Let's talk bad timing. Our week with the 2013 Porsche Boxster came as Isaac was potentially bearing down on the Gulf of Mexico. Rain and roadsters are not the best mix. Still, the tropical storm didn't dampen our enthusiasm for the redesigned entry-level Porsche.
Appearance: You couldn't miss our tester with its Racing Yellow paint, which was probably good for visibility in the poor weather. The Boxster has a soft top that can be electronically folded while moving up to 31 mph. That's both practical and really neat in our book. Our tester's 20-inch black Carrera S wheels — a $1,425 option — provided real sharp contrast to the yellow paint. (The one thing you quickly learn when dealing with Porsche is how quickly the options add to the bottom line.) Porsche says the details of the new design — headlights, side air intakes — were inspired by its racing history, and the Boxster does have a more athletic look. Our favorite detail: The sleek rear spoiler is integrated into the taillight design.
Performance: The mid-engine Boxster is powered by a 2.7-liter horizontally opposed 6-cylinder that pumps out 265 horsepower, which is good for a 0-to-60 time of 5.4 seconds. Our Boxster has Porsche's excellent — and optional — PDK 7-speed auto/manual transmission. We found the transmission more fun in manual mode, although we didn't like that the paddle shifters are mounted on the steering wheel (one of our pet peeves) and rotate with it. We preferred using the shifter itself in manual mode. Thankfully, it's laid out intuitively: forward for upshift, back toward you for downshift. We also loved the rev-matching transmission on downshifts and the resulting exhaust bark. (Lyra: "It's the best of both auto and manual worlds.") As we experienced in the Porsche Cayman, the mid-mounted engine configuration makes for an agile, well-balanced ride, and the handling is precise.
Interior: Porsche says the Boxster's stylish cabin is larger than the previous generation and we found the head and legroom comfortable. The sport seats, which come from the 911, are well-bolstered, supportive and sit lower. The center console, which houses a 7-inch LCD high-resolution touchscreen, is now taller and in the style of the Porsche Panamera. We like the Boxster's three-gauge dash, with its dominant center tach and digital vehicle-information/navigation display to the right. All of the interior materials are of high quality, even the plastics. The rear deck sits pretty high so it's good to have a backup camera and parking sensors. With the top up, the rear visibility is poor.
Our 3 favorites
Auto start/stop: The standard feature switches off the engine automatically when you're at a stop to save gas.
Design: The new Boxster doesn't play second fiddle to the 911.
Cargo: They aren't large, but there are two "trunks," with one under the hood.
Spoiler: Sleek design, integrated into taillights.
Top down: Fold down the top quickly, even when you're moving (up to 31 mph).
Shifting: Forget the automatic. Blip through gears manually and have some fun.
The bottom line: If you value a pure driving experience, there are few cars at any price as engaging as Porsche's mid- engine models. The new Boxster leaves the enthusiast with few decisions other than how much you want to spend on options.