Totally redesigned for the first time but still with the familiar 6-cylinder, 2.7 liter liquid-cooled engine, now producing 240 hp and 199 lb/ft of torque. The Boxster comes with a 5-speed manual, though our tester had the optional Tiptronic auto box. Price: $47,010 with Tiptronic automatic. Warranty: 2-years, 100,000 miles. EPA mileage: 17/25 city/highway.
About Cars tester Colin Hefferon delivered the new Boxster as I arrived at the ferry docks after the journey from Vancouver Island. "Alright!" I shouted, leaping into the driver's seat, ready to beat 2000 fellow passengers out of the parking lot. My hand fell on the shifter and I instinctively hit the floor with my left foot. Woops... no clutch! A Boxster with automatic?
Frankly, I was relieved. My first duty was to deliver Colin to North Vancouver so he could pick up a Sonata for testing, and that meant an hour's drive through nasty urban traffic. (Yes, I know, everyone believes their town has the worst drivers.) Not only would the chore be easier with Porsche's Tiptronic auto/manual system; I'd be less inclined to perform an old guy's version of a boy racer. At my age I do drive with restraint but put me behind the wheel of a sports car and the years peel off faster than the rubber on the tires.
The 2006 Boxster, though it closely resembles the previous model, is still a stunning car to look at. In typical Porsche fashion the changes are subtle and some might say too subtle, but our bright blue tester drew lots of admiring glances. Hey, it's nice to be on the receiving end of all those pretty smiles.
In the Driver's Seat
There are two ways to describe what it's like in the driver's seat. The first is with the top up, the second with the top down. When the top is raised the interior is claustrophobic and if the windblocker's in place, which it was in our tester, rear vision is severely hampered. Great caution is needed when changing lanes. That wonderful flat-six sound eventually becomes an annoying drone, especially when attempting a conversation.
Ah, but lower the top and it's like driving an entirely different car. Now the sound is glorious. The open air is freedom and the windblocker a blessing, especially with the windows raised, which means you can drive this car topless in chilly weather. Vision is no longer a serious problem. Interior space limitations become irrelevant.
Lowering the top is a simple chore requiring only the release of a windshield header clamp. The Boxster does the rest, dropping the windows a couple of inches for clearance, raising a cover behind the seats to accommodate the top. The seats offer excellent support when cornering and the instruments are perfectly placed. An all-new center panel for the sound and air controls is attractive though complex, but the steering wheel is absolutely gorgeous.
On the Road
The hills were alive with the sound of music (sorry Julie) as the Boxster and I wound our way around the mountain roads of West Vancouver. The music, in this instance, was not coming from an Austrian schoolmistress but from a German sports car whose exhaust notes are richly melodic if you play the throttle with a sensitive toe.
Equally inspiring was the way our Boxster attacked the curves, carving precise lines through the apex without ever feeling that it would swap ends. On the safer confines of a race track I've pushed it to where a spin seemed inevitable and yet wasn't, so believe me when I tell you this is one of the best-handling cars you can buy without a celebrity income. The massive disc brakes are fade-free if you're coming down those mountains at speed.
One look at the rear end, where larger haunches and a massive oval exhaust pipe combine for a look as shapely as it is powerful, says a lot. And power is obvious in the performance. With Tiptronic the Boxster will reach 60 mph in 6.8 seconds and top out at 155 mph. That latter figure is meaningless, of course, but what the heck, it's important to impress the kids next door. And maybe big kids like you and me.
The 2006 Boxster is a modern version of the 60's 356B. It's your entry-level Porsche. The price/ratio is exactly the same as it was then, when a Super 90, at $5400, was three times the cost of a Beetle. Not a bargain, yet an affordable step into the sports car hierarchy. Of course entry-level is a relative term and you'll pay a lot more than for a Miata or the new Solstice but with the Boxster you're getting a mid-engine, 6-cylinder thoroughbred that demands respect.
I soon had respect for its automatic gearbox, which shifts up and down exactly when needed and even though I played with the manual shift paddles it was only on the mountainous roads that doing so became advantageous. For anyone who does much of their driving in urban situations or expressway commuting I have no hesitation in recommending the Tiptronic.
Our test car did not represent a quantum leap over its predecessor. Refinement is key and if you're one who believes gradual improvement beats wholesale change, you'll be pleased with the new model. Personally I could be happy with the previous Boxster, which suggests something positive about pre-owned vehicle opportunities. But that's me, just an old guy who once raced Porsches and still loves them.