Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2006 Porsche Boxster S
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The Porsche Boxster, and the more powerful Boxster S, received some high praise from an unexpected source this year: Consumer Reports. Consumer’s Union, known for their thorough testing of everything from toasters to trucks, gave the recently re-worked 2005 Boxster an “Excellent” rating, and rated it the best vehicle in the upscale roadster category after comparing it with six competitors.

This positive evaluation from a “non enthusiast” automotive publication is significant because “enthusiast” publications tend to marginalize features not related to performance, such as comfort, safety, and fuel economy. Consumer Reports confirms what most Boxster owners already know: the Boxster is a good all-around sports car that’s comfortable, safe, easy to drive, and relatively practical (it has two small trunks). Yes, the engine is a bit noisy (although the sounds are delicious), and rear visibility with the top up is poor — but the current Boxster is a clever blend of high performance and everyday driveability.

The wild card with the Boxster is its reliability. In 2002, Consumer Reports said the Boxster’s reliability was “much worse than average”, but this year, Consumer Reports says they do not have enough data to predict its reliability. CR’s owner surveys from 1999 to 2004 show that most complaints concerned the engine, however specifics were not available. As with most low-volume specialty cars, there is often not enough data available to draw meaningful conclusions.

What’s new for 2006

The Boxster and Boxster S were given a significant makeover in 2005, including new rounder headlamps and restyled taillights, larger air intakes, improved aerodynamics, a restyled dash and new seats, more horsepower, improved fuel efficiency, upgraded transmissions, a wider track and larger wheels, stronger body structure, variable ratio steering and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, new head airbags, and a convertible top that can be raised or lowered at speeds up to 50 km/h.

2006 Porsche Boxster S

2006 Porsche Boxster S
Click image to enlarge

Interestingly, approximately 55 percent of Boxster and Boxster S components, including the front structure, steering, seats and electronics, are sourced from the 2005 Porsche 911 Carrera.

For 2006, changes are relatively minor: its new two-stage front airbags feature an organic-based propellant that makes them lighter, more compact and easier to recycle. The passenger seat now features a weight sensor that automatically turns off the passenger front airbag when a child seat is detected; and the audio system is now MP3-compatible.

New options for 2006 include a tire pressure monitoring system with a visible warning in the tachometer if the tire pressure drops to a certain level; a new optional electronic logbook that automatically records mileage, journey length, date and time; an extended navigation function that helps you find your way back to your starting point, even on roads that are not on the system’s map; and 19-inch, ten-spoke Carrera Sport Wheels. As well, Forest Green Metallic now replaces Dark Teal Metallic.


Boxster vs Boxster S

While the 2006 Boxster ($64,100) offers a mid-mounted 240 horsepower 2.7-litre flat-six engine and a standard five-speed manual transmission, the Boxster S ($77,900) offers a 280 horsepower 3.2-litre flat-six mated to a six-speed manual tranny. (A 5-speed automatic Tiptronic with a floor shifter and manual steering wheel gear selector buttons is optional).

2006 Porsche Boxster S

2006 Porsche Boxster S
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Other than its bigger engine and different manual transmission, the Boxster S features larger 18-inch wheels and tires, larger brakes with red calipers, central dual exhaust pipes exiting at the rear, and a seven-speaker stereo system.

Standard on the Boxster S are a power-operated cloth convertible top with heated glass rear window, power windows, central locking with remote, CD player, Homelink garage door opener, alarm system, cruise control, and front, side and head curtain airbags. A four-wheel independent MacPherson strut suspension, four big disc brakes with ABS, stability control, traction control, and automatically-deploying rear spoiler are also standard.

Options can boost the Boxster S’s starting price of $77,900 close to six-figures. Composite ceramic brakes, Sports Chrono Package, custom leather interior colours, heated or power seats, removable hardtop, and automatic climate control are some of the options.


Interior and convertible top


2006 Porsche Boxster S

2006 Porsche Boxster S

2006 Porsche Boxster S
Click image to enlarge

The subject of this review is a bright yellow Boxster S which, needless to say, stood out in traffic. The styling revisions introduced in 2005 have given the Boxster a cleaner, more purposeful appearance — I think the oval headlamp covers look much nicer than the L-shaped ones of the first-generation Boxster.

The convertible top is power-operated, and includes a lightweight frame made of aluminum and magnesium, and a glass rear window with defroster. To lower it, the driver must first release a single lever positioned in the centre of the windshield header, then pull on a button near the handbrake lever. The top goes down in about 12 seconds. There is no tonneau cover to cover the lowered top — it just sits flush with the rear deck. The driver does not have to get out of the car to lower or raise it, and as mentioned, it can now be opened and closed at speeds up to 50 km/h. Between the roll bars is a clear plastic shield that helps reduce wind buffeting at highway speeds.

The rear window is relatively small and with the top up, there is a blind spot to the right rear quarter – in part because of the top, and in part because of the roll hoops behind the seats. The roll hoops also interfere with rear visibility when the top is down.

2006 Porsche Boxster S
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The twin roll hoops, by the way, are functional roll bars designed to provide protection in a rollover. However, in the extremely stable Boxster, a rollover is a highly unlikely event.

The interior uses real leather on the seats, steering wheel and handbrake, and artificial leather on the door panels. The seats are firm and supportive with integral head restraints, but larger drivers might find them a bit narrow.

Boxsters are available with four different types of seats – the standard seats with power recline and manual height and fore-aft adjustment; optional 12-way power seats; optional sport seats with better bolstering; and optional adaptive seats with air-filled bolsters.

2006 Porsche Boxster S

2006 Porsche Boxster S

2006 Porsche Boxster S
Click image to enlarge

The Boxster S’s cabin is roomier than pre-2005 models. The pedals were moved forward, and the seats lowered for taller drivers. But I found the high door sills and low driver’s position a little bit like sitting in a bathtub.

The driver faces three overlapping gauges with a prominent central tachometer, and like all Porsches, the ignition keyhole is on the left side of the steering wheel (this goes back to the early days of racing when the driver needed to start the car and put the gear lever into first gear at the same time).

A height-adjustable driver’s seat and standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel help the driver find a suitable position, but I found my right leg rubbing on the rather wide centre console.

The centre control panel, redesigned in 2005, has larger buttons that are more easily seen and operated than earlier Boxsters. Still, Porsche’s reluctance to use round dials for radio and heater controls, now the industry standard, is curious.

Interior storage is minimal: there’s a small storage slot for a cell phone in the centre, and another one at the back of centre console, and a small glovebox. Two cupholders flip out of the passenger side of dash where they can be cooled or heated by the air vents.

2006 Porsche Boxster S

2006 Porsche Boxster S
Click image to enlarge

The 2005 Boxster was the first convertible sports car to offer head curtain airbags, and also feature side airbags and dual stage front airbags. Third-party crash-test information is not available for the Boxster because neither the NHTSA or IIHS has tested it.

The Boxster S has two trunks, one in the front and one behind the engine which add up to about 10 cubic feet of storage space. There’s enough for two person’s overnight bags, but neither trunk will fit a set of golf clubs.

Porsche eliminated the spare tire in 2005, a poor decision in my opinion. Instead, you get a can of tire sealant and an electrical air compressor. If tire damage is severe, these won’t work, and trying to get a new spare tire of the same size and manufacture as the Boxster’s is difficult outside of major urban centres.


Driving impressions

Perhaps the most noticeable difference between the Boxster and Boxster S is the increased flexibility, torque and power of its larger 3.2 litre flat-six. Though official 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) times are not significantly different (5.2 seconds vs 5.9 seconds), the Boxster S’s increased torque (236 foot pounds vs 199 foot pounds) lets you accelerate away in a higher gear, and provides more instant throttle response from a standing start, changing lanes, and when passing on the freeway. The DOHC, 32-valve horizontally-opposed engine features a variable intake valve system that opens and closes flaps at different engine speeds to maximize torque and minimize fuel consumption.

2006 Porsche Boxster S

2006 Porsche Boxster S
Click image to enlarge

The 3.2 litre six is noisy at idle — in part because it’s only about a foot behind the driver’s head — but surprisingly, it’s not much noisier at freeway speeds — perhaps even quieter. In sixth gear, the engine does just 2500 rpm at 100 km/h.

Fuel consumption is pretty good for a high performance sports car: City: 15.2 L/100 km (19 mpg Imperial); and Hwy: 7.7 L/100 km (37 mpg Imperial). It uses Premium unleaded gasoline.

The manual six-speed is a big improvement over pre-2005 Boxster manual transmissions. Shifts are shorter, quieter and easier, and clutch pedal action is not tiring.

The Boxster S’s independent MacPherson strut suspension features lighter, stiffer components and new springs, shock absorbers and anti-roll bars when compared to earlier Boxsters. Tires are front 235/40ZR 18-inch and rear P265/40ZR 18-inch.

With its mid-engine layout and a slight rear weight bias, the Boxster S has phenomenal handling which is very forgiving should you go into a corner too fast. What’s remarkable is how well this car handles on wet roads, and though I haven’t driven in snow, I’m guessing the extra weight over the rear driving wheels would give it more traction than most front-engine/rear-drive sports cars. As well, the Boxster S’s ride is comfortable on long drives, and the suspension is adept at absorbing pavement cracks and potholes.

Its variable ratio rack and pinion steering is a tad heavy at slow speeds, but very responsive at higher speeds. The variable ratio steering, new in 2005, increases responsiveness when steering angle exceeds 15 degrees from centre. With a turning circle of 11.1 metres (36.4 feet), the Boxster S can do u-turns and parking manoeuvres with ease.

2006 Porsche Boxster S
Click image to enlarge

Its big disc brakes are very powerful. As tested by Consumer Reports, the Boxster had the shortest braking distances they ever recorded: 60 mph to 0 mph in 34.1 metres (112 feet). And that’s with the standard brakes. You can also buy the optional ceramic composite disc brakes which were developed from Porsche’s racing program.

Traction and stability control are standard on the Boxster S, but buyers can also choose the optional PASM which, with the press of a button, converts to a firmer suspension setting, lowers the car by 10 mm, and continuously adjusts the shock absorbers. If you want more performance, the optional Sport Chrono package automatically adjusts the throttle, PSM, PASM, and optional Tiptronic automatic transmission for more aggressive driving, and includes a dash-mounted stopwatch so you can see how fast you were going.


Verdict


If you want a two-seat sports car that really performs but is easy to manage in all kinds of weather – and has enough luggage space for a weekend getaway for two – the Porsche Boxster S is a choice you can live with on a day-to-day basis for many years.


Technical Data: 2006 Porsche Boxster S

Base price $77,900 (Boxster S)
Options $6,355 (Bi-xenon headlamps $1,390; Bose surround sound system $1,330; heated seats $680; 18-inch Carrera S wheels $2,170; wheel caps with coloured crest $260; wind deflector $525)
Freight $1,085
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $85,440 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 2-door, 2-passenger convertible
Layout mid-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Engine 3.2-litre HO 6 cylinder, DOHC, 24 valves
Horsepower 280 @ 6200 rpm
Torque 236 @ 4700 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual (5-speed auto)
Tires (front) P235/40ZR18
Tires (rear) P265/40ZR18
Curb weight 1345 kg (2965 lbs)
Wheelbase 2415 mm (95.1 in.)
Length 4359 mm (171.6 in.)
Width 1801 mm (70.9 in.)
Height 1295 mm (51.0 in.)
Cargo capacity 280 litres (9.9 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 15.2 L/100 km (19 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 7.7 L/100 km (37 mpg Imperial)
Fuel type Premium unleaded
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km
Assembly location Zuffenhausen, Germany; Uusikaupunki, Finland

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