Reviews

2011 Porsche Boxster Walk Around

The Boxster was shaped by stylists with a gentle hand and a reverence for the past. The shape is guided by the laws of physics and aerodynamics. Every curve, aperture, appendage and piece of hardware is there for a reason, and the profile is designed more around airflow management than absolute minimum drag. Adapted detail cues run the gamut from the 550 Spyder of the 1950s to the Carrera GT of roughly five years ago (2004-06), a span of more than 50 years.

The headlights, signals, and fog lamps are placed in ovoid housings. Laid atop the front side grilles are LED daytime running lamps, with thin white LED light pipes that serve as parking lights. Both the front and rear signals use amber bulbs and clear lenses. The small chrome turrets up front are headlight washers and these, and many other items like the air vent slats inside and out, may be painted to match. The taillights appear to add curve to the sheetmetal hips over the rear tires, and the automatic rear spoiler can be overridden to lift for cleaning.

The Boxster S is distinguished by its red brake calipers and dual exhaust outlets. The standard Boxster tailpipe is nearly rectangular, while the Boxster S dual pipes are round.

Discounting custom orders, there are more than 700 permutations among paint, top color, and wheel style. Further individualization is easy with myriad detail finishes, paints and trims so the odds of seeing two Boxsters exactly alike is very low.

As elegant as the shape is, your enthusiast friends will be just as intrigued by the aerodynamics and component artistry underneath, with air directed for cooling and stability.

The Boxster does not come with a spare tire. There is an air compressor and tire sealant. The tire-pressure monitor may offer a warning before a situation becomes dire. Additionally, a mast radio antenna may be ordered in place of the in-windshield antenna.

The Boxster Spyder, launched as an early 2011 model, features several changes from other Boxsters, including the use of aluminum for the doors and the unique rear deck, which features 1950s sports car-style dual fairings. Instead of a power top, the Spyder uses a lightweight two-piece manual top that stretches over the car like a bikini top. The Boxster Spyder also has shorter side windows and the windshield is tilted at a sharper angle.

Instead of an active rear spoiler, the Boxster Spyder has a smaller fixed rear spoiler. It also features center-exiting twin tailpipes painted black, Boxster Spyder script at the rear, and Porsche stripes in contrasting black, white or silver along the sides. Shorter springs give the car a slighter lower stance (about 20 millimeters), and they combine with the weight savings to lower the car's center of gravity 25 millimeters. Finally, the Spyder has its own lightweight 19-inch wheels that save another 11 pounds versus the Boxster S's 18s.

Interior

Seats and major controls are upholstered in leather, Alcantara, or a combination of the two. The plastic surfaces don't feel or appear cheap, the carpeting runs usefully up the sides of the console and doors, and everything is put together indicative of the car's solidity. If you choose carbon fiber, aluminum, or wood trim, that's what it is.

The seats are supportive and comfortable, with power adjustments and memory (though you will not want anyone else to drive it). Heating and cooling for the seats broaden the top-down weather window. Taller drivers may appreciate the extra cushion adjustments afforded with power seats. The backrests fold forward for access to coat hooks and everything that dropped out of your pockets.

To save weight, about 26 pounds, the Boxster Spyder comes with a pair of manual sport bucket seats with carbon fiber frames. These seats, which are available on other Boxsters, are supportive, but they will be too skinny for some larger drivers. The power sport seats are a no-cost option for anyone who doesn't want the enclosed, racecar-like feel of the manual buckets.

As with all Porsches, the tachometer is located dead center. The analog instruments are easy to read day or night thanks to neutral backgrounds and crisp red needles. Boxster S uses light gray instrument backgrounds. A speedometer to the left covers 0-190 mph in the space of an iPod display and numbers are marked every 25 mph, so judging your exact speed can be difficult. However, speed can be shown digitally for those regions that enforce in 1 mph increments. This same screen calls up all manner of trip computer, sport chronometer and other data, parts of it fading to red for immediate awareness. Coolant temperature and fuel gauges are placed to the right, and on cars with PDK, the engaged gear is displayed adjacent to the tachometer.

The Spyder's interior has a few differences versus other Boxsters. The hood is gone from above the instrument cluster, but the gauges themselves are hooded enough to prevent sun glare. In keeping with the minimalistic theme, the door handles are replaced by fabric pulls (a la the 911 GT3); air conditioning, radio and cupholders are omitted. You can order A/C if you want the comfort, but it adds 29 pounds. Like the seats, the cupholders are a no-cost option.

In any model, both the shifter and handbrake are well-placed, and the floor-hinged gas pedal eases heel-and-toe shifting. The steering wheel features manual tilt and telescope adjustments. A pair of steering wheel shift buttons come standard with the PDK transmission. Unlike most cars, either shift button is pulled toward you for downshifts and pushed away for upshifts, the same directions the floor shifter uses. If you're used to a + right and – left system, or gear lever that uses forward for downshift (Mazda, older BMWs, Formula Barber) you will acclimate though it may take a little time. In this case, you should choose the newly optional steering wheel shift paddles. The left paddle is for downshifts and the right is for upshifts, and we find this system easier to use. The paddles are large, so it is easier to shift with the steering wheel turned.

The key goes in left of the steering column. This placement recalls the days of LeMans starts where drivers had to run across the track, get in, and fire their cars to get underway (though some wags claim it was originally placed there to reduce wiring costs).

The Sport Chrono package puts a big stopwatch atop the dash, controlled through the display menu on the tachometer. Below the vents are all the secondary controls not found on steering column stalks: climate, audio, chassis systems, etc. Available sound systems are topped by a Bose system that keeps up even with an open top, but that six-channel petroleum-powered sound system right behind you still has the last word in sonic amusement.

The navigation/infotainment center is known as Porsche Communication Management. It comes with a SIM card that allows drivers to save an electronic logbook of trip data. PCM is a DVD-based system that's relatively easy to see and use. Climate controls, which are located below the PCM, are also simple to use.

Small items and coins may be stored aft of the console-mounted handbrake; optional audio inputs are here, too. A glovebox holds little more than documentation and pockets inside the door armrests handle keys, sunglasses, and portable electronics. The Boxster Spyder eliminates the door pockets and center console bin, so the glovebox is the only place to put your little trinkets.

Larger items go in his-and-hers trunks, one at each end of the Boxster. Up front is a deep well that can hold your carry-on roller bag or groceries stacked with bottles on the bottom. The back cargo area is a wider, shallower expanse roughly 32x18x8 inches. The two cargo areas offer 5.3 and 4.6 cubic feet of space, better than anything we know of in this category. Trunk space is unaffected by top position, unlike many others, and despite the proximity to coolers and the engine, internal temperatures measured only 10-15 degrees above the ambient temperature. As small sports cars go, the Boxster offers good cargo space.

The Boxster and Boxster S have a single release handle for the power top. Once it is twisted, the electric top can be lowered or raised in about 10 seconds at speeds to about 30 mph so you can start the process while slowing for a light or stop sign. The top is well-insulated. Even in black it does not feel like you're wearing a dark ball cap on a sunny day, and the glass rear window has electric defrost.

Conversations can be carried on at 70 mph with the top down. A removable clear panel between the headrests (the windstop) cuts down on internal buffeting a bit; one is already well-ensconced in a Boxster. If you really don't like the wind, or get a lot of snow, there is a factory Boxster aluminum hardtop option or the hardtop Porsche Cayman.

The Spyder's top stretches over the car like a bikini top, barely covering what it's supposed to cover. The top doesn't seal well, leaving the car subject to parking lot security issues and on-road wind noise. A two-piece top weighs only 13 pounds. It consists of the top with a carbon fiber header and a separate rear window. It takes two or three minutes to take the top off or put it on, and longer than that when you're first learning the procedure. Both pieces roll up and stow under the rear deck when the top is off. Offering little protection from wind and weather, the Boxster Spyder is ideally suited for summer use only.

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