Our test car was optioned with active headlights that followed steering inputs flawlessly, Porsche’s superb PCM system with navigation and Bluetooth, and convertible-friendly heated and ventilated seats. But these and a few options we could go without (yellow gauges, yellow seatbelts, and embossed headrests) helped bump its price from $49,050 to $58,745.
It’s a lot of money, but the Boxster has come a long way: Ever-conservative Porsche says the 2012 base car makes 255 hp, revs to 7500 rpm, hits 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, and goes 163 mph. 1997’s 2.5-liter original cost $40,745 and claimed 201 hp, 6700 rpm, 6.7 seconds, and 149 mph. In fact, today’s 2.9-liter Boxster beats the 250 hp, 7200 rpm, 5.7 seconds, and 161 mph of the 3.2-liter 2000 Boxster S, which cost $50,695 new (roughly $66,500 in 2011 dollars).
The Boxster’s considerable advances in comfort, safety, materials, and build quality over the last 15 years are harder to quantify. Hints of 1997 remain, however: The A-pillar trim, sun visors, upper interior storage box, trunk latches, and more are pure 986. That’s because the basic tub didn’t change all that much in the transition from 986 to 987, which only highlights the basic goodness of the ur-Boxster.
Perhaps that’s why I have always had a thing for base Boxsters and Caymans without a lot of extras. This one continues the affair with a near-perfect balance of power, handling, and braking. Driven hard, it’s got all the right moves and enough over-the-road pace to humble far more formidable machinery. Driven leisurely, it’s eminently pleasurable. Driven daily, it’s useful with two roomy trunks and a fully lined power top.
Good as it is, though, the Boxster finally feels dated. As is Porsche’s way, consistent improvements have been applied to a solid foundation. In this case, the foundation is one of the truly great sports-car chassis, and the result is a car that’s still the best in its class. Even so, that chassis feels old in 2012, a reminder of why Porsche must begin anew from time to time. Fortunately it has, and the next chapter begins on page 56.