2014 Porsche Boxster

Before Porsche began building SUVs and sedans, the German automaker's sole raison d'être was creating sports cars - pure, lightweight rides that forged a bond between man and machine through tactile steering and nimble chassis dynamics.

Today, the Boxster and Boxster S roadsters stand as the embodiment of Porsche's core sports car philosophy. Recently redesigned from A to Z, the latest iteration is the most powerful, luxurious and fuel efficient Boxster ever, but it stays true to the time-honored formula that made its forbears special.

The mid-engined drop-top rides on an all-new platform that's marginally longer and wider than that of the previous model. Torsional rigidity is up by 40 percent with the new architecture and weight is down by as much as 77 pounds through the increased use of aluminum body panels, with handling benefiting from both improvements.

Eye-Catching Style, Improved Interior
Whereas its predecessor featured gentle, organic lines, the latest Boxster sports a crisper appearance bolstered by muscular details like prominent rear "hips" and deeper side air intakes. With a Panamera-inspired sloping center console, the interior is also more stylish than before, and the overall design and material quality now approach luxury car levels.

The instrument cluster remains a simple, legible three-gauge design with the tach front and center in the best sports car tradition, while the right gauge is now 4.6-inch TFT screen that can be configured to display numerous different types of vehicle information.

Despite its handling prowess, the Boxster is actually a fairly practical machine - it offers 10 cubic feet of cargo room, although that space is divided between a traditional rear trunk and a frunk (front-trunk) where the engine would be in a normal car. Larger items may not fit.

The full power convertible soft top for the Boxster can be raised or lowered in just 9 seconds at speeds of up to 31 miles per hour, and it can be operated via keyfob when parked.

The 2.9-liter naturally aspirated unit from the outgoing model has been replaced - downsized to be exact. The new engine is a 2.7-liter flat-six produces 265 horsepower at 6,700 rpm (up from 255 in the larger unit) and 206 lb-ft of torque. The mill is also equipped with automatic start/stop to help save fuel in city or stop and go driving.

The standard transmission is a six-speed row-it-yourself gearbox, while Porsche's quick-shifting seven-speed Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) dual-clutch automatic is available as an option. Fuel economy is rated at 22/32 city/highway mpg for the PDK and 20/30 mpg with the stick.

The result of the Boxster's new, lighter body and more powerful engine is a zero-to-60 time of 5.4 seconds (with PDK), or 5.5 seconds with the standard manual transmission.

In a move that has made some Porsche purists howl, the steering has been switched from a traditional hydraulically-assisted unit to an electric-assist setup in the interests of fuel economy. While many electric-assist steering systems have drawn the ire of enthusiasts for a dearth of feedback, the Boxster's unit is extremely communicative as well as precise and well-weighted.

Although the standard suspension keeps body movements well-checked in turns while also producing a livable ride, there's also an optional Porsche Active Suspension Management, or PASM, which actively regulates the damper force to each wheel based on a combination of road conditions and driving style - it also lowers the car 10mm.

Boxster S
The Boxster S uses a 3.4-liter flat-six with 315 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard, and Porsche's PDK seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is available as an option. Fuel economy is rated at 21/30 city/highway mpg for the PDK and 20/28 mpg with the stick.

The sprint from zero to 60 mph takes 4.8 seconds with a manual transmission, a figure that drops to 4.7 with the PDK gearbox and 4.5 when the optional Sport Chrono Package. Top speed is reached at 173 mph.

Standard and Optional Features
The Boxster comes standard with A/C, power windows and locks, cruise control, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, partial leather upholstery, power-adjustable seat backrests (manual height and fore/aft) and 18-inch wheels.

In addition to a noticeably more powerful engine, the Boxster S adds 19-inch alloys and Bi-Xenon headlights.

As with other members of the Porsche family, both Boxster models offer a nearly endless array of interior treatments and paint schemes in addition to available luxury and convenience features. While most other automakers offer such options as part of bundled packages - forcing buyers to sometimes pay for features they don't want to get desired items - Porsche offers all of its extras as stand-alone features. This means that buyers can create unique, custom cars, although doing so can quickly get very pricey.

Notable options include wall-to-wall leather upholstery, active sports seats and a Bose surround sound system.

Also available is the aforementioned Sport Chrono Package, which includes dynamic transmission mounts, a performance display, a digital and analogue stopwatch and the SPORT PLUS button. When this is pressed, the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) switches to Sport mode for harder damping and more direct steering and therefore even more intensive road holding.

Other performance options include carbon ceramic brakes and a Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) system with a mechanical rear axle differential lock.

The Roadster is available with an infotainment system called Porsche Communications Manager (PCM). PCM groups the roadster's audio, navigation and communication functions into a single easy-to-use interface that packs a 40 GB hard drive, a USB port and Bluetooth connectivity. All of PCM's functions can be controlled by buttons, knobs or a built-in voice recognition software.

Adventure-minded buyers can opt to pick up their Boxster in either Zuffenhausen or Leipzig, Germany.

Occupant Safety
All Boxster models are fitted with dual front, thorax and head airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and safety hoops that deploy behind the headrests in rollover situations. A tire pressure monitoring system also comes standard.

Key Competitors
Rivals to the Boxster include the BMW Z4, the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class and the Audi TT. The Boxter S squares off against the BMW Z4 sDrive 35is, the Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG and the Audi TT-S Roadster.