Every year, the most affordable of all of the Porsche sportscars continues to improve. The 2010 Porsche Boxster’s minor changes this year are subtle, building on the refined capabilities of the all-new engines introduced last year.
Two six-cylinder engines define the mid-engine, $47,600 Boxster and $58,000 Boxster S models – a 2.9-liter 255-hp (a 10 hp increase) powerplant in the former and a 3.4-liter 310-hp (a 15 hp increase) engine in the latter. Both models come standard with a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed automatically shifting gearbox as an option.
The concept of the Boxster was inspired by the 1953-1956 550 Spyder, a production mid-engine roadster aimed at GT racing that beat other, larger cars and earned the little Porsche the nickname “Giant Killer.” The name is a combination of the mechanical layout of the Porsche horizontally opposed-cylinder engines, commonly known as “Boxer” engines, and the term “roadster,” which means a two-seat convertible and has conjured visions of carefree touring for decades.
The normal Boxster is lively to drive, and its controls are intuitive and confident. The Boxster S adds larger wheels and tires, and more sound deadening for a quieter ride. The Boxster S is also available with a ceramic composite brake system, which is much lighter than steel and aids in suspension response for better handling over bumps and quicker stopping. The brake calipers on Boxster S models so equipped are painted yellow. Another easy way to tell the Boxster from the Boxster S is by the tailpipes: The Boxster has a square tailpipe while the Boxster S gets two round pipes. Other recent Boxster changes include LED parking and daytime running lights made with special optical lenses that cast a bright glow around the car, and, although the latest body is slightly larger by fractions of an inch over 2008 models, it retains the speed-activated rear trunklid spoiler.
An exceptionally well-padded convertible top with a glass rear window keeps interior noise to a minimum, even at high speeds. The seating position is low, so the doors and cockpit surround the driver and passenger and keep both out of the wind stream over the car when the top is down. The top is electrically powered, and takes less than half a minute to raise or lower. With the top down, driver and passenger remain comfortable when the weather is brisk since the leather seats are available heated, and there is also a clear panel that fits between the headrests and acts as an effective windstop to keep occupants toasty. For more security, an aluminum hardtop can be added as an option.
“Floating” gauges in front of the driver include a relatively small speedometer to the left of a large tachometer, a Porsche racing tradition. An extensive trip computer employs a digital display next to the speedometer to show numerical speed, as well as driveline status. The ignition key is to the left of the steering wheel, another Porsche tradition since the days of “LeMans start” racing, when drivers would begin a race by running to a line of stopped racecars and start the car while simultaneously shifting into gear.
With the engine behind the two seats, there are two trunks that will hold enough luggage for a weeklong trip for two. To create more space and save weight, the Boxster does not have a spare tire; instead, it has a small air compressor and repair sealant.
Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), an optional, driver-selectable suspension system, is also available. It will allow a smoother ride on nasty roads, and at the press of a button, the ride will get firm and stiffer on smooth roads for maximum cornering grip. When ordered with the automatically shifting transmission, which is also adjustable with a sport calibration, the suspension will also change to its firmest setting when the sport mode on the transmission is selected.
Safety features on both Boxster models include front and side airbags, and rollbars behind the seats. Electronic stability control, electronic brakeforce distribution and traction control are standard on all Boxsters. The 2010 Porsche Boxster’s engine note invites acceleration; its steering has been called one of the world’s best; its balanced and mid-engine chassis has superb brakes; and there’s enough room inside for two extra-sized adults. That’s what makes a Giant Killer.