The new Porsche Boxster S has a bigger, more powerful engine than the standard Boxster. It’s 3.2 litre horizontally opposed six cylinder engine develops 250 horsepower compared to the standard Boxster’s 217 horsepower. In addition, the Boxster S has a six speed manual transmission, larger disc brakes borrowed from the 911, standard 17 inch tires and wheels, and a retuned suspension. The Boxster S starts at $71,120.
More horsepower, better brakes, 6-speed manual transmission
The Porsche Boxster, introduced in 1997, is acknowledged by automotive critics to be one of the best-handling sports cars in the world. Its mid-engine layout, independent MacPherson strut suspension, powerful brakes, and responsive steering provide class-leading vehicle dynamics.
Some critics however, particularly those in North America, have complained that the Boxster is not powerful enough, especially when compared with high-performance sports cars like the Chevrolet Corvette, BMW M Roadster, and the new Honda S2000.
The new Boxster S is designed to remedy this situation, although I should add, it does not replace the standard Boxster. It’s designed as a ‘step up’ for current Boxster owners, according to Fred Scwhab, CEO of Porsche Cars North America. The Boxster S has more power, better brakes, and more standard equipment for a base price of $71,120, or about $11,000 more than the standard Boxster.
Boxster S vs Boxster
Visually, the Boxster S can be distinguished from the Boxster by its third, center grille opening, twin chrome-tipped tailpipes (instead of a single pipe), unique 17 inch alloy wheels, red brake calipers, titanium-coloured trim around the windshield frame, and a ‘Boxster S’ badge on the rear bumper.
The ‘S’ interior features a 3-spoke steering wheel instead of a 4-spoke wheel, silver-faced gauges with aluminum-look trim, aluminum-look door handles and brake handle, a new softer dashboard material, and a ‘Boxster S’ logo on the door sill. Boxster S models also have a lined convertible top which reduces outside noise by three decibels, remote keyless entry and infrared anti-theft system, and variable intermittent wipers.
For the Boxster S, the Boxster’s 2.7 litre horizontally-opposed six cylinder engine was bored out to 3.2 litres. This engine develops 250 horsepower at 6250 rpm and 225 ft-lbs of torque at 4500 rpm compared to the 2.7 litre engine’s current 217 horsepower at 6250 rpm and 192 ft-lbs of torque at 4500 rpm. To increase cooling capacity, the Boxster S has three front-mounted radiators instead of two.
It should be noted that the standard 2000 Boxster has a bigger engine and more horsepower than the 1999 Boxster. The 1999 Boxster’s 2.5 litre engine has been increased to 2.7 litres for 2000, and horsepower has been increased from 201 to 217.
Boxster S models have a standard six-speed manual transmission, taken right out of the 911’s parts rack, while a five-speed manual is standard on the Boxster – both models offer an optional 5-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission. Boxster S models have bigger, cross-drilled disc brakes (also from the 911 Carrera) and standard 17 inch radials instead of 16 inch radials. Tires and wheels on the Boxster S are considerably wider than on the standard Boxster: front tires are 17″ X 7″ compared to 16″ X 6″, and rear tires are 17″ X 8.5″ compared to 16″ X 7″.
Though both models share the same fully independent MacPherson strut suspension, the Boxster S has higher rate springs and shock absorbers, thicker front stabilizer bar, longer rear control arms to increase toe-in stiffness, and larger wheel bearings to increase camber stiffness for high-speed cornering stability.
Bigger Engine Has More Torque
While the new Boxster S has 15% more horsepower than the standard Boxster, it also has 17% more torque, 85% of which is available below 2000 rpm. The 3.2 litre engine features Porsche’s VarioCam system which varies valve overlap to boost low-end and mid-range torque, and a twin resonance air induction system which also helps boost torque. The Boxster S is more responsive when pulling away from a stoplight, when accelerating in traffic, and when pulling out to pass another car on the freeway. As the majority of our North American driving is done at slower city speeds or steady-state freeway speeds where a high-revving engine isn’t needed, this increased torque is probably more meaningful than horsepower.
On a winding road free of traffic, you’ll find the ‘S’ has much quicker low-end and mid-range acceleration, and better braking than the standard Boxster. The ‘S’ is approximately 50 kilograms heavier than the standard Boxster, and feels a tad less nimble, more substantial, and a little stiffer than the regular model. Like the regular Boxster, the ‘S’ has very high adhesion limits, and lots of ‘forgivability’. It’s difficult to lose control of a Boxster S even without the optional traction control system. In this sense, the Boxster S is an extremely safe sports car.
From 0 to 100 km/h, the ‘S’ takes just 5.9 seconds compared to 6.6 seconds for the standard Boxster. The ‘S’ standard 6-speed manual transmission is slightly quicker and easier to use than the five-speed transmission in the Boxster, but it’s not at the top of it class – an honour that now falls to the Honda S2000’s 6-speed manual transmission.
Like the Boxster, the ‘S’ has a retractable rear spoiler between the brake lights that rises at 120 km/h, reducing rear lift by 30%. The spoiler retracts when speed drops below 80 km/h.
The Boxster S’ four wheel disc brakes with Bosch ABS 5.3 have considerably more swept area than the standard Boxster, and provide phenomenal braking power and fade-free performance.
There’s no question the ‘S’ is faster than the standard Boxster, diving deeper into the corners, exiting faster, and reaching higher top speeds on the straightaways.
Boxster S vs Competitors
Compared to front engine/rear-drive competitors like the Honda S2000, BMW M Roadster, and Chevrolet Corvette, the Boxster S has better overall vehicle dynamics. In particular, there’s less oversteer in slippery conditions. One of the reasons for this is that the Boxster S has about 60% of its weight over its rear driving wheels compared to about 50% for its competitors.
From 0 to 60 mph, the Boxster is on par with its competitors. According to figures provided by Porsche, the Boxster S’ 0 to 60 mph time is 5.7 seconds, the BMW M Roadster is 5.2 seconds, and the Honda S2000 is 5.9 seconds (Corvette figures unavailable). However, the Boxster S, M Roadster, and Corvette have much more torque than the S2000, which as I pointed out, is more important than horsepower in day to day driving conditions.
In practical terms, the Boxster is a winner. The combined total of its front and rear trunks is 9.1 cubic feet, compared to 5.0 cubic feet for both the BMW and Honda.
The Boxster S is the most expensive, however. It’s $71,115 price tag compares to $62,900 for the M Roadster, $48,000 for the Honda S2000, and $66,865 for the Corvette convertible.
Still, other than a few exotic, mid-engined sports cars like the Ferrari F355 and 360 Modena, there are few automobiles that could keep up with a well-driven Boxster S.
It’s hard to find fault with the Boxster S’ performance, but there are some niggly things which need attention. When the Sun is directly above the car, the speakers on top of the dashboard reflect in the windscreen causing an unnecessary distraction for the driver. This is unacceptable in any car, particularly a high-speed sports car.
The Boxster S’ clear plastic rear window without defogger seems a bit cheap in a $70,000 car. And in sub zero weather, the plastic can harden, and possibly crack. In addition, when the power top is lowered, the plastic creases unevenly requiring the driver to get out and manually crease it.
But these are minor criticisms of a truly spectacular sports car. I can’t hide the fact that this is my favourite sports car over $40,000. Now all I have to do is take out a second mortgage on my house…