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2013 Porsche Boxster S Road Test Review

When the two-seat Boxster blended into Porsche's model mix way back in 1996, many didn't give the car the credit it deserved. It handled like a dream, but compared to the legendary 911, horsepower was a tad low at just above 200 and it was more cute than cunning. The Boxster S that came in 2000 upped power to 250, and respect was immediately lauded upon the mid-engine roadster. Now, more than a dozen years later, no one questions whether the Boxster is a credible Porsche. Rather, by those in the know at least, it's revered for its wonderfully unique personality within the automaker's diverse lineup of performance vehicles. And the new 2013 Boxster S is the best one yet.

It all starts with the design. A new nose, exclusive to the Boxster and new Cayman, is decidedly more sporting, incorporating two-tier vertical headlights inspired by racing cars like the 907, 910 and 917 from Porsche's gloried past, plus horizontal vent strakes from the 959 and others, larger, deeper mid-engine ducts for a more menacing appearance, and the prettiest detail of all, an integrated rear spoiler that melds into each taillight lens with the kind of elegant perfection that only a master constructor amongst Porsche's ultra-premium ilk seems to be capable of creating. From front to back, the new 2013 Boxster is immediately tougher and more masculine, yet longer, leaner and more inspirationally shaped than any of its predecessors.

Inside, it follows last year's updated 911 in adapting Panamera design cues, most noticeably its beautifully detailed rising centre stack and still somewhat controversial electronic parking brake. I wouldn't really have a need for a conventional handbrake if the hill holder system let off a little smoother on steep inclines, so I'm guessing Porsche will improve on its execution after living with the technology for a while in the real world. The new Boxster is much more opulently finished and roomier overall, however, while the roof mechanism is an absolute dream to operate, opening and closing in a matter of seconds and doing so while on the run or standing still. You can't do the former with a folding hardtop, by the way, something to consider, and to my eyes at least, convertible tops look best in fabric.

I first experienced dropping the top while driving during the official Canadian launch of Porsche Travel Club, where I joined two of the automaker's delightful hosts, a few handpicked journalists, and a couple of fortunate couples for the program's inaugural run in beautiful British Columbia's Vancouver Island. If you've always wanted to drive a premium sports car on fabulous roads through beautiful scenery, Porsche might just have the ideal solution to satiate your sense of adventure.

The concept of the BC event makes a lot of sense. You and your significant other, one of the best premium compact roadsters money can buy, a day's drive from point A (a premium hotel) to point B (a premium resort destination) and then back again the next day (to the first premium hotel), mixed with great food and truly enjoyable company. Sound good?

Porsche supplied six all-new 2013 Boxsters in top-tier S trim, boasting 315 horsepower from the brand's legendary horizontally opposed (flat) six-cylinder engine, complete with direct fuel injection and VarioCam Plus, plus Porsche's race-inspired 7-speed PDK dual-clutch sequential transmission that lets you shift through the gears when you want to or just leave it in drive for those moments when you'd just rather enjoy the scenery. The winding two-lane highways are some of Canada's best and the Boxster S model's handling totally impresses from one delectable curve to another.

With front and rear trunks loaded up with room to spare (the Boxster is the most practical roadster on the market) the West Coast adventure took us from world-class Bear Mountain golf resort in Victoria, BC, up Vancouver Island's picturesque Pacific Rim Highway and then west on the circuitous Highway #4 to Tofino, one of Canada's foremost beach destinations, where we stayed the night at the famed Wickaninnish Inn and Spa. The next day, after a truly restful evening of fine dining and great conversation, we returned via the same route, even better the second time around. With stopovers at a few popular tourist traps and a fabulous lunch, we were back at Bear Mountain resort for a final night's stay, but not before another scrumptious dinner and loads of laughs. Close to 700 unforgettable kilometres were covered.

There are Quebec events too, by the way, but they're very different in that they take advantage of the province's snowy winter conditions so that drivers can improve their cold weather driving skills. Dubbed Camp4 and Camp4S, Porsche chose le Municipalite de Notre Dame de la Merci in the heart of the Laurentian mountains, 90 minutes drive from Montreal and 50 minutes from Mont Tremblant ski resort and Circuit Mont-Tremblant race track, for its close proximity to the Mecaglisse driving centre, where 15 kilometres of snow and ice covered road courses (that even include a skid pad) spread over 700 acres await. Camp4 allows drivers to hone winter driving skills and learn new techniques that could be life saving while driving Porsche's legendary 911 sports coupe under the careful tutelage and watch of professional driving instructors. Camp4 is prerequisite to the optional Camp4S, a three-day performance-driving event that builds on the techniques learned earlier.

Back to real life in my day-to-day world, Porsche loaned me another Boxster S when I returned home, this one fitted out with a six-speed manual for a little more DIY engagement. It would be difficult choice, the benefits of the PDK system being obvious while driving in the city or on the track, and the manual allowing for a more visceral overall experience; it's one of the slickest shifting manuals I've ever tested. If you're into numbers, the PDK will get to 100 km/h a hair faster at 5.0 seconds (4.8 with the launch control-enhanced Sport Chrono package) instead of 5.1 for the manual, but the standard gearbox gives you a couple of extra km/h of top speed at 279 compared to 277. Numbers aside, either way you choose I'm sure you'll find the drive rewarding. There's nothing that feels quite like a Boxster S, not even a 911. Don't get me wrong. I'm not for a single second dissing the Porsche of Porsches, but like I stated earlier, the Boxster has a wonderfully unique personality all its own and the S adds a level of performance that is truly awe-inspiring. It's merely Porsche in a different flavour, and a mighty spicy flavour it is.

Adding a few nutritious greens to the jalapenos and chili peppers is Porsche's standard auto start/stop system that shuts off the engine while idling and immediately restarts it as you need to go, and a coasting feature, only with the PDK, that seamlessly decouples the engine from transmission when rolling under its own momentum, further saving fuel.

Mixed in with its newfound eco-friendly refinement is a full fitment of top-tier features including the usual luxury fare of powered windows, locks and mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering, air conditioning, Bluetooth hands-free, bi-xenon headlights, etcetera, plus a few surprises like a standard 4.5-inch touchscreen display atop the centre stack with a 235-watt seven-speaker audio system including an auxiliary input, plus standard partial leather sport seats. Three sport seat upgrades are available, though, all featuring power actuation along with greater adjustability and support, while other options include the usual dual-zone auto climate control, heated seats, auto-dimming mirrors, wind deflector, upgraded audio (this one a 445-watt, 10-speaker, 8-channel Bose surround sound system), a 7-inch infotainment screen with navigation, and adaptive bi-xenon headlamps. There are some really unique upgrades too, like a parking assist system with multiple view cameras, as well as performance-specific goodies like ceramic composite brakes, an active suspension, torque vectoring, enhanced power steering, a 20-mm lower sport suspension, plus a slew of interior options including genuine aluminum or carbon fibre trim. The list is long and personalization opportunities rich. My favourites? The optional Sport Chrono package is a must-have, especially if you're a horological nut like me, and the sport exhaust system with its raspy tailpipes is another absolute; the sound they make is utterly intoxicating.

But all of the added luxury and size adds up to more mass, right? Actually, with a body shell constructed of 46-percent aluminum and the rest comprised of various grades of high-tensile steel, plus ultra-lightweight magnesium added throughout the cabin and up high in the roof mechanism to lower the Boxster's centre of gravity, the new 2013 Boxster is lighter than its predecessor and therefore more fun to drive while aiding efficiency.

And at $70,585 (including the country's lowest destination fee of $1,085) for the five-speed manual or $74,245 for the PDK automatic, it's a sports car bargain. After all, this isn't some wannabe player with marketing spun pedigree, but a real-deal Porsche, a brand as revered on the track as it is on the street. Truly, the new 2013 Boxster S is one of the best sports cars money can buy.

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