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Driving Impressions

Boxster S Raises The Bar A Notch
David Cipolloni & Charles Leonard 
August 3, 2000

 

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Introduction
For those that loved the neutral handling of the Porsche Boxster, but hoped for more power and braking, will get their wish in the Boxster S. There should be no shortage of bread or milk in the house once this car joins the family. "I have to go back to the store dear, I forgot the chicklets". The bump from 217bhp to 250bhp in the S model is evident as soon as you put your right foot in the throttle. The jump in horsepower moves the Boxster S a notch closer to it's larger sibling the Carrera.  While the Carrera cranks out 296bhp compared to the Boxster S's 250bhp it was a good move on Porsche's part to not make the cars have equal horsepower. Porsche did take the great braking system from the Carrera and transplant it into the Boxster S. With the exception of the shift linkage we had difficulty finding fault in this car. At first one of our testers thought the price to be a little steep for a car in it's class, but after spending some time in the car he found the price to be justifiable. As he said "the Honda S2000 is a great car for around $32,000 but there is a difference between the Honda and the Boxster S that helps justify the additional dollars". 

 

The increase in both bore and stroke help account for the 15% increase in horsepower. The move from 2.5 liters to 3.2 liters is a big step for Porsche who normally moves engine displacement in smaller increments. The drive-by-wire engine has revisions in the intake manifold, crankshaft and digital engine management systems. These improvements help the S attain a minimum of 85% of it's torque output at a low 2000 RPM's. This is where the driver can easily differentiate between the Boxster and Boxster S. This extra power at the bottom of the RPM range makes the car feel more powerful and responsive when motoring around town. The close ratio six speed gearbox (borrowed from the Carrera) has carefully matched ratios to keep the driver in the sweet spot of the power band. We sure would like to have the Z3 or S2000 shifter in this car though. Unlike front engined, rear drive sports cars that have their shifter connected directly to the transmission the Boxster must incorporate a linkage from the shifter to the transaxle behind the driver. This in part has made for longer throws between gears and a notchy movement between gears two and three. We cannot overlook this because for the price of the car we feel this should have been worked out. 

Interior
If you are under 6' tall the interior of the Boxster is a great place to spend time cruising your favorite roads. If you are taller than 6' you may need to be a contortionist to get your legs down under the steering wheel where they belong. Some of our taller drivers complained the seat would not go back far enough and the steering wheel telescoped but did not tilt. This caused a problem of drivers with their knees up around the steering wheel. OK for driving a go-cart but not a $53,000 car. With this exception the rest of us found the interior layout to be very well designed using quality materials. The big tachometer centrally located in the instrument cluster is right where it needs to be. Just be careful of the speedometer because it's marked in 25mph increments and you could find yourself on the short end of the law very quickly. While we were not too happy with the shift linkage we did like the shape of the shift lever. It has just the right angle to it and fits perfectly in the palm of your hand. Our tester had the standard seats and they were firm and somewhat supportive with decent bolstering. We could say the seat cushions need more padding but the compliant suspension made up for the lack of a little Styrofoam. In the past the interiors of some model Porsches were a little shall we say "cheap" looking, but that's not the case with the new Boxster. While maintaining that 911 look, the subtle changes and improvements have transformed the interior into a showcase of quality. Replacing some of the plastic with leather and upgrading the hardware has helped justify the price of this car. 


Engine and Gearbox
When most people buy a car one of the first things they do is open the hood and take a look at the engine. Even the people that don't know what they are looking at are usually mesmerized by all the mechanical wonders that propel their new car. Well, you can forget doing that because the engine is not accessible. You may be thinking that you could remove a panel or cover and then get a look right? Nope! Open the deck lid, check the coolant and engine oil, add if necessary and that's it. Anything else and it goes back to the dealer, unless you have a lift, shop manual and lot's of Snap-On tools.  


The engine may be mysteriously hidden under the center of the car but that aspect will leave you smiling after a couple laps around your favorite road course or country road. The Boxster engine is a horizontally opposed 24-valve DOHC 6-cylinder masterpiece. The engineers have transformed this previously air-cooled, noisy pancake motor into a liquid cooled powerhouse. Extensive use of aluminum and composite materials help keep the engine weight down and optimize performance. The technology used to design the overhead cam cylinder heads was derived from the LeMans GT1 911 effort. Of course the production version of the cylinder heads differ from the racing version but this is a classic example of how racing technology can have influence on production vehicles. One little trick Porsche uses is to adjust timing chain tension with engine speed to advance intake valve timing. Adjusting valve timing with engine speed has become the new approach in capturing more power from the engine. Others accomplish this through a more sophisticated mechanism but Porsche gets the job done with a simplistic approach. The whole package comes together in a surprisingly quiet, smooth and powerful powerplant. At one time many people wondered if the emissions regulations and noisy operation would be the demise of the pancake engine, but Porsche totally redesigned the engine while keeping the boxer layout. A slick move and one that purists can appreciate. 

The transmission in our tester is the 6 speed manual that also does duty in the Carrera. The gear ratios (listed in the tech data) are just right for keeping the engine in it's power band through all six gears. There was a little rumble from the transmission input shaft bearing when the clutch was released in neutral, but it's possible this is a normal condition on this car. The transmission is quite good but the shift linkage leaves a little to be desired. The movements are notchy and the throws are a little longer than we would like. The shift from second to third is balky but tolerable. We could tolerate this in a car of less expense but feel it should be worked out for $53,000. The other transmission available in the Boxster is the Tiptronic S. The Tiptronic provides shifting the 5 speed transmission without the use of a clutch. This can be accomplished using the shift lever or the shift buttons on the steering wheel spokes. The Tiptronic provides shifting in 0.2 seconds allowing the driver to pour through the turns like a Formula 1 driver. 

Driving Impression
When a car is this good it becomes difficult to put into words what the driving experience is really like. When a car is really done right it becomes an extension of your body as you maneuver it around the roadway. You don't fight and struggle with it to go fast, you flow with it, the shifts come naturally, the turn in is just right, you become one with the road and this is what the Boxster S does for the driver. The cars limits are easily readable with a mild oversteer coming in under power in the turns. The car remains very neutral with minimal pitching when regulating power in and out of the turns. Hard braking into a turn and quick application of power does not upset the car and leaves you cleanly pointed through the apex. 
The traction control system works so seamlessly that the driver usually won't realize it has even activated. Approach that hard downhill right hander under full braking, point the S into the apex and ease back into the throttle and the speedy yellow rocket will skitter slightly and blast out of the turn like it was shot from a cannon WOW! 

The Boxster S exhibits the grace of a ballerina while delivering the punch of a heavy weight champion. All this while providing for a comfortable ride that won't transmit road harshness to the passengers. The car instills confidence in the driver and soon you believe you could be the next Andretti. 

One nice feature on the car is the quick easy convertible top. As Porsche states: One latch - One button - Twelve seconds. The top is quick and easy to operate and folds down flush with the body, but should incorporate a glass rear window. It appears the plastic window is required because of its flexibility to fit in the stowage area, but we would prefer a glass rear window for the cost of the car.

The brakes on the Boxster S are equipped with four piston calipers at each corner, cross drilled brake rotors and integrated cooling ducts. Does it stop? If you have false teeth you better not smile when you lay on those binders. Stopping from 70 mph takes just 158ft. The braking system was pretty much transplanted from the 911 Carrera so it has no problem stopping the lighter Boxster from pretty much any speed. If the brakes fade when they get hot we didn't notice it. 

One of the most pleasant attributes of this car is the absence of cowl shake. So often open roadsters feel like they want to shake themselves apart on harsh roads, not the case with the Boxster. Because Porsche did such a good job in building a rigid body structure and controlling NVH the Boxster delivers a comfortable ride under most any condition. What music do you hear playing while cruising your favorite roads in this car? Certain music seems to go with certain cars and we would like to know what our readers think should be on the tuner when driving something like the Speed Yellow Boxster S.

Stuff We Liked:

  • Precise handling

  • More powerful S engine

  • Gear ratios in transmission

  • Exterior styling

  • Quality interior 

  • Ease of convertible top

  • Compliant ride

  • Excellent brakes

  • Literally no cowl shake

  • Smoother quieter engine 

  • Dual trunks

  • 6 speeds instead of 5

  • Ignition remains on left of steering wheel

  • It's fast (160mph)

  • Handling - Handling - Handling

Stuff We Didn't Like:

  • Shift linkage 

  • Plastic rear window

  • Tall drivers had a problem with leg room

  • Wish we could see the engine

 

  Technical Specs  
 



 


ENGINE 
Type....................................Horizontally opposed 6, aluminum block and heads 
Bore x stroke.......................3.66 x 3.07 in, 93.0 x 78.0mm 
Displacement.......................194 cu in, 3179cc 
Compression ratio................11.0:1 
Engine-control system..........Bosch ME 7.2 with port fuel injection 
Valve gear...........................chain-driven double overhead cams, 4 valves per   cylinder, hydraulic lifters, variable intake-valve timing 
Power (SAE net)..................250 bhp @ 6250 rpm 
Torque (SAE net).................225 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm 
Redline...............................7200 rpm

DRIVETRAIN 
Transmission.............6-speed manual 
Final-drive ratio..........3.44:1, electronic limited slip 
Gear............Ratio
I..................3.82
II.................2.20
III................1.52
IV...............1.22
V................1.02
VI................0.84

DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES 
Wheelbase..........................95.2 in 
Track, F/R...........................57.3/59.4 in 
Length................................171.0 in 
Width.................................70.1 in 
Height................................50.8 in 
Ground clearance................4.1 in 
Curb weight........................3018 lb 
Weight distribution, F/R.......45.9/54.1% 
Fuel capacity......................16.9 gal 
Oil capacity.........................8.7 qt (Dry Sump)
Water capacity....................7.5 qt

CHASSIS/BODY 
Type.........................unit construction 
Body material..........welded steel stampings

INTERIOR 
SAE volume, front seat............47 cu ft 
luggage space........................9 cu ft 
Front seats.............................bucket 
Seat adjustments....................fore and aft, seatback angle, height 
Restraint systems, front...........manual 3-point belts, driver and passenger front and side airbags 

SUSPENSION 
F:..........ind, strut located by a control arm, coil springs, anti-roll bar 
R:..........ind, strut located by 1 trailing link and 2 lateral links, coil springs, anti-roll bar

STEERING 
Type............................................rack-and-pinion, power-assisted 
Turns lock-to-lock.........................3.0 
Turning circle curb-to-curb......... ...35.8 ft

BRAKES 
F:.........................12.5 x 1.1-in vented, cross-drilled disc 
R:.........................11.8 x 1.0-in vented, cross-drilled disc 
Power assist..........vacuum with anti-lock control

WHEELS AND TIRES 
Wheel size...........F: 7.0 x 17 in, R: 8.5 x 17 in 
Wheel type..........cast aluminum 
Tires....................Pirelli P Zero; F: Direzionale, 205/50ZR-17; R: Asimmetrico, 225/40ZR-17 


ACCELERATION..........Seconds 
30 mph.............................1.8
40 mph.............................2.9 
50 mph.............................3.9 
60 mph.............................5.2 
70 mph.............................6.8 
80 mph.............................8.8 
90 mph............................10.9 
100 mph..........................13.6 

Standing 1/4-mile............13.8 sec @ 101 mph 
Top speed .....................160 mph

BRAKING 
70-0 mph ..........158 ft 

FUEL ECONOMY 
EPA city driving..................18 mpg 
EPA highway driving............26 mpg 

INTERIOR SOUND LEVEL 
Idle.............................................49 dBA 
Full-throttle acceleration...............88 dBA 
70-mph cruising...........................75 dBA 
70-mph coasting..........................75 dBA


I

 

 

Note: All Photos copyright AutoRacing1.com and Dave Cipolloni

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