If you were to ask people to visualize “a Porsche” in their minds, the image most would come up with would probably be that of the company’s hallmark sports car, the 911. Even though it’s been around since the 1960s, the company has wisely maintained its signature basic shape.
But Porsche is a much larger company than it used to be. In the past decade, they’ve added an SUV in the form of theCayenne, and more recently a sedan (with a rear hatch), the Panamera.
Their broadest-ever product line also includes the entry level sports car, the Boxster. The name is an amalgam of “boxer” for the shape of its horizontally opposed engine configuration, and “roadster” as in a two-seat sporting car with a convertible top. The first Boxster debuted back in the 1990s, and for 2013 a third-generation design has bowed.
While the 911 series is the “classic” Porsche sports car, that one has climbed the ladder of status and price since its early days. The newly-redesigned 2012 coupe carries a base price of $79,000. The Boxster begins its price sheet at not quite $30,000 less, though like the 911, options can send the final price soaring. (More on that in a bit.)
The big difference between the 911 and the Boxster is the layout of the car as far as where the engine is located. The 911 carries it way out back, behind the rear wheels. But the Boxster is a mid-engine design, meaning the flat six is nestled between the rear wheels and the seats.
With that, there are only two seats, compared to the 911’s “2+2” configuration with the two primary seats up front and two more for children or very small adults behind. The advantage to a mid-engine car is that a lot of its weight is carried within the wheelbase of the car for better balance and handling.
The Boxster’s fixed-roof sibling, the Cayman (which has yet to be redesigned but likely will be soon) caught Porsche a little red-faced when it hit the test track and was found to be doing quicker lap times than the more powerful 911.
So you’ve got two seats, and an engine right behind them. That’s a plus for handling, and even a plus for luggage space, as the Boxster has two trunks. One is up front where Porsche sports cars have always had it, and there’s a smaller one at the very rear.
Unfortunately, the design is a minus if you’re on the tall side. Seat travel is limited by the fact that, well, there’s an engine where a rear seat or storage area might be. The 2013 Boxster is actually a little longer than the previous generation of the car, but the extra length was used to move the engine forward for even better balance.
And what a well-balanced car it is. The steering is light and precise with great feel, and the car lets you know that it’s going to be well composed in pretty much any spirited driving situation. It may be down on power compared to the 911 (the base Boxster gets by with just 265 horsepower, though it seems like a lot more), but you can sure use the car’s chassis layout to dance it through the corners.
More technology has crept into the car too, but in a good way. The standard transmission is a 6-speed manual, but the optional PDK automatic gets you an extra gear plus shifting logic that actually makes it a faster car overall in a track situation. Also, Porsche has added an auto stop/start feature to the car, just as other German brands have. The engine will shut off at a light, then immediately fire back up again as soon as you move the clutch or gear lever. It saves a bit of fuel, which is a good thing.
The base price for a 2013 Boxster may be $49,500 (the Boxster S model with more power is $60,900), but Porsche loves to offer options. The example I drove checked in at just over $77,000. And no, it wasn’t a Boxster S. It was the base Boxster with nearly $28,000 of options on it.
So much for it being an “entry level” Porsche for many budgets. But help is on the way, as Porsche is reportedly developing a smaller, lighter, four-cylinder powered two-seater to slot in beneath the Boxster. I just hope that with that one, Porsche goes easy on those options.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @dave_kunz, Facebook: ABC7Dave