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First Oz drive: Porsche's bargain Boxster II

Shadow Boxster: Second-generation Porsche convertible has big shoes to fill, hence visual changes are subtle.

Porsche unleashes its sharper, faster, better-value second-gen Boxster

15 Feb 2005

KEEN pricing and improved specification underpin Porsche’s second-generation Boxster sports car.

On sale this week, just four months after its Paris motor show debut, the 987 model costs less than the outgoing 986.

At $107,400 for the base 2.7, the two-seater convertible is $1100 cheaper than before.

Add the previously optional 17-inch wheels ($2990), CD changer ($1590), PSM stability control ($2990) and trip computer ($990), and that becomes a $9750 saving, or nine per cent less.

Similarly, the $132,500 Boxster S has these additions as well as the 986’s $3190 18-inch wheels for a seven per cent price advantage.

Porsche Cars Australia managing director Michael Winkler said no more than half the savings stemmed from January’s five per cent import tariff cut.

"We are being kinder to our customers," he said. Mr Winkler also said the evolutionary change from old to new Boxster reflected the sustained demand during the 986’s lifecycle.

"(Since its 1996 launch) it is now as established in the marketplace as the 42-year-old 911," Mr Winkler said.

"In our wildest dreams we thought we might sell 15,000 cars a year one day. At its peak in 2001 we sold 28,000 cars ... almost defying normal lifecycle wisdom, especially here and in the UK." Such appeal left Porsche with the dilemma of how to freshen the Boxster without changing its essence. So, although similar, 80 per cent is new.

In response to customer criticism, there’s also wider differentiation between the Boxster and the 911 – albeit with the two cars having a 50 per cent parts commonality.

Changes underneath have wrought more power, improved dynamics, better safety and greater efficiencies.

According to Juergen Kapfer, head of drivetrain development at Porsche AG in Germany, the company finally had the development funds to create the 987 with less financial constraint.

There are bigger side windows, deeper bumpers, redesigned side air inlets, pullout door handles – so as to not break manicured fingernails – and a 0.02 aerodynamic improvement (2.7: 0.29Cd S: 0.28Cd).

A new 911-style welding and bonding process, plus extra reinforcing between the lower bulkhead crossbar and the A-pillar, improves passenger safety and increases torsional stiffness nine per cent and flexural rigidity 14 per cent.

25 center image The body-in-white mass has increased 18kg to 250kg – but is offset by aluminium front and rear bootlids (saving 6 and 3kg respectively), lighter noise deadening materials and no spare tyre. A sealant and an electric compressor now suffice.

The kerb weight result is a similar 1295kg (1345kg auto) and 1355kg (1385kg auto) for the Boxster S.

Revised versions of Porsche’s 2.7-litre DOHC flat six and its larger 3.2 S sibling mean that peak power rises 8kW to 176kW at 6400rpm, and 15kW to 206kW at 6200rpm respectively.

A new exhaust combines with greater air filter surface and a double-chamber induction system to pump out peak torque by 10Nm at lower revs. Boxster now makes 270Nm at 4700rpm, with 320Nm now on offer in the S at the same 4700rpm.

Shorter final drive ratios (to suit the larger wheels) drop the 0-100km/h sprint times to 6.2 seconds (5.5 seconds for the S), while top speed also rises to 256 and 268km/h respectively.

There are also reductions in gearshift travel and fuel consumption, the latter averaging a 0.1L/100km drop to 9.6L (S: 10.4).

The S’s six-speed manual is available as a $5900 option in the 2.7, in conjunction with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM).

Also from the 911 is the $2190 Sports Chrono Package, which features more aggressive throttle characteristics, a higher ABS and PSM stability control threshold and, in conjunction with PASM, even firmer damper settings in Sports mode.

Both models benefit from a revised PSM system that, if deselected, now reactivates itself only under extreme brake pressure.

A new rear auto-spoiler and full underfloor panelling aid top speed and reduce lift to almost zero.

Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (with ceramic rotors and six-piston callipers up front) debut as options in Boxster S for $18,990.

Variable ratio steering assistance is another first. The turning circle nonetheless rises from 10.9 to 11.1 metres.

Inside reveals the biggest visual changes, with more quality materials and space for occupants over 190cm tall, thanks to lower and more adjustable seats, pedals that are closer to the firewall and a height/reach-adjusting steering wheel – a Boxster first.

The seats also offer more side support and incorporate 50mm-higher head restraints flanked by bigger rollover hoops.

More development dollars also mean a redesigned dash that’s similar to, but different from, the 911’s. It retains the signature ‘see-through’ instrumentation binnacle.

While a new (non-986 compatible) aluminium hard-top is optional, the magnesium-framed soft-top is better noise insulated, takes 12 seconds to operate and can be activated at up to 50km/h.

Finally, in addition to twin front and side airbags, seatbelt pretensioners and force-limiters, the new Boxster introduces the convertible world’s first head airbags, concealed in each door.

Further Boxster developments include the still-secret C7 hatchback coupe in 2006, priced between the Boxster and 911 and due at this September’s Frankfurt motor show, a 3.4-litre flat-six cylinder engine and a double-clutch automatic gearbox similar in style to Audi’s DSG system.

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