- Accurate steering, confident handling
- Attractive, modern styling
- Brisk acceleration
- How can you not have a crush on this car?
- Wind and engine noise at high speeds
- Adding options brings the bottom line into 911 territory
- Switchgear a little fussy
The 2016 Porsche Boxster is a thrill to drive; but beyond that it's a great car in nearly every way, and one of the best-value sports cars you can get.
There aren't many models—if any—that will deliver the level of driver's seat thrills, modern creature comforts, and top-notch safety features and engineering as the Porsche Boxster. Although it can be expensive if you let yourself loose with the options list, you certainly don't need that to end up with a truly joyful mid-engine roadster.
We think that continues to make the Boxster one of the best sports car performance values on the market.
Porsche brings out its special variants and versions in nicely meted cycles; and now that this current generation of the Boxster, the 981 as it's known by enthusiasts, is in its fourth year, Porsche is bringing back a model that generated a lot of enthusiasm in the last-generation Boxster: the Spyder. The 2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder is a stripped-down, track-focused car, going so light and lean that it goes without air conditioning or even a sound system.
This variant ups the level of space-age materials like magnesium and polymers, drops the ride height, and drops about 66 pounds of curb weight versus the otherwise speediest GTS. It drops some noise insulation, too, which may limit its appeal somewhat—although the centerpiece of its appeal is that with a more powerful 375-hp, 3.8-liter flat-6, it's the fastest Boxster, at zero to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and a top speed of 180 mph.
Two other mid-mounted engines are available in the Boxster, matching the two primary trim lines: Boxster and Boxster S. The base Boxster gets a 2.7-liter flat-6 engine rated at 265 horsepower. Capable of 0-60 mph runs in just 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 164 mph, even the entry-level Boxster is quick. The Boxster S adds 50 hp for a total of 315 from its 3.4-liter flat-6 engine. The extra power cuts 60-mph acceleration to just 4.8 seconds elapsed and enables a top speed of 178 mph.
The Boxster GTS resembles a Boxster S with many of that car's options included as standard equipment. Unique items include a higher-output version of the Boxster S's 3.4-liter engine (330 hp, 273 lb-ft), different front and rear fascias, and a GTS-specific interior package. Standard features include the Sport Chrono Package, Alcantara all over the interior, black window trim, big wheels, Porsche's adaptive suspension, and much more. All in all, it's about $14,000 in add-ons, plus the extra power you can't buy, for only $10,000 more than a Boxster S.
All models come standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, but a dual-clutch 7-speed PDK paddle-shifted automatic is also available. Add in the Sport Chrono package, which includes launch control (on PDK-equipped models), advanced racing-inspired shift logic for PDK models, and dynamic transmission mounts, and you have the most inspired version of the Boxster (OK, perhaps except for the Spyder and its manual)—as well as the one that rips off the quickest claimed 0-60 mph times.
The Boxster's steering is light but just about perfect, and the same could be said of the Boxster's handling. It's intuitive and well-balanced—an easy-to-drive-fast mid-engine roadster (remember when that was an oxymoron?). It's also incredibly fun to drive, with the motor singing just behind the seats (but not unbearably so when just cruising), the wind blowing through the cabin, and a long, winding road laid out before you. Ride and comfort are also very good, especially in models equipped with the adjustable suspension.
When the driver isn't pushing the limits, the Boxster is actually quite reserved, cruising smoothly and quietly, just as a daily driver should. The optional adaptive suspension helps keep things comfortable, even when set to one of its more aggressive modes. Seats are nice and supportive, Bluetooth phone integration works well, and the folding power top is reliably snug and well-insulated. About the only major complaint is that between the front and rear trunks you only have about 10 cubic feet—so you're best to divvy your weekend road trip luggage up into several small, soft bags.
Available extras on the Boxster include: a Bose surround sound audio system; a 7.0-inch touchscreen navigation system with infotainment; a range of available custom interior and seating packages; and many other a la carte technology and convenience upgrades. For the sports car aficionado with a taste for the finer, higher-tech things in life, the Boxster is a smorgasbord of standard equipment and available options. Go easy on those and you'll end up with a near-perfect roadster—or go crazy with them and you'll have a highly individualized, still near-perfect roadster.
At the entry level, the Boxster earns 20 mpg city, 30 highway, 24 combined when equipped with the manual transmission, or with the PDK those figures rise to 22/32/26 mpg. The more powerful Boxster S is rated by the EPA at 20/28/23 mpg with the manual, or 21/30/24 mpg with the PDK.
2016 Porsche Boxster
The Boxster echoes classic Porsche Spyder designs, and in profile it's the quintessential Porsche sports car.
The 2016 Porsche Boxster hasn't changed much over its nearly 20 years, yet with its latest generation, the Boxster replaces a few more of the flowing, feminine lines with a somewhat more muscular, angular look.
The Boxster's front air scoops are probably the boldest part of this—they're larger and more angular—while the front and side sheet metal of these models are somewhat less delicate. In back, an integrated spoiler with a third brake light bridges both fenders.
New to the lineup this year is the Boxster Spyder—a version that includes a manually operated top and a host of weight-saving measures. It's most easily spotted by the "streamliners" that continue from just behind the top of the head restraints over to the top of the trunklid, recalling a design feature in 1960s 718 Spyder models.
We've found materials and layout inside the Boxster cabin to be excellent, with a straightforward layout, leather-wrapped surfaces, and quality buttons and switches. Once you figure out what all of the buttons do—and there will be some points of ambiguity here, for those jumping from other makes—it all makes sense.
And as with other Porsches, there are plenty of options available to personalize the look, inside and out.
2016 Porsche Boxster
The Boxster is one of the most satisfying performance cars on the market, with uncanny grip, excellent steering and thrilling acceleration. All should be heightened by the new Spyder.
As the current generation of the Boxster, the 981, continues its normal development cycle, it's quite typical for Porsche to crank up the performance; and for 2016, that's delivered with a redux of the Boxster Spyder, a model that was very well-received in the previous-generation Boxster.
The 2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder goes light and lean, going without air conditioning or even a sound system and cutting precious pounds with the substitution of more aluminum, magnesium, and polymers. Additionally, Porsche has dropped the ride height nearly an inch, and dropped some noise insulation from the Spyder—meaning it won't be for everyone, but others will love it—and then installed a more powerful 375-horsepower, 3.8-liter flat-6.
The Spyder weighs just 2,899 pounds (66 pounds less than the GTS) and has a better power-to-weight ratio than any other Boxster. And it can get to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds, or to a top speed of 180 mph.
That's the stripped-down, track-focused top of the lineup today, but the base Boxster still remains the well-balanced, mid-engine, hair-tousling miracle it's been all along. It's one of the most thrilling vehicles in the world to drive, especially if you're one who enjoys putting the top down.
Base models start with a 2.7-liter, 265-hp flat-6 engine. In the right configuration, this model can hit 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 164 mph. The Boxster S gets a 3.4-liter, 315-hp flat-6 that moves the car to 60 mph in as little as 4.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 173 mph. At the top of the range is the Boxster GTS, which uses a 330-hp version of the S's 3.4-liter; it's good for a 4.4-second trip to 60 mph and a top speed of 174 mph.
A 6-speed manual transmission is standard on all models, while a 7-speed PDK dual-clutch paddle-shift automatic is an option. The manual is a smooth, slick-shifting unit, and the PDK transmission is one of the better dual-clutch transmissions available; it does a nice job balancing sport when you want it and comfort when you don't.
That's not to say the Boxster is somehow compromised; it's anything but. In fact, it's the best of its segment and beats some higher-priced and more powerful cars in the eyes of some, both in terms of sport driving dynamics and during the daily grind. This balance comes from the well-tuned chassis, mid-engine layout, and Porsche's unique brand of engineering and style.
Electric power steering is often maligned for lack of feel and artificial feedback, but you'll find few such complaints for the Boxster. The steering isn't as good as the best hydraulic and manual systems we've driven, but it's close—certainly close enough to enjoy the Boxster's balanced handling on a good road. Steering is light, as it is in most Porsche models, but it's nicely weighted and accurate.
The Porsche Active Suspension Management system, optional on lower trims and standard on the Boxster GTS, further broadens the car's range. It can be adjusted from normal settings to Sport and Sport Plus modes, again giving drivers the choice of a comfortable or more sporty ride.
A Sport Chrono package is available (it's required along with the PDK transmission to get the fastest factory-claimed 0-60 mph times), adding dynamic transmission mounts and a more aggressive race-inspired shift logic for the PDK transmission when the Sport Plus mode is engaged.
2016 Porsche Boxster
Comfort & Quality
Wonderfully supportive front seats, dual trunks, and beautiful interior trims make this car a surprisingly good choice for touring.
The 2016 Porsche Boxster is a thrilling roadster, and an impressive performer in every respect. Yet it manages to be a surprisingly good touring car and daily driver. With great seats, a quiet, comfortable cabin, and stellar materials—plus plenty of creature comforts—you wouldn't be out of place to suggest the idea of using one for the commute.
The Boxster is indeed a two-seater, but there's generous room for a compact sports car. Seats are very supportive, and there's enough adjustability to suit the vast majority of body types and heights with the base seats, while optional versions carry power adjustment of lumbar, thigh bolsters, and side bolsters.
There isn't much space to stow gear in the passenger compartment, yet with two trunks (one up front, one out back) you get a second chance to try to fit any item. On the flip side, the combined 10 cubic feet of cargo space is split, so don't count on trying to fit any tremendously large items. The Boxster is at its best on weekend trips, with smaller soft-sided luggage.
The current generation of the Boxster has made major gains with respect to wind noise, as well as tire and road noise. When you're pushing this mid-engined sports car into its upper limits, or just accelerating quickly, you'll be bathed in some sweet engine sounds, but the Boxster is grown-up enough such that you don't have to expose your neighbors to an "always on" rumble and snort.
The Boxster retains its soft top, unlike most of its competition, and reaps certain benefits, including light weight, minimal consumption of storage space, and the ability to open and close at speeds up to 30 mph. The top is electrically operated, with no manual latches do worry about. Of course, a soft top isn't as robust or secure as a folding hard top, but we think the benefits outweigh the demerits.
In an upper cruising gear, with the top down and the new standard wind deflector in place, it's not difficult to carry on a conversation with your partner in the cabin.
Keep in mind that with the new Boxster Spyder, you do forgo the power-operated top of the other models for an entirely manually operated one. That, and the complete omission of some conveniences like air conditioning, is the cost of true racing-style lightweighting.
A 7.0-inch high-resolution touchscreen gives access to audio, navigation, and other Porsche Communication Management systems. Through it, you can get to a circular color screen in the gauge cluster, which can show things like navigation instructions, trip computers, and audio information.
Recent improvements have made this system much more intuitive and user-friendly, although it's still not an industry leader in terms of features or interface quality.
2016 Porsche Boxster
There's a lot of safety technology in the Boxster worth noting, even if there are no crash-test ratings to come back to.
The 2016 Porsche Boxster has had a lot more safety engineered in from the start, compared to most other lightweight roadsters. Although there's a shortage of proper crash-test data for this model
Low-volume models—sports-car models especially—aren't typically tested by either of the U.S. crash-test agencies, so it's no surprise that neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS have occupant-safety ratings that can apply to the Boxster.
Let that be no discouragement, though. Porsche has engineered a great deal of safety into the Boxster, starting with a rigid chassis; dual front, side, curtain, and thorax airbags; anti-lock brakes; and very capable stability and traction control.
We'd also count this model's fantastic handling as an accident-avoidance feature. And top up or down, visibility is very good in the Boxster, though shorter drivers may find it more difficult to see over the rear quarters.
A rearview camera system is offered on the Boxster, too; it's bundled in a ParkAssist package, with front and rear parking sensors.
2016 Porsche Boxster
Buying a Boxster is generally no bargain, as while base prices tease in the $60,000 range, a well-equipped, individualized car can approach six digits.
The 2016 Porsche Boxster lineup—if you're talking about the Boxster, Boxster S, or Boxster GTS—is certainly no bare-bones sports car. It's a straightforward one, for sure; yet there's really no lack of features, and they more of less parallel what you'd typically find in a mid-range luxury sedan.
The standard-feature list on the Boxster include: driver and passenger seats with electric backrest adjustment; Bluetooth audio; USB and iPod input; SiriusXM satellite radio; cruise control; ambient lighting; heated exterior mirrors; and a power-operated soft top.
Buying a Porsche is much like outfitting an ultra-luxury car; there are countless optional extras, and ways to drive the cost up—or as dealerships would probably see it, ways to "individualize" the car. Highlights include a 7.0-inch touchscreen navigation display, a leather upgrade package, a Burmester high-power audio system, 18-way power seats, big 20-inch 911 Turbo wheels, and a host of wood, leather, carbon-fiber, and Alcantara interior trim choices.
The Boxster now also offers a rearview camera, which is being bundled with front and rear ParkAssist sensors.
The new 2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder goes lean, and goes without both air conditioning and a sound system—although Porsche notes that buyers can opt to substitute in any other sound system from the lineup into this model.
2016 Porsche Boxster
Fuel exonomy is an unexpected delight in the Boxster—especially for such a single-minded performance vehicle.
The 2016 Porsche Boxster is surprisingly fuel-efficient—especially if you consider the performance capabilities. And we're hard-pressed to think of a single model that offers the level of driving thrills and fuel efficiency as this mid-engine roadster.
At the entry level, the Boxster earns 20 mpg city, 30 highway, 24 combined when equipped with the manual transmission, or with the PDK those figures rise to 22/32/26 mpg.
The more powerful Boxster S is rated by the EPA at 20/28/23 mpg with the manual, or 21/30/24 mpg with the PDK.
And at the top end, the Boxster GTS returns 19/26/22 mpg with the manual and 22/31/25 mpg with the PDK. And the Boxster Spyder, despite going lightweight, gets the worst mileage in the lineup, at an EPA-rated 18/24/20 mpg. Most buyers of that one are likely to keep to the track anyhow.