2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 Porsche Boxster and Porsche Boxster S

Porsche Boxster, left, and Porsche Boxster S
The Porsche Boxster, left, and Porsche Boxster S gained stability control for 2001.

The Porsche Boxster mostly stood pat for 2001 and 2002, with one notable exception. New for 2001 was optional Porsche Stability Management, one of the best antiskid/traction-control systems around.

Also offered on 911s, PSM used data from various sensors to keep the car on its intended path by braking individual wheels and/or throttling back power. It was rather pricey for the Boxster crowd at $1,215, but worth every penny on dark and stormy nights.

The 2002 model year brought sturdier in-dash cupholders to replace flimsy clip-ons, which answered one of Car and Driver's gripes. Base prices by this time had risen to $42,600 for the base Boxster, $51,600 for the S. Tiptronic added $3,210 to either, a navigation system cost $3,540, and "High-Gloss Turbo-Look" 18-inch alloy wheels beefed the base version by $3,745, the S by $2,180.

A freshening occurred for 2003, just as sales were starting to ease a bit. The big change was adoption of Porsche's VarioCam variable intake-valve timing system, still another gift from big-brother 911. This contributed to modest increases in both power and fuel economy, but did less for torque. The 2.7-liter engine now claimed 228 horsepower, up 11. The S-model's 3.2-liter added eight ponies to reach 258.

X-ray veiw of the Porsche Boxster S
An X-ray veiw of the Porsche Boxster S reveals its efficient midengine layout.

Both Boxsters got inch-larger lightweight wheels (17s base, 18s for the S) plus a revised soft top with glass rear window, a third frame rail, and slightly reduced stack height. A dashboard glovebox finally appeared. Exterior changes were limited to horizontal "strakes" over the front and side air intakes, with the latter changed from black to body color.

The Auto Editors of Consumer Guide said the 2003 models' new power cut 0-60-mph times only fractionally for both Boxsters, to about 6.4 seconds for the base version, 5.7 for the S. Testing manual-transmission versions, Consumer Guide averaged 23.3 mpg with the base Boxster, 17.2 with the S. It gave these Boxsters its top rating for handling, and praised a relocation of the climate controls, which placed them above the radio where they were no longer blocked by the gear lever.

Among demerits was an uncomfortably stiff ride on the 18-inch wheels, and some squeaks and rattles from door and window seals over bumps. The speedometer was marked in broad 25-mph increments and reading speed wasn't helped by a supplemental digital readout rendered illegible in the sun's glare.

Some Consumer Guide test drivers judged body rigidity just fine, but some found that the Boxsters' structure flexed more on uneven pavement than that of rivals such as the Honda S2000 and new-for-2003 BMW Z4.

The only news for the 2004 Porsche Boxster was a mid-season "Anniversary Edition" S-model celebrating the Type 550 Spyder that had so influenced the Boxster's design.

The ambitious $59,900 U.S. base price of the Anniversary Edition S included a "re-chipped" engine with six more horsepower; a slightly lowered, wider-track suspension; specific 18-inch wheels; short-throw manual gearbox; silver-painted brake calipers; stainless-steel exhaust pipes; and cocoa-colored top and interior. Only 1,953 were built, referencing the 550's premiere at the 1953 Paris Auto Show.

So why introduce the special in 2004? Because, Porsche said, that would be 50 years from the 550's competition debut in the fabled Carrera Panamericana (Mexican Road Race), where it finished first in class and third overall. Oh, well...

But more-serious changes were just around the corner. In fact, the popular mid-engine Porsche was about to get its first total makeover. Go to the next page to read all about it.

Porsche Boxster S interior
The Porsche Boxster S interior was a great place to enjoy serious driving fun.

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356

Porsche 911

Porsche 914

Porsche 924, 944, 968

Porsche 928

Porsche 959

Porsche Boxster

Porsche Cayenne

Porsche Cayman

For prices, reviews, and more on Porsche from the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, see: