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Porsche Boxster S ups the sports-car ante

June 09, 2006|by MALCOLM GUNN / Wheelbase Communications

Although the 'S' in the Boxster S name stands for Sport, it could just as easily stand for sleek, sensational, satisfying, simply amazing . . . or all of the above.

It's a car that commands respect and attention and rewards you with pure driving enjoyment, whether cruising around town or kicking it up a notch or two on your favorite non-linear stretch of pavement.

Porsche originally launched the Boxster in 1997 as a more financially attainable stablemate to the rear-engine 911 and followed it up with a more powerful Boxster S three years later. Replacements arrived in 2005 with updated styling and even more power.

As with the nearly timeless silhouette of the 911, the Boxster's look remains instantly recognizable with its rounded nose, oval-shaped headlights and a set of rear fenders that must be considered among the most sensuous ever created for an automobile. They also serve to distract you from the car's long-hood/long-rear-deck shape.

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As a side benefit to its design, the Boxster provides decent front and rear trunk space that's unaffected by the power-operated canvas top when it's stowed. When up, it fits tight to the windshield frame and folds flat behind the seats in a mere 12 seconds, which is good since it can be operated while the vehicle is traveling at speeds of up to 30 mph. You can also purchase an aluminum hard top that adds a mere 51 pounds to the Boxster S's 2,965-pound curb weight.

Porsche has gone to great lengths to ensure a flex-/rattle-free roadster body and our test car was no exception despite traveling 16,000 miles at the hands of other lead-footed auto writers. Likewise, the clutch, shifter and brakes all worked as if the vehicle had just rolled off the assembly line.

The friendly, yet all-business cockpit is a comfortable place to enjoy the miles. The cozy buckets provide just the right amount of firmness and support without punishing either your back or your backside.

There are only a few stereotypical luxury features such as standard steering-wheel-mounted audio controls (available as part of a "communications management" option that includes a navigation system), but its doubtful most Boxster S fans will really mind since luxury isn't this car's - or any other Porsche's - primary purpose. No, the Boxster S is all business.

Once the driver is securely fastened inside, a turn of the key brings to life the kind of mechanical melodrama that has helped make Porsche the last word in first-class sports cars. In the Boxster S, that means engaging the 3.2-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine that makes 280 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque. That's 40 horses and 37 lb.-ft. of torque more than the base Boxster's smaller powerplant and is worth every penny in terms of pure performance.

Connected to the engine is a six-speed manual transmission that makes upshifting and downshifting a smooth and precise proposition. Porsche will also drop in its five-speed Tiptronic automatic with manual-shift control, but the manual gearbox is such a joy to use that you might have a hard time rationalizing the extra expense of the auto.

Among a variety of options is a choice of four seat styles, three steering wheels, three 19-inch wheel designs, lightweight (and expensive) ceramic disc brakes and an electronic log book that keeps track of specific journeys along with the date, distance, time and other pertinent data for each trip.

After a week with the Boxster S, it was our sad duty to return it to Porsche where it was to be sold to a good home. We could only contemplate the unabashed joy it will bring the new owner who gets to punch the throttle, race through the gears and command the beckoning highway. But, for a brief seven days, we at least had a taste.

Copyright 2006, Wheelbase Communications

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