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2013 Porsche Boxster review: Buffer Boxster goes from cute car to sports car

The Porsche Boxster has been working out! The 2013 model attempts to shake off its "hairdresser's car" reputation with a more aggressive, muscular appearance.

Antuan Goodwin Reviews Editor / Cars
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.
Expertise Reviewing cars and car technology since 2008 focusing on electrification, driver assistance and infotainment Credentials
  • North American Car, Truck and SUV of the Year (NACTOY) Awards Juror
Antuan Goodwin
8 min read

Tell a stranger that you drive a Porsche and ears perk up. Tell that same person that the Porsche in question is a Boxster and, if you're talking to a gearhead, you'll probably catch a slight eye-roll. In spite of its midengine configuration and the fantastic handling it brings, the Boxster has traditionally had to contend with reputation ranging from "poseur's Porsche" to "hairdresser's car." This is the problem with living in the shadow of The Mighty 911.


2013 Porsche Boxster

The Good

The <b>2013 Porsche Boxster</b> is a fantastically well-balanced vehicle, offering the right amount of power, responsiveness, and grip for a grin-inducing ride. Optional PCM infotainment system checks all of the right tech boxes. The power retractable top is well designed and can be operated at up to 31 mph.

The Bad

Fold-away cupholders are among the worst in the business. Expensive options rapidly drive the Boxter's price up.

The Bottom Line

The 2013 Porsche Boxster delivers fantastically balanced performance and full-featured tech, but avoid expensive luxury items for the best value.

For 2013, the Porsche Boxster again does battle with preconceived notions, but this time it's armed with a more aggressive, muscular appearance.

More masculine design
The new Boxster features larger side intakes that are more deeply set into rear-quarter panels and deeply crease the doors, echoing those of the Porsche Carrera GT and making the previous-generation Boxsters' look a bit silly and inadequate by comparison. Above those vents are shoulders that are more defined, giving the Boxster a muscular appearance when viewed from the front quarter. Likewise, the front fender bulges are more defined, rising above the sloping hood in a very 911-esque manner.

Porsche beefs up the Boxster (pictures)

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At the leading edge of those fender bulges are headlights that are similar to those of the Panamera, featuring black housings with chrome rings surrounding the vertically stacked lighting elements with bi-xenon projectors. Porsche has mostly avoided the trend of LED halos or ribbons flowing around the headlights, but the enlarged front intakes on the bumper integrate LED strips that functions as DRLs.

At the opposite end of the Boxster, the taillight combos have been horizontally elongated. The clear portions of the lights have been compressed to slivers that flow into and are now joined by the lip of motorized spoiler when retracted. This designer's trick visually flattens and widens the Boxster. Along with the Boxster's trademark center exhaust, the new vehicle looks more aggressive than the previous model, but its rear end is also more busy, which may turn off longtime fans of the Boxster's traditionally simple aesthete.

Porsche Boxster

The Boxster's motorized spoiler deploys at high speed to aid in vehicle stability.

Josh Miller/CNET

Power retractable fabric roof
The Boxster was designed from the ground up as a roadster, so of course a good deal of effort went into designing a power retractable top that stows away at the drop of a hat. The fabric roof, so chosen to keep weight down and because the Boxster has always used a fabric top, drops or rises in about 9 seconds with just the flip of a switch. Interestingly, the roof can be operated at speeds up to 31 mph, so you don't even need to stop to go open-air. When stowed, the roof forms its own tonneau cover just behind the roll hoops and wind deflector.

Porsche's doing something right in the aerodynamics department, because the Boxster's cockpit never gets too blustery; even at highway speeds. Its cabin is even quieter with the thick roof fabric and glass rear window insulating, but the Boxster is meant to be driven with top stowed.

Porsche Boxster

Aside from its great weight distribution, the midengine form factor grants the Boxster two trunks.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Like every Boxster that's preceded it, the 2013 model features a midengine, rear-wheel drive train that places the engine just behind the two-passenger cockpit and ahead of the rear axle. This configuration means that the Boxster has two trunks, one under the hood and another at the back of the vehicle. Making a trip to Ikea in the Boxster is probably out of the question, but there's more than enough space for a weekend getaway with a pair of small suitcases.

In the cabin, on the other hand, storage space is a bit more difficult to come by. A small nook behind each seat can accommodate a laptop bag and a small center console can hold a phone, but the weird cupholders are probably the worst in the business. You Porschephiles already scrolling to the comments section to lambast me for complaining about cupholders should know that I'm not asking for 10 cupholders, just a place to stow a bottle of water during a long drive. The current ones that fold out of the dashboard flop all over the place during spirited driving and that's just not acceptable.

Part of the reason the Boxster has had to contend with the reputation of "Trophy Wife-mobile" is that its performance sits at the low end of the Porsche spectrum.

The Boxster's 2.7-liter flat-6 engine's 265 horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque taken out of context are a pittance compared with the current-generation (and similarly priced) Infiniti G37 Convertible's 325 horsepower, but let's add some context, shall we? Consider that, at 2,888 pounds, the Boxster is 1,195 pounds lighter than the G and you'll begin to see how the purpose-built roadster makes due with less, matching the Convertible's approximate 0-60 time of 5.5 seconds.

However, the advantages of being lightweight, low to the ground, and based on a midengine platform extend beyond the dragstrip, paying dividends at the apex of every corner that you approach in the 2013 Boxster. The Boxster is an amazingly well-balanced vehicle that I found to be quite responsive and willing (but not too eager) to rotate around a center axis that seemed to pass right through my spine. Clearly defined corners and a responsive and communicative chassis seemed to hardwire my brain to the Boxster's optional 19-inch S-style wheels and their grippy, staggered-fit tires. Even if you manage to get the Boxster out of sorts 'round a bend, the standard stability control and torque vectoring system would gently straighten things out for you.

Porsche Boxster

Some may lament Porsche's move to electronic power steering, but I found nothing to complain about.

Josh Miller/CNET

Purists will no doubt groan at Porsche's move to an electronic power-steering system for the 2013 model -- a change that the automaker justifies in the name of fuel efficiency -- but I didn't notice any numbness in the steering. (Full disclosure: I've not driven a previous-generation Boxster with the hydraulic steering rack.)

Our tester came equipped with the optional PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) system that lowers the static ride height by 10mm, adds adaptive damper control to all four corners, and adds a Sport suspension button to the center console that firms up the ride when increased chassis responsiveness is needed. Even if you're in the Normal mode, the system will firm up in response to an what Porsche calls "an assertive driving style."

In addition to the Sport suspension mode, the Boxster features a Sport drive mode that sharpens performance and throttle response, a difference that was hardly noticeable on our six-speed manual gearbox-equipped tester. On models with the optional PDK automatic transmission, the difference is possibly more palpable.

According to the EPA, the 2013 Porsche Boxster averages 20 mpg in the city, 30 on the highway, and 24 mpg combined. It does this with a combination of efficient direct-injection technology, an auto start-stop system that shuts the engine down to prevent losses from idling, and a regenerative braking system that recharges the battery when decelerating, eschewing the traditional alternator and its parasitic drag on the engine.

Cabin technology
Upholstered in $2,385 worth of "Yachting Blue" leather, the Boxster's cabin is simple and purposeful, but also very well appointed. I've already complained about the cupholder situation, so adopt a no-drinks-in-the-car rule and instead enjoy the way that the Boxster's controls (the shifter and the steering wheel in particular) fall nicely into the hand and the grippiness of the optional heated sport seats as they cradle your backside with well-defined bolsters.

Porsche Boxster

The Boxster's purposeful cockpit is made more luxurious by optional leather trim and Sport seats.

Josh Miller/CNET

At the center of the dashboard is the PCM (Porsche Communication Management) infotainment system, which has improved dramatically over the past few generations. This 7-inch touch-screen-based system features turn-by-turn navigation with maps that are crisply rendered and pleasurable to gaze upon. Traffic data is displayed on the map via colored street overlays.

Audio sources for the PASM include AM/FM terrestrial radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, USB playback of MP3 and iPod/iPhone, an analog auxiliary input, Bluetooth hands-free calling (with address book sync and voice control) and audio streaming, and a single-slot CD player. For some reason, the system didn't recognize that my phone supported audio streaming until the very last day of testing, so I was stuck running a cable to the auxiliary input for most of my testing. The Boxster doesn't support any sort of advanced app integration, such as Pandora Link.

Porsche Boxster

The Porsche Communication Management infotainment system has dramatically improved over time.

Josh Miller/CNET

Audio is piped through an optional Bose audio system that features 5.1 surround decoding and hides its powered subwoofer behind the dashboard to help keep the audio stage ahead of the driver. Audio quality is great, but with 10 speakers within an arm's reach and 445 watts of total power, what did you expect?

In sum
The Boxster in its base 2.7-liter form isn't a track weapon; for that you have The 911. The Boxster is not a tech-laden cruiser; check out the Cayenne or Panamera for that. The Boxster is a back road bomber and the epitome of the term "canyon carver." If you're the sort that's already predisposed to loving tossable roadsters like the Mazda MX-5 Miata, the Boxster is a quantum leap in performance evolution and a huge step up in appointment. Both vehicles are exceptional for their balance, blending engines that induce grins without overwhelming their great chassis. (I know, drawing a comparison between the Boxster and the Miata isn't helping either vehicle's "girly car" reputation.)

The 2013 Porsche Boxster starts at $49,500, but our tester loaded on $15,735 worth of options. $710 for platinum silver metallic paint here, $3,860 for the PCM system there, $1,790 for PASM, surcharges for steering-wheel controls, 19-inch wheels, leather interior. Porsche even charges $185 for the Porsche crested center caps on the wheels! Add it all up and include a whopping $950 destination charge to reach our as-tested price of $66,185.

It's a pretty penny, but there's not much else like the Boxster in the automotive world today. Cars like the Infiniti G convertible or Lexus IS C cost less and offer more daily driver functionality (backseats and cupholders, oh my!) but simply can't match the Boxster's purpose-built performance, svelte roadster aesthetic, and Porsche exclusivity. The BMW Z4 comes close to matching this blend of luxury and performance, but it's a vehicle that's somehow smaller than the Boxster with less storage space, but also significantly heavier. There's also the Mercedes-Benz SLK to consider, but come on, dude, that's a total hairdresser's car.

Tech specs
Model2013 Porsche Boxster
Powertrain2.7-liter flat six-cylinder, six-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel drive
EPA fuel economy20 city, 30 highway, 34 combined mpg
Observed fuel economyn/a
NavigationOptional with traffic
Bluetooth phone supportStandard
Disc playersingle-slot CD
MP3 player supportstandard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB/iPod connection, Bluetooth audio streaming
Other digital audioSiriusXM satellite radio
Audio systemOptional 10-speaker, 445-watt Bose 5.1 system
Driver aidsn/a
Base price$49,500
Price as tested$66,185

2013 Porsche Boxster

Score Breakdown

Cabin tech 7Performance tech 9Design 7


Trim levels BaseAvailable Engine GasBody style Convertible