There couldn’t be a worse car to drive in a cold Northern winter than a rear-wheel drive, mid-engine, European convertible. Unless, of course, it’s a Porsche.
|1. Boxster S models make 310 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque, with Black Edition models getting a slight bump to 320 hp and 273 lb-ft.
2. With the Sport Chrono package, the Boxster S can hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, one-tenth quicker for Black Edition models.
3. Pricing for the Boxster S starts at $58,000 and $65,200 for the Black Edition.
4. Just 987 Black Edition models are available with extra features like 19-inch black wheels, black exterior accents and interior trim, plus the Convenience and Infotainment packages.
The German sports car maker prides itself on the durability, comfort and overall daily driveability of its models, something we decided to test out by living with a Boxster S for several days… in Canada… in January.
Fitted with a proper set of winter tires we came away convinced that even in a place where a convertible has no business being on the road a third of the year, we wouldn’t think twice about using this car as our only means of transportation.
DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW
Apart from making an exceptional drift machine, easily sliding around in controllable displays of shenanigans with the stability control switched off, with all the gadgets on, the car takes care of the driver, keeping you pointed in the right direction. And yet being a Porsche, it’s not overly aggressive, so unless you’re in the worst of conditions, you still feel like you’re in control.
Turning the Porsche Stability Management system off will let you know just how much work it does. Try climbing up a snow-covered grade and the tail end will snake side-to-side, wheels slipping all the way.
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About the only instance we observed where the Boxster didn’t like the winter temperatures was when reversing out of the driveway in the pre-dawn dark. Daytime moisture transformed into ice made the brakes stick like a hot tongue on a cold basketball pole, and separating the two was almost as violent an experience.
THE GRUELING TEST OF REAL LIFE
But there’s more to daily driving a car than putting up with the odd day of poor weather. Arguably the antithesis of hitting the race track on a hot summer day isn’t a cold winter in suburbia, but a lengthy stop-and-go commute.
Again, the Boxster performed admirably, though not flawlessly, with our one complaint being the car’s PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission. Driven hard on the street or the race track it’s an outstanding unit, with incredibly fast and precise shifts. And of course the ability to use the paddles makes it a thrill. In traffic it was sometimes jerky and often stuttered. Other times lifting off the gas and back onto throttle was met with a resounding bang. Thankfully it’s mostly masked by the signature sound of a flat-six exhaust note.
Apart from that one critique, however, the Boxster impresses because it does not have to be endured. True, that’s also the case with its rivals, but those cars have all recently been updated and have grown further from their roadster roots and into grand tourers of sorts. Alone among its set, the Boxster remains a sports car first.
Still, even with its low-slung bodywork we didn’t scrape bottom entering or exiting the office parking garage, something that happens frequently with the aerodynamic undershields on our hybrid test cars.
Inside the Boxster S is spacious enough, though the seats will certainly hug your frame. The cabin has plenty of creature comforts, but to be truthful, in a perfect world we’d add a heated steering wheel and full power seats – not just the seat back. The Germanic disdain for cup holders is also obvious, though an exception has been made for this car – with an obvious reluctance. The unique mechanisms that fold out of the dash on the passenger side are what you might call for “occasional use,” a polished step above what Lotus offers.
ADJUSTABLE DRIVE MODES KEY TO BOXSTER’S SUCCESS
Still, it’s comfortable, with good visibility and solid fuel economy at 20/29 mpg for the automatic and 19/26 for the stick shift. We tallied 25 mpg on average, which is almost unbelievable for a car that can hit 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. Plus, it’s quiet in all the right ways and loud in the right ones too. The Boxster offers a performance oriented Sport mode, and our special Black Edition test car also came with the Sport Chrono Package with a Sport Plus mode. For our purposes the standard setting is not only ideal, it’s a must.
The Sport setting alters the throttle response (a nice touch), though it does tend to hold on to gears, meaning you’ll be making plenty of noise but not going very fast in traffic. It also firms up the Porsche Active Suspension Management system, with noticeable consequences. Be weary, if the road gets rough you’ll instantly be treated to a ride at the rodeo. Thankfully, it’s possible to can engage the Sport setting and then turn the shocks back to a softer setup. Sport mode will also reduce the control of the stability control system, allowing some slip in the rear before it engages.
Taking it a step further is the Sport Plus mode, which will have you begging for a race track as it is designed to keep the car in the lowest possible gear for maximum acceleration potential. Sport Plus also brings with it a special launch control feature.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE ENGINE
The words you’re reading right now might just be a world record, as this may be the longest anyone has gone in a Porsche review without mentioning the horsepower. Sadly, with the wintry conditions we got little access to the extra 10 ponies added on to our Black Edition test car – or the other 310 horses for that matter. Making this under-use all the more regrettable is that for the Black Edition, much like the Boxster Spyder, that max power level comes on 800 revs higher than the standard models, at a lofty 7200 rpm, making it an absolute thrill to ring out. Torque is also plentiful at 273 lb-ft.
But the Black Series name has less to do with 10 extra horsepower and more to do with the car’s midnight and monotone look. Along with the lone exterior paint color, the leather seats are black, as is much of the interior trim, save for some aluminum bits. Other custom touches include Black Series lettering on the doorsills, an embossed Porsche crest on the headrests and a limited edition badge on the passenger side dash. Outside the exhaust pipes are black, as is the Boxster S lettering, and let’s not forget the up-sized 19-inch black wheels, easily the car’s most attractive feature.
Also included in the Black Series package are two option groups with a Convenience Package that adds bi-Xenon lights, auto dimming mirrors, rain sensing wipers and automatic climate control, while an Infotainment Package adds a touch screen Navigation system and Bose audio system.
At $65,200 it commands a $7,000 premium over a normal Boxster S, making it a tough sell. Still, Porsche says you’re actually saving $3,200 over a similarly equipped Boxster S. And let’s face it, if you’re buying a Porsche you’re most likely going to add on the packages too.
For a purpose built sports car, Porsches truly are remarkably civilized machines, delivering a package that is both blue blooded upper-crust and incredibly hedonistic.
About the only area the Boxster doesn’t excel in is looks. In fact, it may just rank last among its peers.
Still, there’s a lot of hidden beauty (and bragging rights) in that Porsche crest on the hood and it’s the hands down driver’s car of the bunch. That said, in its segment it’s the most sound purchase and one that you’ll never have to explain. Plus, we now know that with a proper set of winter tires, you really can live with it every day, no matter where you live.