The Porsche Boxster has been the leader in the roadster clubhouse for roughly 13 years now. It offers well-balanced handling, strong engines, a luxurious interior, a surprising amount of practicality and the pedigree that comes with the Porsche name. It's so good, in fact, that BMW basically threw in the towel with its latest Z4 roadster and transformed it into a more Mercedes-like cruiser. The 2010 Porsche Boxster, therefore, remains the pre-eminent choice for those desiring a classic roadster driving experience.
The 2010 Boxster makes do with only a new steering wheel design after extensive changes to its powertrains, features list and in-car electronics interface last year. Otherwise, the Boxster soldiers on with essentially the same winning formula (and styling) that debuted back when Bill Clinton was having legal troubles. It features a choice of two horizontally opposed six-cylinder engines placed just behind the passenger compartment in a midengine layout ideal for balanced handling. This location also frees up space for a pair of trunks -- one in back and the other up front.
Other than its stout, balanced chassis, the Boxster also features sublimely communicative steering and an easy-to-drive nature that makes novices feel like champions. Last year's addition of the PDK automated manual gearbox gave those novices a more sport-oriented alternative to the admittedly superb six-speed manual. Capable of smooth, lightning-quick gearchanges, the PDK can behave like a regular automatic or like a manual via shift buttons on the steering wheel. It's just a pity those shift buttons are less intuitive to use than the shift paddles found in so many other sports cars.
As it's a Porsche, potential customers have the ability to customize a Boxster with an almost endless number of options -- both functional and cosmetic. From ventilated seats to match-to-sample leather upholstery, you can make the Boxster however you'd like. There is a catch, though: Porsche's options are expensive and you'll quickly find your MSRP rising faster than a soufflÃ© placed in a blast furnace.
We started off by saying the Boxster is our top choice for a premium roadster, but there are certainly others to consider. The BMW Z4 offers a completely different take on the roadster -- both in appearance and driving demeanor. If you're more apt to enjoy a relaxed drive up the coast and would appreciate the top-up serenity of a retractable hardtop, it could be the way to go. The same could be said, but to a lesser extent, about the Mercedes-Benz SLK. On the opposite end of the spectrum, hard-core driving enthusiasts should check out the Lotus Elise. Yet only the 2010 Porsche Boxster -- even in its most basic form -- strikes the best balance among them all.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The 2010 Porsche Boxster is a two-seat roadster available in base or S trim. The base model comes standard with 17-inch wheels, front and rear foglamps, a power soft top, cruise control, six-way front seats (power backrest, manual fore/aft and height), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, air-conditioning, partial leather upholstery and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player. The more powerful Boxster S adds 18-inch wheels and a seven-speaker sound system.
Should you wish to double the base price of the Boxster, Porsche will happily oblige you with a seemingly endless options list. Typical items include different wheel sizes and designs, a limited-slip rear differential lock, an adaptive suspension, ceramic composite brakes, rear parking sensors, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, automatic climate control, auto-dimming mirrors (packaged with automatic wipers) and a wind deflector. Inside options include fully powered seats, two different sport seat designs, heated seats, ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, Bluetooth, voice controls, satellite radio, an in-dash or remote six-CD changer, an iPod interface, a navigation system, a seven-speaker sound system and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound system.
The Sport Chrono package adds a lap timer, adjustable driver settings and, with PDK, launch control. Then there are the numerous customization choices that will cover just about any interior surface in leather, Alcantara, aluminum, carbon fiber, wood trim or exterior paint.
Powertrains and Performance:
The base Boxster is outfitted with a mid-mounted 2.9-liter flat-6 that generates 255 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque. The Boxster S steps up to a direct-injected 3.4-liter version that's good for 310 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed conventional manual transmission is standard on both models, while the seven-speed PDK automated manual is optional. The base car accelerates from zero to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds, while the S chops about a half-second off that time.
EPA-estimated fuel economy is 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined for a manual-equipped base Boxster, and an excellent 20/29/24 with the PDK. The Boxster S achieves 19/26/22 with the manual and 20/29/23 with PDK.
Standard safety features for the 2010 Porsche Boxster include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, dual thorax and head side-impact airbags and rollover safety hoops above the headrests.
Interior Design and Special Features:
The Boxster's interior boasts premium materials and proper sports car seating, particularly if you ante up for the optional full-power seats. The oversized center-mounted tachometer conveys the Boxster's high-performance DNA, although the analog speedometer's tiny numbers and huge range make it more decorative than functional -- the trip computer's digital speedo readout is more useful. Some controls are a bit fussy, but the current center control stack is much friendlier than those in past Porsches, and the touchscreen navigation system is a particular improvement. The base stereo's sound quality is laughable, but the optional Bose system is a worthy upgrade.
The optional wind deflector mitigates buffeting at speed with the top down, but top-up motoring is marred by excessive wind noise and gigantic blind spots. Porsche insists that the lighter weight of a soft top is preferable, but the BMW Z4's retractable hardtop, for example, is far more pleasant to live with. Another advantage for the Z4 is its sizable interior space -- the Boxster is merely average for a roadster, meaning taller folks may feel constrained. The Boxster's midengine design spawns two trunks -- one front, one rear -- and they can hold about 10 cubic feet of cargo between them, which is quite respectable for a roadster.
Thanks to its petite size, modest weight and midengine layout, the 2010 Porsche Boxster handles superbly, managing to feel glued to the road and light on its feet at the same time. Body roll is virtually nonexistent, and the variable-ratio steering is among the best systems on the market. With the optional active suspension, the Boxster rides amazingly well for a sports car.
The base Boxster's 2.9-liter engine sounds glorious, and most roadster buyers will never feel wanting for power. Having said that, more thrust is never a bad thing and the 310-hp Boxster S will certainly not disappoint. The PDK transmission is a revelation, providing faultless automated-manual shifting performance for those who would rather not row their own gears. We're not particularly fond of the steering-wheel-mounted shift buttons, however, and driving enthusiasts will still feel more of a connection with manual-equipped Boxsters.