2003 Porsche Boxster
Click image to enlarge


Story and photos by Russell Purcell

More power equals more fun


When Porsche unleashed the Boxster on the streets in 1997, its sexy lines and capable performance caught the eye of the automotive enthusiast. While many of the ‘wilder’ design elements displayed on the early 986 show car had been deleted from the finished production model, the Boxster still retained a distinctive enough style to stand out from the crowd and captivate consumers.

Blessed with the almost perfect handling that comes with a mid-engine layout in a lightweight, aerodynamic package, the Boxster offered drivers a unique behind-the-wheel experience and outstanding operational feedback. Tossing the nimble roadster through tight twists and turns or zipping along at triple digit speeds, the Boxster inspires confidence, as everything seems to come together as the speed increases.


The entry-level Porsche


Although the Boxster represents Porsche’s entry-level model, its fit, finish and overall build quality could embarrass many more costly rivals. Everything looks and feels like a precision instrument, but with pleasing shapes and textures. The supple leather seats, thick carpeting and a super tight canvas roof all scream quality. Luxuries like heated power seats, power windows, and an exceptional CD-stereo ensure that even long journeys will be restful.

Porsche’s venerable 2.7 litre flat-six sits low in the chassis immediately behind the occupants, giving the car a very low centre of gravity, and ensuring that all 225 ponies on tap can be best utilized.

As one would expect from a company with Porsche’s pedigree, the entry level product must be representative of the company’s entire line if you want to gain the trust and devotion of the buying public at this level. The end result is that every Porsche model better perform like a Porsche – design or production shortcuts are not tolerated. Take a Boxster over a series of bumps or train tracks and you will immediately know what I am referring to, as it is hard to believe that this car is a convertible. The car’s design is so well thought out that the annoying shake, shimmy and rattles that are usually associated with open cars are noticeably absent in the Porsche.


What’s new for 2003?


2003 Porsche Boxster

2003 Porsche Boxster

2003 Porsche Boxster

2003 Porsche Boxster

2003 Porsche Boxster

2003 Porsche Boxster
Click image to enlarge

The Boxster has benefited from minor revisions and tweaks since its
introduction, but for 2003 the Boxster gets some new energy. The biggest
news is that new VarioCam technology and Motronic ME 7.8 engine management
software increase the output of the Boxster’s 2.7 litre engine by eight
horsepower, while reducing both fuel-consumption and exhaust emissions. More
power and greater efficiency? Only Porsche can make this kind of engineering
magic take place.

The Boxster’s top has been revised to incorporate a glass window with built-in defroster, something that was deemed impossible in the previous design. This is huge news as nothing is more detrimental to the look and function of a convertible top than a creased and milky plastic window. The redesign includes a fourth support bracket which makes it feel even tauter, leading to reduced wind noise and better aerodynamics. The automatically-deploying, blade-like rear spoiler was also revised to keep up with the car’s many performance gains.

Subtle styling changes can be seen on the front and rear fascias that effectively improve the car’s appearance as well as its aerodynamic efficiency. A subtle waistline crease is now evident on both the front and rear bumper shrouds, and both units now feature revised spoilers with cooling openings to help with airflow.

The centre-exit exhaust system has been tweaked to flow a little better, and the engine should breathe a little better with the help of larger side ducts, now featuring body-coloured gills. The headlamps have been revised to closer resemble those on the 911, and taillights now replace the amber portion of the lens with a clear unit.


Performance


Porsche claims the 2003 Boxster can accelerate from a standing start to 100 km/h in a mere 6.4 seconds, an improvement of two-tenths of a second over the previous model. But even with this improved performance, the Boxster gets better fuel mileage, an added bonus in a world of ever-changing gas prices.

Performance and handling have been further enhanced with the availability of new optional 17 and 18-inch light-alloy wheels that act to effectively reduce unsprung weight and the addition of upgraded shock absorbers, the same units as found on the ‘S’ model.

If you thought this car was fun before, it now sticks to the road like its more famous brethren. My tester had the 18-inch units fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport tires, and these babies adhered to the pavement like glue.

All this performance requires improved safety as well, so a plethora of airbags, internal safety structures and huge antilock brakes will help keep occupants safe from harm in the event of an accident or roll-over. The Porsche Stability Management system (PSM) is also available as an option, and acts almost seamlessly in the background to keep the car tracking where you point it, countering any sense of wheel spin or loss of traction.

How Does It Fit?


Surprisingly two adults fit very comfortably in a Boxster, but taller folks might complain about the visibility when the roof is up, as it wraps down over the side windows, and the rear visibility is hampered by a combination of roll hoops, the plastic wind deflector and the wide expanses of cloth acting as rear buttresses. The rear window is also incredibly small, but at least for 2003, it is finally a glass unit. Legroom is sufficient, although long-legged drivers may find themselves resting their limbs against the door and the centre console in order to make enough clearance for the steering wheel. For some reason the wheel only telescopes fore and aft and is not adjustable up and down. Hip and shoulder room will only be a problem if you are built like a linebacker, but ingress and egress suffer when the top is in its ‘up’ position. The window opening is very narrow and short, so ducking your head and twisting your torso may be necessary to accomplish this feat if you are over 5’10.


Where Do I Put My Stuff?


One advantage of the mid-engine design is that it frees up the traditional hood area to accommodate a fairly large, not to mention deep, trunk, while a grocery and gym bag friendly rear trunk sits behind the wheels. Both trunk lids are power operated, by either individual pull switches on the driver’s door sill or at the touch of key-mounted buttons.

Small covered storage bins reside in each door, cleverly concealed beneath by the integrated arm rests. A thin compartment atop the bulkhead behind the seats is ready to store maps and window scrapers behind clever bread-box style sliding doors. For 2003 the Boxster also gains a traditional glove box, and I must say I was impressed with its size.


The Open Air Experience


Tooling around town in an open-air car is an eye-opening experience as the scale of everything from passing buses and bicycle messengers seems exaggerated from the unique perspective of a low-slung convertible. Take the Boxster for some exercise on a long, sinewy stretch of asphalt and your ears will tingle from the sounds of the raspy engine note, throaty exhaust and squealing tires as they reach the outer limits of adhesion.

While enjoyable, a long journey in a convertible at highway speeds tends to beat you up a bit, as wind buffeting, too much sun and dry eyes can lead to fatigue for both driver and passenger. Porsche’s removable wind guard sits between the two integrated roll hoops, and when used in combination with the windows in the up position, the turbulence is kept to a minimum. Taller drivers will still have to deal with lightly tousled hair and may have to cinch their ball cap a little tighter, but the effectiveness of the wind-blocker is quite amazing.

Top activation itself is a breeze, as the flick of a latch and the touch of a button drop the windows a touch so that they won’t bind, and start the process of retraction quickly and quietly. The accordion-like roof slips underneath a slick hard boot, making the car look like it was born to be topless.


Is The Boxster For You?


Porsche’s claim to fame in the automotive world is that of a maker of purpose-built sports cars, vehicles designed for those individuals who wish to explore their driving skills in a responsive, well-engineered, envy-inducing machine. As a result, the Boxster may not be the most practical way to get from A to B, but it sure makes the trip memorable. The super-smooth, short-throw 5-speed manual, lightly-assisted steering, stiff clutch and beefy brakes may be a bit of a handful for the city commuter, typically stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but as the ‘play’ vehicle, I can’t imagine a better way to spend your family’s entertainment budget.


Technical Data: 2003 Porsche Boxster

Base price $60,650
Price as tested $71,635
Type 2-door, 2-passenger convertible
Layout mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine Horizontally-opposed, 2.7 litre flat six, 4-valves per cylinder
Horsepower 225 @ 6,300 rpm
Torque 192 lb-ft @ 4,750 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual
Curb weight 1,275 kg (2,811 lb)
Wheelbase 2,415 mm (95.1 in.)
Length 4,320 mm (170.1 in.)
Width 1,780 mm (70.1 in.)
Height 1,290 mm (50.8 in.)
Trunk space 260 litres (9.1 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 11.7 L/100 km (24 mpg)
  Hwy: 7.4 L/100 km (38 mpg)
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km

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