2009 Porsche BoxsterPosted on May 20th, 2010
PDK transmission gives Porsche’s roadster extra boost
By Nina Russin
The Porsche Boxster parked in our driveway conjures up images of James Dean as photographed by Sanford Roth, at the wheel of his Porsche 550 Spyder: the one he called the “Little Bastard.” The famous actor undoubtedly knew of the car’s reputation in Europe, where it had just come off winning performances at LeMans.
The name, Boxster, refers to Porsche’s horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine: its configuration resembles a boxer. The original Boxster, released in the late 1990s,was the first Porsche since the Spyder designed specifically as a roadster. It was also Porsche’s most affordable sports car: the Boxster drew legions of fans who couldn’t afford the pricier 911, into the showroom.
Porsche introduced the second-generation Boxster in 2008 for the ’09 model year. The new car remains true to its original mission: powered by a 255-horsepower flat six-cylinder engine. The engine’s midship placement gives the pint-sized roadster a surprising amount of cargo space: with storage areas to the front and rear of the passenger compartment.
Enhanced power and performance
The high-compression engine is more powerful than the former block, and slightly bigger. But the Boxster’s ace-in-the-hole is a new seven-speed double-clutch transmission which improves the car’s fuel economy and makes it faster.
I have to admit that I would have a hard time buying a Porsche with anything but a manual gearbox, simply because I’m one of those ten percenters who prefer to do things the hard way: it goes with being a distance runner. But if I were to buy any sports car with an automatic transmission, Porsche’s new PDK gearbox would be my choice.
The PDK is basically two manual gearboxes combined into a single unit: therefore its shift qualities feel closer to a manual transmission than an automatic. A valve body operates the two clutch packs. One clutch activates first, third, seventh and reverse gears; the other second, fourth and sixth.
Formula-style paddles on the steering wheel allow the driver to manually select gears. But even in fully automatic mode, the PDK is a piece of machinery commanding the highest respect. It’s crisp, seamless, and accelerates from zero-to-sixty in five-and-a-half seconds.
The only negative is its price: the option costs $3420. That, plus Porsche’s $950 delivery charge raises the Boxster’s MSRP from just over $46,000 to just over $50,000: a considerable difference in this economic down-tick.
Soft top deploys on the go
The Boxster comes with a standard soft top, as roadsters, by definition, must. Sports car purists would argue that it should also have plastic side curtains in lieu of windows. Fortunately, it does not: plastic yellows over time and is impossible to see through.
Buyers can add a removable aluminum hard top: a good option for drivers who live in climates with harsh winters.
The soft top deploys into the trunk with the push of a button: the operation, which works at speeds up to 30 miles-per-hour, takes under 12 seconds.
An optional wind screen on the test car reduces turbulence around the passengers. With the wind screen in place and the top up, there is virtually no visibility to the rear corners: all the more reason to leave the soft top in the trunk where it belongs.
Because the windscreen minimizes wind around the passengers, it also makes the air conditioning more effective in hot weather. I felt quite comfortable driving the Boxster with the top down on a ninety-five degree afternoon in Phoenix.
Adds fun to the daily commute
The Boxster’s small wheelbase gives it exceptional maneuverability in traffic. It’s a rare example of a sports car that functions well as a daily commuter. The PDK gearbox gives the Boxster 29 mile-per-gallon fuel economy on the highway: two miles-per-gallon better than the six-speed manual. Storage spaces in the front and back can easily hold the weekly groceries or a weekend’s worth of luggage.
Variable-assist rack-and-pinion steering is precise at all speeds. A 36.4-foot turning radius makes U-turns a non-issue.
A MacPherson suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars is pleasantly firm. The mid-ship location of the engine and gearbox gives the Boxster a close-to-perfect front-to-rear weight balance, allowing the driver to push the car hard on winding roads without losing control.
Five inches of ground clearance isn’t enough for off-road trails, but can easily accommodate the occasional graded dirt road. A single large exhaust pipe is located in the middle of the chassis: a smart move on the engineers’ part. Keeping the exhaust away from the wheels reduces contamination from road salt and dirt.
Porsche is famous for exceptional brake performance: the Boxster is no exception. Large vented rotors with four-caliper pistons on all four wheels stop the car on a dime.
Interior styling is true to the Boxster’s sports car focus. The sport seats are attractive and supportive. A combination of power and manual controls are easy to use. The steering wheel is simple and uncluttered: stalks activate the cruise control as well as an information screen in the gauge cluster.
Storage around the driver and passengers is minimal: a small center console bin and locking glovebox. There is also a small storage shelf behind the seats. Three twelve-volt power points recharge portable electronic devices.
Cupholders are conspicuously absent. I never met a German designer who didn’t abhor cupholders: I suppose the Porsche team should be commended for its honesty. Unfortunately, carrying a water bottle is a necessity during the Phoenix summers. I let mine roll around on the passenger seat, hoping it wouldn’t take flight during a sharp turn.
All models come with front, side, thorax and head airbags in the doors. A stainless steel roll bar protects passengers in the event of a rollover. Porsche’s four-year factory warranty includes complimentary roadside assistance.
The second-generation Boxster is on display at Porsche dealerships nationwide.
Likes: A sports car with the versatility to function as a daily commuter. The Boxster has styling reminiscent of the classic Spyder, plus the legendary performance Porsche is known for. The new PDK transmission is an exceptional piece of machinery.
Dislike: Lack of storage in the interior: especially bottle holders.
Base price: $46,600
As tested: $53,980
Horsepower: 255 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 214 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 5.5 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Head and thorax airbags are standard.
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 20/29 mpg city/highway
Comments: Porsche recommends 91-octane fuel.
2 responses to “2009 Porsche Boxster”
Emely Pelech May 22nd, 2010 at 15:44
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It’s hard to build a car that’ll stick out three decades after its production, but the lagonda is clearly one of them.
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