2003 Porsche Boxster S
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Story and photos by Paul Williams

I used to think that there was not enough reason to buy a Boxster S over a Boxster to justify the $13,000 difference, but that was before I’d driven the Boxster S.

Let’s back up a bit and give this some more thought. What is the difference between the two cars?

The 2003 Boxster arrives with a 2.7 litre, 228 horsepower flat-six engine mounted directly behind your right shoulder, a robust five-speed transmission, and interior and exterior appointments that are in many cases identical to the Boxster S.

The top (a marvel of engineering, incidentally) of both cars raises and lowers in 12 seconds, and although the Boxster S top is triple-layered, it’s not what you’d call a major selling point.

2003 Porsche Boxster S

2003 Porsche Boxster S

2003 Porsche Boxster S

2003 Porsche Boxster S
Click image to enlarge

Like the Boxster S, the Boxster is a supremely balanced car. On corners it handles like a go-kart and the faster you go, the more serene it becomes. The standard wheels on the Boxster S are 17″ with optional 18″, but you can get those on your Boxster, too. The body panels and overall design of both cars are identical, so there’s no major visual difference between the two models.

The Boxster’s handling is sharp (really sharp), braking is powerful, much more than you’re used to, and that motor will hurtle you and its 1,262 kilograms (2,778 lbs) from 0-100 km/h in a scant 6.4 seconds. While it’s doing that, the sound it makes is magnificent.

In all respects (except for some ergonomic ones) the Boxster is a sensational vehicle, so why buy the Boxster S? How could it possibly be better?

Here’s the answer: where the Boxster has superb handling, braking, acceleration and acoustics, the Boxster S has better handling, better braking better acceleration (5.7 seconds, 0-100 km/h) and the engine sound is even more magnificent. In short, the Boxster S has more of everything that’s great in the Boxster.

That’s not to say the Boxster is in any way insufficient. On the contrary, and emphatically, the Boxster is a terrific car to drive and would surely be a dream-come-true to own. But the Boxster S intensifies the experience, and that’s a fact. Engine capacity is up to 3.2-litres with six forward speeds, horsepower increases to 258, torque rises from 192 to 229 foot-pounds, the brakes are bigger and cross-drilled and the suspension is stiffer and sharper. On the road these enhancements are evident the moment you start the car, so it’s not like you’re just getting cosmetics for your extra dollars.

The ergonomic issues to which I alluded are common to both cars. The fiddly radio buttons, the lack of a tilt steering column (it does telescope), the lack of seat travel for taller drivers, the location and size of the digital speedometer (no longer big and in the centre, now smaller and to the left), the creaky top in cold weather, and the somewhat flimsy steering column stalks are details that are noted but accepted in a car of this overall quality and performance.

2003 Porsche Boxster S
Click image to enlarge

And when not testing the limits of their performance potential, the Boxster and Boxster S provide their owners with reliable, comfortable, and safe transportation in the humdrum world of everyday traffic.

It’s worth pointing out that the Porsche Stability Management system, optional on the Boxster and Boxster S, in conjunction with a set of winter tires and a removable hard top, make both cars eminently drivable in the cold and snow.

And why not? Doctor Porsche didn’t intend for you to cover up his creations six-months of every year. Drive the car year round.

Technical Data: 2003 Porsche Boxster, Boxster S

Base price Boxster - $60,650; Boxster S - $73,450
Engine 2.7 litre (Boxster); 3.2 litre (Boxster S) six cylinder, horizontally opposed, dual overhead camshafts
Horsepower 225 at 6300 r.p.m. (Boxster); 258 at 6200 r.p.m. (Boxster S)
Torque 192 lb.-ft. at 4700 r.p.m. (Boxster); 225 lb.-ft at 4600 r.p.m. (Boxster S)
Transmission 5-speed manual (Boxster); 6-speed manual (Boxster S)
Curb weight 1275 kg (Boxster); 1329 kg (Boxster S)
Fuel consumption L/100 km City/Highway: 11.7/7.4 (Boxster); 12.8/8.2 (Boxster S)
Fuel type Premium

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