anchored to the earth. Finishing it off, the nice little kick upwards of the tail spoiler stretches the car just that extra bit more to add tension to the design, making the Boxster look as if it is about to spring forward of its on accord.

Nicely filling the fenders, the 18-inch wheels and low-profile tires of the base model Boxster suit it nicely. However, if you really want to go all out and make a bold statement, opting for the 20-inch wheels Porsche’s product planners have specified for either the standard Boxster or the Boxster S finishes off the design with aplomb.


2013 Porsche Boxster Road Test & Review: Comfort & Cargo

While there is absolutely no question the type 981 Boxster — as was its type 986 predecessor — is a sports car; few others can match the mid-engine Porsche as a long-distance touring car. The cozy, yet spacious passenger compartment provides outstanding comfort, as well as adequate storage for maps, water, and other items you’d need for an extended drive. And, it’s all nicely complimented by the Boxster’s smooth and supple ride.

The placement of the steering wheel and shifter in relation to the seating position is dead solid perfect. The seats are outstanding, both in their comfort and their supportiveness. In fact, if the seats were parents, their kids would grow up to be strong, healthy and well-adjusted individuals; with absolutely no need for therapy. They’re that supportive.

The seats are also mounted lower and configured to provide more legroom than the seats did in the 986 Boxster. While the seatback is electrically adjustable, the seat cushion is manually operated for fore, aft and height adjustment. There are also three optional seat offerings; the Sport Seats Plus offering functions similarly to the base seat, but has more pronounced bolsters for the seat cushion and seat back. The all-electric sport seat adjusts 14 ways. The Adaptive Sports Seats Plus feature 18-way adjustment and a Memory Package to offer additional side support from electrically adjustable seat cushion and seat back side bolsters. They also provide more pronounced support in the shoulder area.

When it comes to cargo, the Boxster delivers “His” and “Hers” trunks. With the engine mounted directly behind the passenger compartment, there’s room for two — one in the front of the car and one in the back. The one in the back is perfectly sized for a carryon bag, while the one in the front will hold that, plus a number of other items as well.

A couple can travel quite readily in the Porsche Boxster.


2013 Porsche Boxster Road Test & Review: Features & Controls

Just as its 911 sibling, the Boxster is now fitted with the center console treatment from the Panamera. Angled upward toward the dash, it places all of the secondary comfort and convenience controls nicely within reach, in a handsome, purposeful and stylish manner.

Also, like every Porsche since the 356 models of the 1950s, the Boxster’s dash features a large center mounted tachometer flanked on both sides by supplemental gauge housings. However, the Boxster gets only three main gauge housings (as opposed to the five featured in the 911 models). There’s a 4.8-inch TFT monitor in the right one, which provides a long list of configurable display options including vehicle status, audio, telephone, navigation, map display, trip computer, and tire pressure readouts.

My test car was fitted with the optional Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system. It provided navigation with 3D mapping, city and terrain modeling, a superimposed satellite map, and a map display in the instrument cluster as well. The dash-mounted unit housed a disc drive capable of playing back DVD video and audio. Satellite radio, USB inputs, and Bluetooth audio streaming were supported as well. These were amplified through a Bose surround audio system.


2013 Porsche Boxster Road Test & Review: Safety & Ratings

Just as with all of the other cars in the Porsche line up, the most significant safety feature of the Boxster is its remarkable agility. Highly maneuverable and readily capable of avoiding accidents, the same attributes that make the Boxster so much fun to drive also comprise its most significant active safety feature.

Should a driver find an accident absolutely unavoidable, Porsche has also fitted the Boxster with a vast array of passive safety features — including four-wheel ABS and emergency braking preparation. There is also a full complement of airbags. Integrated roll bars are on board to protect the Porsche’s occupants in the event of a rollover incident.


2013 Porsche Boxster Road Test & Review: Engine/Fuel Economy

My Boxster test car was fitted with a 265 horsepower, 2.7-liter horizontally opposed (boxer) six-cylinder engine and the six-speed manual transmission. In fact, that engine configuration is part of where the Porsche’s model name comes from. A roadster fitted with a boxer engine — the Porsche is thus referred to as the Boxster.

For those unfamiliar with this engine layout, it situates three cylinders on either side of the flat engine block. When the engine is in operation, the pistons in the cylinders appear to spar back and forth with one another like boxers. This is the derivation of the term boxer engine.

Remarkably, the base engine in the 981 is smaller in displacement than the base engine in the outgoing 987, yet it makes more horsepower. The horsepower rating is up by 10 from the previous engine, but the torque rating is down by seven ft.-lbs. at 206.

The EPA says to expect 20 miles per gallon in the city with the six-speed manual, 30 on the highway and 24 combined. With the dual clutch sequential manual seven-speed the agency rates the Boxster at 22 in the city, 32 on the highway and 26 combined. In my mix of city, highway, and twisty back road running I averaged 25 miles per gallon — though I did spend quite a bit of time on the highway on an extended run between the Monterey Peninsula and the San Francisco Bay Area.


2013 Porsche Boxster Road Test & Review: Driving Impressions

The moment you key the Boxster to life and feel the smooth but peripatetic rhythm the engine settles into, you know you’re in for a special driving event. Blip the throttle, the engine winds quickly and fluidly. Even the view out between those voluptuous front fenders telegraphs an encounter worthy of a special journal entry — should you be so inclined.

As much I enjoy driving a 911, except for the power, driving a Boxster is a surpassing encounter. First of all, the agility afforded the car thanks to the engine placement endows it with a willingness to change directions unlike anything else. Nothing handles better than a good mid-engined car, and the Boxster handles better than any other mid-engined car I’ve driven.

Beyond the handling though, the way the Boxster feels in motion is absolutely magical. The Porsche literally feels as if it is gliding over the pavement. Yes, you feel impact inputs from surface irregularities, but they don’t upset the equilibrium of the car. The Boxster simply absorbs them, informs you of their existence, and continues along your chosen path, wholly unperturbed.

The steering is both accurate and lively. It’s electromechanical now, as opposed to the previous hydraulic set up, but its accuracy is undiminished and I still feel everything happening at the tire’s contact patches, just as I did in the previous car.

The braking system permits you infinite modulation of retardation. The brakes engage at the top of the pedal’s range of travel and the harder you press the more they bite — in a completely linear fashion. You can absolutely use the Boxster’s brake pedal like a dial, gradually increasing the effect of the brakes at whatever rate you desire.

The action of the six-speed manual gearbox feels polished and well-lubricated, yet the gates are crisply defined and the effort required to move from gear to gear is all but imperceptible. Further, clutch take-up is creamily linear. You’d have to be extremely club-footed and inept to stall the Boxster or miss a shift.


2013 Porsche Boxster Road Test & Review: Final Thoughts

I honestly don’t know how the company does it, but Porsche builds cars that respond to you intelligently and organically. It’s something you have see for yourself though. If you don’t get it, there’s no way to explain it to you.

A while back, one of Porsche’s advertising agencies coined the tagline; “Porsche, There Is No Substitute.” And frankly, no other car can match the fluidity with which a Porsche car dispatches the task of transportation.

If you have the means, you’ll definitely want to own at least one Boxster before fossil fuels have been completely consumed or outlawed.


2013 Porsche Boxster Road Test & Review: Pros & Cons

• Dynamic new styling

• Dreamlike driving experience

• More power and better fuel efficiency

• Two trunks

• More expensive than the outgoing model

• Pricey options list

• Repair and maintenance costs likely to be high


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