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road trip: porsche boxster

2013 Porsche Boxster.

The question before us was: is the Porsche Boxster a chick car? Some felt that, without a doubt, it was aimed at female drivers, while others – including myself – prevaricated and waffled on the issue. No one said unequivocally, 'No, this is not a chick car' and at the end, the votes were split.

The occasion was the launch of the 2013 edition of Porsche's entry-level roadster, but with a slight difference. Instead of the usual quorum of auto journos, there were some actual Porsche customers on hand; people who owned and drove Porsches, including a couple from Calgary who owned one Cayenne each, and a podiatrist from Winnipeg, who was the happy owner of a 911 Turbo.

But first, a few words about the 2013 edition of Porsche's entry-level roadster. Power is up and weight is down. At 265 horsepower, the base engine has 10 more than before, while the S receives an additional five horses. Fuel economy has also been enhanced for the new model year, and, depending upon the model, you can choose from a six-speed manual transmission, or Porsche's seven-speed PDK – or Doppelkupplungsgetriebe – gearbox. This latter transmission has steering-wheel-mounted shift buttons or paddles and is chosen by most Porsche buyers.

Other changes include revised body sheet metal with a restyled front end, new taillight treatment, new exhaust, a "flatter" windscreen and a slightly longer wheelbase. It's still unmistakably a Boxster, but is a little more svelte than before, and, you could argue, more masculine looking.

Porsche has also revamped the power top mechanism, and it goes up/down in less than 10 seconds. Best of all, you can deploy the top while the car is in motion, up to 50 km/h. This last feature is outstanding, and is accomplished with no fuss or muss via a centre console-mounted lever. Feeling a little chilly? No problem – hit the control and you're ensconced in warmth and comfort faster than you can say Doppel – er – anyway, it's fast.

Other refinements for the new Boxster include:

  • Electro-mechanical steering. Taken from the 911 Carrera, this system automatically adjusts the steering for any irregularities in the road surface and eliminates the need for the driver to “twitch” the steering wheel to compensate for any understeer/oversteer. It also reduces the car’s overall weight.
  • Active suspension. There are two settings: Normal and Sport. The former is for everyday freeway and city duty; while the latter tightens things up and allow the suspension to adapt to more aggressive driving. According to Porsche, the latter set-up ensures that the car doesn’t “skimp on driving fun”.
  • Optional launch control. Part of the Chrono Package, this allows the boy/girl racer in you to get optimal standing starts. Just bury the gas pedal, release the control and away you go.
  • Larger and more powerful brakes with an electronic parking brake, and 18, 19, and 20-inch wheels and tires.
  • Redesigned interior, with a revised seating position, redesigned seats and redesigned instrument cluster and monitor. Depending upon the model, heated/ventilated seats are available, and there are two sound system choices.

As before, there isn't a lot of cargo room in the Boxster. Yes, there are trunks fore and aft, but if you're a golfer, for example, carrying your bags to the course is not an option, and the most you can stuff into the storage compartments is a soft bag or two. Zero elbow room inside, needless to say.

On the other hand, the Boxster continues to be an absolute joy behind the wheel. Few cars on the road can match it when it comes to straightening out tight turns and providing instant reserve power for passing. On the twisty two-laner leading to Tofino, there were plenty of opportunities to toss the car through nasty little blind corners and snake-eating-its-tail switchbacks. You quickly realize that this car is a total scofflaw; it doesn't need to obey the rules of the road because it's above them.

For example, those yellow warning signs advising you that there are slow-down bends or twists in the road coming up? Well, you can pretty much ignore those. In fact, if the sign says drop down to 30 km/h, you can speed up and take them at 80 km/h. I found myself using these signs as a guide; if they advised me that there was a low-speed corner coming up, I knew fun was just around the corner and could confidently regulate my speed accordingly. I'm not saying that you should do this, but in the Boxster, you can.

This is especially true in the S version, with its 315 horsepower on tap and, with our tester, steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles. These are superior to the shift buttons, mainly because they don't get in the way when things get interesting. I found that using the shift buttons sometimes resulted in you hitting other controls located on the steering wheel spokes. Not a huge deal, but in the heat of the moment, it makes a difference.

As to the chick car question; one of the members of our little group opined that if a car is a convertible, it's automatically a chick car – unless it's a vintage British roadster. That covers a lot of interesting automobiles and is, with all due respect, dumb. If the new Boxster, with its 10-second disappearing roof, quick-as-a-wink handling, eyeball-popping brakes, and law-breaking power is a chick car, then I'm a boy named Sue.

The new Porsche Boxster starts at $56,500, while the new S starts at $69,500.