Quick Take: 2013 Porsche Boxster S (Review)

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The girly Porsche. The entry-level Porsche. The poor Boxster has been called some names that weren’t very flattering.

Yet the Boxster has always been a great car.

Mid-engine placement has made for a fantastic handling vehicle, and although it wasn’t the fastest Porsche, it was undeniably a Porsche in look and feel – sitting still and on the road.

But what Porsche has done with the all-new 2013 Boxster is nothing short of astounding and I got the chance to drive a Boxster S. Not only that, there was a professional driving instructor ahead of me in a Cayenne Turbo lead car. Driving fast. It’s always a good sign when one of the first things you hear over the radio is “Go ahead and accelerate as hard as you can” or “There’s no need to slow down through these sweeping 90-degree turns – there’s no traffic ahead”. SOLD!

 

The S starts at CDN $69,500 and as is the case with every Porsche, you are more than welcome to ramp that up by many thousands by making it your own, choosing any number of ways to customize the car. It’s not cheap, of course, but it’s also not a horribly expensive car (to start) – just remember, it can get pricey as you start checking off boxes on the order form. The one I drove rings in at CDN $78,390.

 

Exterior/Interior/Under the Hood

The Boxster S is an amazing machine. But let’s start with the exterior. Porsche has taken the familiar lines and somehow sharpened the whole visual experience. There are new, more angular creases that follow the shoulder line of the car from front to back, new air intakes, new front and rear fascias, new rims…. heck, the whole car is new. It retains its Porsche lineage, but has evolved into a more serious, aggressive-looking automobile – and that’s good in every single way. The little things matter. The headlight cluster is more vertical but clean. The rear spoiler is more noticeable but beautifully integrated into a sweeping line and into the taillights. The 20″ rims are gorgeous and imposing, wrapped in Pirelli P-Zeros (235/35s in front and 265/35s in the back) and the car just looks darn good – top up or top down.

Speaking of the top, it’s operable up to 50 km/h, and is well insulated from the elements and noise, using a new mix of magnesium and other materials in its construction, and it’s fast – it takes around 9 seconds to raise or lower. I loved that there is no manual operation or latching required. Hold the switch, and everything is done for you. That’s proper!

Get into the perfect seat, which is power adjustable, heated and holds you in place like an old auntie that’s hugging you for dear life, just before she pinches your cheeks in the most uncomfortable way. But the Porsche hugs you in a good way. Nods to other Porsche models show up in the elevated centre console, and it’s nice to see Porsche hasn’t quite given up on mind-boggling ergonomic exercises – the bottom of the center stack remains a mess of climate control buttons, but thankfully you can set a temperature, leave it in automatic mode and concentrate on what’s important. You’ll find plenty of room for your head and your legs in this cabin – it’s measurably bigger than the last generation of Boxster. As with any Porsche, the materials are first-rate, the fit and finish is flawless and the cabin, whilst comfortable and sensibly luxurious, is a model of focus.

Thankfully, that focus is on driving.

The Boxster S’ 3.4-Litre horizontally-opposed 6-cylinder boxer engine cranks out 315 HP at a heady 6700 RPM. Maximum torque is rated at 265 lb.ft, and it’s available at 4500 RPM. It pulls smoothly from low RPMs, and there’s ample power whenever you breach 4000 RPM. All this juice hits the road through the rear tires, and is channeled through my favorite of all dual-clutch transmissions, Porsche’s 7-speed PDK. There are less than 3000 pounds of Boxster to schlepp around – 2976 of them, to be exact.

The Drive

What does that mean for you, when your butt is planted in that lovely leather throne behind the best steering wheel in the business? Equipped with the Sport Chrono package, as this one was, you’re looking at a 0-100 km/h run in 4.8 seconds. Even without the Sport Chrono upgrade, you can pull that off in 5.0 seconds flat. What about passing on the highway? The all-important 80-120 km/h sprint just happens – in 3.1 seconds. Suffice it to say, you won’t be stuck behind Grampa Moses in his Ford Fairlane if you don’t want to be.

Handling is simply sublime. I was able to throw the Boxster S around some tight corners at some decent speeds – obviously I never approached the limits of the car, but it is truly remarkable how composed the car stays at high speeds, and more importantly, while maneuvering at high speeds. There is no body roll to speak of, and the mid-engine chassis just responds to any command, almost before you give it. The car seems to know what you want to do, it’s seemingly aware of how quickly you want it done, and to top it all off, it’s fully confident that it can pull it off. That’s a wonderful combination of apparent vehicle clairvoyance and ability and it makes you feel as though you’re the most awesome driver there ever was. Even if you’re not. You’ll have a difficult time finding a more balanced car.

At lower speeds, the regular suspension setting is firm but very comfortable, even over seriously crappy roads, and the PDK’s shifts are imperceptible. Switch the car to the most focused setting, which is Sport Plus, and the suspension firms up instantly, and the transmission’s shifts become violent and you’re reminded of how capable it is when it comes to moving the power to the road. The shifts are faster than any mortal could ever bang off with a manual transmission, and the transmission is highly intelligent – there were only rare moments when it wasn’t in the right gear. Of course, you can manually shift using the slap stick or the paddles if you want.

As I mentioned, it’s got plenty of power, and the power isn’t peaky – it’s softer below 4000 RPM, but it pulls nicely, and the car truly comes alive above 4000 RPM. The sounds are there to thrill you – it’s got a mean bark at start-up – raspier and nastier than you might expect. Let it warm up and it comes down a notch, but never lets you forget it’s ready to rock the Casbah whenever you are. Step on it, and you’ve got the perfect volume level. The mechanical symphony directly behind your ear negates the need to turn on whatever sound system is in there, but if you’re on the gas lightly, it’s a relatively quiet ride and would be just fine for extended highway trips. Have a listen below…

The chassis on this car is incredibly rigid, especially considering it’s a convertible, and there is negligible flex. The brakes are very well done – linear, easy to modulate, not grabby and powerful when you need to step on them to haul things back down to earth.

Visibility of the road for the driver is excellent, framed by the front fenders. Seeing out the back is a different story, with the windscreen behind you getting the in way – that’s when the top is down. When it’s up, visibility out the back or shoulder-checking sucks.

This incredibly accessible performance is paired with some surprising utility and efficiency. You’ve got two trunks – the deep front well offers 150 Litres and the rear space, more wide and shallower, is 130 Litres. Sprechen Sie road trip?

Did you mention efficiency, Wildsau? Sure! Porsche’s legacy has always been to make the most efficient, highest-performing cars in the world. Porsche has added auto-stop technology when you come to a standstill (it’s not intrusive at all, which surprised me – but it IS defeatable if you want to shut it off) and a coasting technology, which will quickly drop the revs to around 700 RPM if you take your foot off the gas on the highway. Neither of those technologies will turn this into a hybrid-beater, but that’s not the point. If you can save 1 L/100 km by adding the auto-stop tech – why not? The Boxster S is rated at 11.2 L/100 km (21 mpg) in the city, and 6.2 L/100 km (38 mpg) on the highway. That’s seriously impressive and even more so, considering the numbers this machine is capable of posting at the track, all day long, every day.

 

The Verdict

So what do you have here? You’ve got a car that is fresh, beautifully sculpted, fast, efficient, comfortable and most importantly, a blast to drive. You’ve also got a car that will encourage you reach for new heights in terms of your own driving, and it’ll be forgiving when you step over your own limits.

I always said that I would be a bit embarrassed to have a previous generation Boxster. Well, that’s no longer the case, and the 2013 Boxster S is a car I am now lusting after.

I give the 2013 Boxster S a 9 out of 10.

WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) is not going to happen here. I only had a limited amount of time with the Boxster S this time around, and instead of giving my beloved the opportunity to hack on the non-lit vanity mirrors and that it was chilly flying down the highway and that it was too noisy for her, I chose to bring my best friend Chris along for the ride. Better to experience this with a fellow car nut, I say – and I think I can speak for both of us and say that the Boxster S is a car we both enjoyed and would love to own.

Numbers can never truly convey what a Porsche is really about. The entire driving experience can’t be pigeon-holed into 0-60s and horsepower ratings. And that’s why Porsche continues to move cars that are expensive. Lots of them. It’s because the driving experience is really second to none, and their fabled racing history isn’t just a nice set of laurels they rest on – they build on it, evolve due to it and pass this knowledge, engineering and experience on to the dude who just wants to drive an awesome car. The things they’ve learned in decades on the track have always trickled down to the road cars, and the Boxster S isn’t any different.

Disclosure:  Vehicle was provided by Porsche as part of the Boxster Grand Tour event and I’m very grateful to them for the invitation and the opportunity to take part.

Thanks to Norden Porsche for hosting the event.

If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other vehicle reviews under the car reviews tab at the top of my blog.

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