When Porsche first launched the Porsche Boxster in 1996, the little brother of the 911 came off as a consolation prize for owners who couldn't afford the "real" Porsche sports car. But with the 2013 Boxster, Porsche has crafted a car that's almost good enough to generate sibling rivalry.
For the third generation, Porsche made a complete redesign of the mid-engine 981 Boxster. The wheelbase is 2.36 inches longer, the height is 10mm lower and the front track is 1.57 inches wider. The body extensively uses aluminum to reduce overall weight by 55 lbs in the Boxster and 77 lbs in the Boxster S, making it the lightest roadster in its class.
The flat-6, 2.7-liter engine in the Boxster is up 10 horsepower compared to the previous model, bumping it to 265 hp with 206 ft-lbs of torque, mastering a 0-60 mph run at an estimated 5.5 seconds, with the optional Sports Chrono package and Porsche's PDK seven-speed automatic transmission.
The sportier 3.4-litre Boxster S gets a jump of 5 hp to 315 and 266 ft-lbs of torque. With all the options installed the claimed 0-60 is just 4.8 seconds. Fuel efficiency has been improved for both models with 10 percent better mileage compared to the previous Boxster.
The old Boxster had a rear end that looked like Donald Duck's bill, but the slightest re-work on the 2013 has tied the car together nicely. The exterior has had some nip-tuck and the design takes cues from the Carrera GT. Seeing the two next to each other, the influences pop out, especially from the side angle presenting the new air scoops just behind the doors. The new LED rear taillights with the integrated edge works nicely, complimenting the car's more aggressive stance.
The interior is sophisticated German class through and through. It sports an elevated center control and Porsche's traditional 3-gauge cluster. The far right compartment becomes a multifunctional display, including a handy nav screen, complimenting the larger main display. Everything is wrapped in leather and it takes a keen eye to spy even the slightest hint of plastic trim.
Twisting the key triggers a subtle, somewhat docile, growl. But put the Boxster S in to Sport Plus mode and you discover a more prominent grunt and a throttle pedal that taunts you with all the power lying just under sole of your shoe, daring you to release it.
At speed the 2013 Porsche Boxster handles magnificently, a precise and balanced instrument for carving out a corner. On the pristine circuit at Barber Motorsports Park, you could kick the rear out in a predictable fashion, inspiring the confidence that only encouraged you to push harder. The larger brake disks and improved cooling made braking exceptional with zero fade. Steering is weighty and sharp, giving you a true sense of the enormity of grip available.
The torsional stiffness of the car has been improved by 40 percent, and you can feel it. As you conquer the apex and begin to apply power, Porsche's clever torque vectoring system rotates the car, allowing you to get back to power aggressively without a sniff of understeer. The rear squats and the Boxster launches like an Olympic sprinter bursting off the blocks.
The PDK transmission shifts with a spleen-snapping sharpness. The changes are instantaneous and downshifts provide a satisfying, perfectly matched blip followed by a beautifully deep crackle from the power plant.
Off the track, the Boxster only got better. Put the top down and suddenly Leeds, Ala., becomes an acceptable substitute for anywhere between Milan and Monaco. The car feels refined and leaner than its predecessor, effortless to drive at speed, yet satisfying.
With prices starting at $49,500 for the Boxster and $60,900 for the Boxster S, what we have here a truly brilliant machine. It emerges from the shadows cast by its big brother and blossoms into a car more than capable of holding its own. The Porsche Boxster is no longer a car to settle for — it's a car to yearn for.