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Review: Porsche’s 2013 Boxster finally finds some testosterone

2013 Porsche Boxter exterior front side
Like a four-wheeled Jan Brady, the Porsche Boxster has lived in the shadow of the 911 since the beginning of time (1996 if you prefer a little less drama). Porsche’s mid-engine, entry-level sports car has a reputation of being more of an accessory for Beverly Hills trophy wives more than a vehicle any automotive enthusiast would consider. It’s traditionally featured a “softer” look, and has never held a candle to the 911’s power and poise. Yet just as VW recently put an edge on the 2013 Beetle, it seems the auto masters in Baden-Württemberg are attempting to revitalize the Boxster’s image, bestowing it a more masculine character than ever before.

Yes, the 2013 Boxster is elegant, beautiful, and striking. It might not match the power and panache of a full-fledged 911, but not many vehicles do. On the other hand, the 2013 model boasts a beefed up exterior, a Ginzu-like ability to carve open any turn, and refreshing amount of tech crammed into its tiny cabin.

Pint-sized Porsche

The Boxster’s cabin is surprisingly simple and sporty. Our car’s leather-wrapped steering wheel and seats helped add a sprinkle of luxury to the experience, but the dash’s overwhelming amount of soft rubber contradicts the interior’s style. There is some nice brightwork above the glove box and around the air vents. For added snobbery, ahem, we mean luxury, there is, of course, the option for a comprehensive leather package, though in true Porsche fashion, prepare to shell out the dough for it – to the tune of $2,385.

Ergonomically speaking, the 2013 Boxster’s cabin layout is logical: The center console flows forward and ensures the needs of the driver are prioritized. Our review unit was equipped with the standard sport seats, made of synthetic Alcantara suede and featuring electric backrest adjustment. Drivers can upgrade to Porsche’s Sport seat Plus or Power sport seats for added padding and side bolstering, but we found the standard seats to be firm enough, and they accent the Boxster’s sporty style.

2013 Porche Boxter exterior front half 2013 Porche Boxter exterior rear wheel
2013 Porche Boxter exterior front left tire 2013 Porche Boxter exterior rear

There is a clear lack of space, which is normal with most two-seater coupes, but the Boxster rarely feels uncomfortable. For 2013, Porsche has improved interior space, but average- to medium-height drivers and passengers will suffer at times. Cargo space is even less forgiving. The Boxster’s mid-engine layout provides two trunks, however  the combined space is roughly 10 cubic feet with the convertible top raised or lowered.

Unfortunately, the latest Boxster retains its nonnegotiable blindspots, a problem that is remedied easily enough when the soft convertible top is lowered. Speaking of lowered, the vehicle’s height has been reduced from last year. This translates to a little more space for taller passengers, but getting in and out can prove a chore from time to time.

More computer than Carrera

More than its striking good looks, we were surprised by the Boxster’s comprehensive (and competent) onboard tech. We might grumble at the little things, like a lack of dedicated cupholders and a USB port that is annoyingly located in the glovebox, but the centerpiece of the Boxster showcase is the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) infotainment system, which calls a 7-inch high-res LCD touchscreen home. At first glance, the PCM appears somewhat confusing and jumbled together. Drivers can control all the system’s various functions, which include turn-by-turn navigation, hands-free calling, smartphone syncing, and SiriusXM Radio through touch or corresponding dials and push buttons. It looks intimidating at first, but after a brief and awkward honeymoon period, the controls become second nature and quite intuitive. Drivers also have the option of using voice commands for many of the PCM’s features.

2013 Porsche Boxter review drivers sideWe consistently measure all navigation systems against Audi’s Google-sourced system, and Porsche’s is one of the few that stacks up admirably. It’s doesn’t quite offer the same vivid level of detail, but the PCM system renders images clearly in both 2D and 3D, while traffic data is displayed via color-coded street overlays. Overall, the navigation system is solid, but we found it seemed to often take more steps than were really necessary for some tasks.

For 2013, the Boxster packs a new high-resolution 4.6-inch color screen located on the right-hand instrument gauge.  Here, the TFT provides a continuous stream of data from the on-board computer, displays your selected communication and audio settings, allows you to customize vehicle settings, sends various warnings, including alerts from the optional Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). It also displays the navigation system map in conjunction with the main screen – our favorite function by far.

Audiophiles may balk, but the 2013 Boxster’s optional 10-speaker, 445-watt Bose 5.1 sound system provides more than enough sonic sensation throughout the cabin. Drivers have a wealth of audio sources to choose from, although smartphone owners will grow frustrated with the Porsche’s inability to stream music wirelessly via Bluetooth.

2013 Porche Boxter review center console 2013 Porche Boxter review screen secondary display
2013 Porche Boxter review middle buttons 2013 Porche Boxter review middle console

Safety tech is regrettably sparse in the 2013 Boxster. There is no rearview camera or blindspot monitoring sensor, which is puzzling considering our review model included a parking sensor assist. While parking (or in tight spaces), the vehicle’s sensors can detect nearby objects and display them via color-coded waves. Unfortunately, it’s not really clear how close you are to objects when this is engaged, so it’s essentially useless. It’s frustrating that Porsche designers didn’t incorporate blindspot sensors as well, especially since the driving experience would benefit so much from them.

New year, new looks

Top to bottom, back to front, and from any angle the 2013 Porsche Boxster looks good. For the 2013 model year, the Boxster waves goodbye to the heels and capris and hello to a pair of Levis and a plaid shirt. Instead of copious curves, we have tighter lines and sharper creases pinching at the metal for a much more aggressive and head-turning look. It’s an undeniably more masculine design for the Boxster, one that goes beyond its predecessor, and will do a lot to tear away its image as car meant solely for the ladies.

At its face, a strip of LEDs smartly underline each headlamp, while the side scoops located to front of the rear wheels provide airflow to the engine, marrying form and function. Our Boxster sat on four 20-inch Carrera Classic wheels, while the rear taillamps also support LED accents topped off by a single wide-mouthed exhaust pipe. Simply put, the Boxster’s look has evolved, and truthfully, it’s about time.

A beefed up Boxster

The 2013 Porsche Boxster is available in two different varieties: a base model, which starts at a sliver under $50,000, and an upgraded S model that has no business occupying our dreams at night. The beginner’s Boxster packs a decent 2.7-liter flat six-cylinder engine, capable of belting out 265 horses and 206 pound-feet of torque. As we bloody-well expect, power is sent to the rear wheels, either via a standard six-speed manual transmission or Porsche’s lauded seven-speed dual-clutch automated PDK variant. Fuel economy sits at 20 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, with a combined mpg of 24 when mated to the manual, while the PDK reaches 22/32/26. It’s important to remember, however, that these are simply estimates, so use fuel figures as a cautionary tale rather than anything definitive.

2013 Porsche Boxter exterior frontThe S model ratchets up the gusto and the price ($61,000) with a jump to a 3.4-liter flat-six that churns out 315 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. According to EPA figures, fuel economy in an S model is 20/28/23 when fixed to a manual transmission, while the PDK again ups the mileage to 21/30/24.

A true road slicer

Porsche has equipped the Boxster with an entirely new chassis – which is both stiffer and lighter than last year’s model. When paired with its finely tuned suspension and Spiderman-like ability to stick to the road, the Boxster manages to carve open turns with sadistic ease.

Our review unit also boasted Porsche’s optional PASM system, which stands for Porsche Active Suspension Management. PASM can be likened to “drive modes” often found in higher-end or hybrids/EVs. Instead of altering the throttle response, however, the PASM interacts only with the suspension system. Drivers can choose between comfort, normal, and sport modes, which allows for dynamic tuning (stiffening and softening) on the fly.

Speed is not the Boxster’s strong point, but it’s still plenty fast when equipped with its 2.7-liter flat six. Oh, and have we mentioned the wail of the engine? It’s no 911, we know this, but once the song of its engine is piping through your ears, you won’t give a damn. In many ways it’s every bit as engrossing.

Porsche has a reputation for developing some of the most dynamic driving vehicles on the road today, so don’t let the Boxster’s nameplate, it’s seemingly discounted price, or position in Porsche’s stable fool you into thinking it’s any different. It may have served as the punchline for many a joke in the past, but from Cayman to Cayenne, Pamamera to Carrera, the 2013 Porsche Boxster deserves to wear the storied coat of arms just as much as any other.

Enthusiast drivers will likely opt for the manual without thinking, but the most reasonable buyers will choose the PDK. Here’s why: On top of slightly improved fuel economy, the Boxster is at its best when used as a daily driver or canyon road crusher. For the former, the PDK will serve you better, while the latter will be every bit as engrossing. Yes, it’s sounds sacrilege for us to recommend an automatic over a manual, but that’s the truth folks – keep calm, and carry on.

Finish line

Despite all our praise, the 2013 Porsche Boxster is a peculiar car. It’s easily one of the best entry-level roadsters on the road, offering drivers an uncanny degree of handling, as well as one of the most technologically advanced cabins in its class. The downside, however, comes in the form of its price tag. At $50,000 for the base model it’s a steal, but Porsche’s notorious reputation for tacking on extra cost for virtually every option available sends that base skyrocketing closer to $70,000 (the model we drove came in at $72,930). Factor in the Boxster S’ $61,000 bare bones sticker price and that option seems even less compelling. There is no denying the Boxster is a fun, agile, and now, good looking car, but for the price of admission, savvy and prudent shoppers may be better served purchasing a 911 that is just a few years old or cough up the dough for a new base model 911 Carrera for $84,000.

Highs

  • Excellent handling
  • Exterior is now universally more appealing
  • In-car tech is surprisingly easy to use and robust

Lows

  • Price can climb quickly with options
  • Blindspots are atrocious with convertible top up
  • Lack of simple safety tech is disappointing