Porsche is synonymous with sports cars. Not to mention performance and exclusivity. People shopping in this milieu are willing to pay a premium for those attributes – and to say they drive a Porsche.
The reputation that earned such respect is based on engineering and results. Porsche builds fast cars and has raced them successfully around the world against any and all competitors for many decades.
Much of this success has come in endurance events – 6, 12 and 24-hour races that stress every component of a vehicle to the limit. Porsches excel at this type of competition, especially those based almost purely on production models. The Porsche you drive away from the dealer needs little more than a roll cage and race tires to be competitive on the track.
Sports cars have been the heart of the company from its humble beginnings 60 years ago to the elaborate and fantastic engineering efforts of the current era. Big SUVs (Cayenne) and luxury four doors (Panamera) generate the profits that allow the company to continually develop and race sports cars. Porsche is among the most profitable car companies – of any size – in the world; so much so that a couple of years back it made a brief attempt to buy Volkswagen which turned the tables on it, acquiring control of the sports car company in a complex battle for shares among two families.
The most familiar Porsche is the iconic 911, which has changed very little in appearance for decades, throughout many updates. From the $90,000 Carrera to the $280,000 GT2 RS there are 17 variations of the 911. Slotting in below that and acting as an entry point to the brand are the two-seat convertible Boxster ($55,000 - $70,500) and hardtop Cayman ($59,000 - $71,000).
Both are available in standard or "S" levels with flat-six engines displacing 2.9 or 3.4 litres, producing 255 and 310 horsepower respectively – 10 more in the Cayman.
From the first Porsche to the most recent, horizontally-opposed engines driving the rear wheels have been the recipe for success on and off the track. There have been Porsches with inline four-cylinder, V-6, V-8 and even V-10 engines but the vast majority of those powering the company’s sports cars have had two or three cylinders on opposite sides of the crankshaft, 180-degrees apart.
The Boxster may be the least expensive Porsche currently available – look for a new entry-level model in a year or so – but it is a pure sports car in the traditional sense – a two-seat convertible with a suitable engine, transmission, suspension and brakes.
The base Boxster with its 255-hp flat six comes with a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission. The Boxster S gets a 3.4-litre six sending 310 hp to the rear wheels through the same choice of transmissions. But it is the location of the engine that makes this Porsche such a pure delight in the turns.
That low-profile, horizontally-opposed six cylinder unit lies ahead of the rear axle and behind the driver. This mid-engine location puts the bulk of the weight in the best possible position for handling - low and centered.
The Boxster tips the scales lat under 1400 kg. Combine that light weight with the powerful and responsive engine, race-developed suspension, uber-strong brakes and the copious amounts of rubber at each contact point and you have the makings for a thrill machine.
Porsche is also a master at keeping the faithful happy by continually adding new fillings to the same pie crust. Last year a lightweight version of the Boxster, the Spyder, was introduced. This year it is the Boxster S Black Edition to pair up with a Black Edition of the 911. But unlike most "special edition" Porsches, which carry a premium price in exchange for exclusivity, the Boxster S Black Edition comes with a host of added features that would cost $3,500 more if purchased as options.
Only 987 will be built, all in black with a black fabric roof, black light-weight 19-inch alloy wheels, black trim, black roll-over bars and black air intakes and exhaust outlets. The interior is also pretty much all black except for the occasional stainless steel or aluminum accent piece. Even the instrument faces are black.
Standard equipment includes navigation and Bose audio systems, automatic climate control, touch-screen communication management, bi-xenon headlights and a SportDesign steering wheel.
The 3.4-litre flat six has dual overhead camshafts, direct injection and 10 more horsepower (320) than the Boxster S. My tester had Porsche’s PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe) automatic which meant not only faster acceleration than the six-speed manual but better fuel economy –not that I measured the latter!
Porsche’s says this combination will reach 100 km/hr in 5.1 seconds and a top speed of 274 km/hr. I have no reason to question either number.
The tester was also equipped with the optional Sport Chrono package, which includes launch control and the ability to select Sport or Sport Plus shift strategies, which bring on more aggressive shifts and throttle response. Wet conditions prevented measurement but suffice it to say this is a seriously rapid car.
With more power and bigger rubber the Black Edition offers astounding alacrity. Steering response, transient changes and braking are all among the very best I have sampled over the decades on or off the track.
Light, agile, powerful and well-built and engineered the Boxster S is a jewel among sports cars. The limited availability and added content of the Black Edition make it even more attractive and sure to remain so.