2005 Porsche Boxster

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2006 Porsche Boxster

This 2006 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

The Boxster convertible continues Porsche's entry-level tradition.
Pros:
  • Fast
  • Race-car-style agility
  • Easy to drive daily
Cons:
  • Small trunks
  • Long-throw clutch
  • Engine drone when cruising

Porsches never have been inexpensive, so the first affordable Porsche for many has been a used one.

However, Porsche long has sold lower-priced entry-level sports cars to prevent losing sales to competitors and to hold people in its owner body until they can move up to one of its more expensive models.

Porsche began selling cars in America in the early 1950s. Its entry model then was the no-frills, rear-engine Speedster convertible, which didn't even have wind-up manual windows. While inexpensive for a Porsche, the Speedster still cost $2,995 in 1954, when you could buy a top-line Ford or Chevrolet convertible for about $2,200, or a big Buick convertible for a bit less than the Speedster.

Porsche didn't really want to build the Speedster because it felt its road cars should be upscale. But U.S. foreign car guru and major Porsche dealer Max Hoffman insisted it needed a "low-priced" model to attract less affluent buyers. As it turned out, the Speedster was a blast to drive and won races because it wasn't very heavy; it's now one of the most costly classic 1950s Porsche road cars, valued at more than $143,000.

Modern Speedster
Consider the current Boxster a modern version of the Speedster, although the Boxster has lots of standard comfort, convenience and safety equipment. The new Porsche Cayman S is based on the Boxster, but has a fixed hardtop and other differences, and is another story.

Porsche introduced the mid-engine Boxster convertible for 1997. The $39,980 car was about $24,000 less than the next most expensive new Porsche—the hardtop version of the iconoclastic rear-engine 911 model.

The Boxster name came from the union of that car's roadster body and horizontally opposed pistons, which face each other in a compact engine block. Pistons move toward each other as if "boxing, instead of moving up and down alongside each other, as in conventional engines. All rear- and mid-engine Porsche engines have had horizontally opposed pistons.

At $45,000, the least expensive 2006 Boxster has a list price fully $26,300 less than the least costly 911.

Boxster Background
To understand why the Boxster is here, let's take a brief look at its predecessors. For instance, the lowest-cost mid-1960s Porsche was the new rear-engine 912, which has become almost a cult car. The 912 was identical to the new, more expensive rear-engine 911, but had Porsche's traditional 4-cylinder engine instead of the 911's new 6-cylinder engine.

Both the 911 and 912 arrived for 1965, but the 912 only lasted through 1969 while the 911 kept right on going. In its final year, the 912 had become rather expensive because it was identical (except for its engine) to the 911. By then, most rear-engine Porsche buyers wanted the six-cylinder, which provided faster acceleration.

For most of the 1970s, when Porsche sales picked up a lot here, the automaker sold its entry mid-engine 914 model—the 912's successor. The 914 was jointly developed with Volkswagen because small Porsche lacked resources to build a new car entirely by itself. Most 914 models had 4-cylinder Volkswagen engines and actually were sold as Volkswagens in Europe.

Then came the first of the front-engine Porsches, the 924. It evolved into the more refined 944. The 944 was sold until 1991, when it was replaced by the 968, which was discontinued after 1995.

Through it all, many Porsche fans never accepted a front-engine Porsche because they felt that a "genuine" Porsche must have its engine behind the front seats, either ahead of (mid-engine), or in back of (rear engine), the rear axle.

New Model Needed
After the slow-selling 968 was gone, a new entry Porsche clearly was needed, and the automaker decided to go with a mid-engine model. That design has been used for most racing cars since the 1960s.

A mid-engine location is best for good weight distribution and the sharpest handling. However, it compromises trunk space. The Boxster thus has two small trunks, one in front, the other at the rear. At least no Boxster trunk volume is lost when the fast-acting power top is lowered, as is the case with some convertibles.

Hidden Engine
Don't expect to impress neighbors with the appearance of the Boxster's engine because it's enclosed in a compartment. Major engine service thus is done from underneath. Open the rear trunk and you'll just see cargo space and a few fluid filler areas.

The Boxster got more power, a new interior and slightly revised styling for 2005 and thus is little changed for 2006.

Well Equipped
Even the $45,000 base trim level is well-equipped, with such items as air conditioning, cruise control, leather interior and power mirrors, windows, top and door locks, with remote keyless entry.

The more upscale $54,700 S trim level adds an upgraded sound system and wider tires on larger 18-inch (vs. 17-inch) wheels. I tested the base Boxster with optional $1,235 18-inch wheels and wider tires, which provide more grip. (You can get 19-inch wheels, which cost $2,785 for the base Boxster and $1,550 for the S.)

Standard for both trim levels are anti-lock brakes, side airbags, roll bars and traction/ anti-skid control.

Extras include a $2,970 navigation system.

The solidly built Boxster is fast with either of its engines, which provide seamless power delivery. The base version has a 2.7-liter 6-cylinder with 240 horsepower (0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds) and the S has a 3.2-liter six with 280 horsepower (0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds).

(For 2007, the 2.7 Boxster engine has 245 horsepower and slightly more torque while the Boxster S engine has been enlarged to 3.4 liters and develops 295 horsepower and appreciably more torque.)

Occasional Choppy Ride
Steering is very direct, and handling is virtually in race-car territory. Porsches long have been known for incredibly good brakes, and Boxster brakes keep up the tradition. However, the two-seater's firm suspension and short wheelbase allow a choppy ride on rough roads.

My test car's engine provided a sporty sound during hard acceleration, but emitted an annoying drone during highway cruising. There's also a fair amount of road noise with the top raised. Wind buffeting in the cockpit with the top down on highways is moderate.

The base 2006 Boxster comes with a standard 5-speed manual transmission or optional 6-speed manual gearbox in a $2,680 Sport package. The S has a standard 6-speed manual. Both base and S trim levels can be had with a pricey $3,210 5-speed automatic with manual-shift capability.

But the manual transmission is fun to shift and is part of the Boxster's driving fun, although the light clutch has a long throw.

No Gas Guzzling
Fuel economy is decent for a fast, powerful sports car. Figures for the base trim level are an estimated 20 mpg in the city and 28-29 on highways with a manual transmission and 18 and 26 with the automatic. The S provides 19 and 27 with the manual and 18 and 27 with the automatic. Premium grade gasoline is recommended.

The cozy, upscale interior has decent room for two tall adults in supportive power reclining seats, but getting in and out of the low-slung car calls for extra effort.

Tachometer Dominates
The driver faces a large tachometer with a housing that contains a digital speedometer, which supplements a conventional analog speedometer. The control layout is generally OK, but audio and climate controls should be larger.

The Boxster is easy to live with on a daily basis. And those on budgets should know that the base trim level without options is just fine.

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BB01 - 7/24/2014 6:28:40 AM