2014 Porsche Boxster S

GREENVILLE, S.C. ā€” At $50,400, you can hardly tout the Boxster as an every-man's Porsche, but it's about as close as you are going to come. Porsche took advantage of Boxster's total makeover last year to not only tweak the performance elements, but to sharpen the styling and upgrade the cabin. In other words, Boxster is still the entry-level Porsche; but you will be hard pressed to find anyone, who has driven the new Boxster, call it that.

Porsche provided a Boxster S for this evaluation. Adding the ā€œSā€ to the nameplate bumps the base price up to $62,100. Ponying up that additional 12 large adds a bigger engine, bi-xenon headlights and 19-inch wheels in place of the base Boxster's 18-inch ones.

If there is one thing most roadsters exude, it's curb appeal. What's the point of having a sports car if it doesn't cultivate a few open-mouthed gawkers along its path. Porsche checked off that box in Boxster's 2013 redesign. Whether blasting down the highway at 70 miles per hour, or straining against its reins while idling at a red light, this droptop demands attention. Walking up on the Boxster, one appearance tell letting you know if it's a the base or an S are the red grabbers on the S's disc brakes.

Both horizontally opposed six-cylinder engines are mounted amidships and do a fine job of getting this two-seater up and moving. Motivating the base car is a 256-horsepower 2.7-liter six, generating 206 lb.ft. of peak torque. Plenty quick enough for most mortals, it can launch Boxster from a standstill to 60 in less than six seconds. But if that's not enough of a thrill, stepping up to the S and its 3.4-liter six that makes 315 horsepower and 266 lb.ft. of torque is rewarded with sub-five-second 0-to-60 sprints. Both engines feature auto start/stop, saving fuel when idled in traffic by transparently shutting off the engine when Boxster is stopped and then restarting it when the accelerator is reapplied.

Hustling engine performance to the rear wheels falls to either the standard six-speed manual transmission or the optional ($3,200) seven-speed automated manual, paddle-shifted transmission. In terms of what the driver must contribute to changing gears, an automated manual is no more demanding than a driver-shiftable automatic found in most cars today. So good is the automatic tranny, most drivers won't suffer any remorse for not sticking with the manual.

Opting for the larger engine to shave that second or so off the 0-to-60 time also means scrubbing a mile or two off the EPA-estimated fuel economy. Both engines, however, post decent numbers for a performance roadster. The EPA predicts combining the 2.7L with the automatic will yield 22 mpg city/32 highway/26 combined. The 3.4L and automatic will deliver 21 mpg city/30 highway and 24 combined.

Whichever handling superlatives spring to mind, you can apply to Boxster. The electronic steering is uber responsive and uncharacteristically communicative. Exceptionally well balanced, Boxster roars though curves as though nailed to the pavement. Engineered to be driven hard, it's as stable and predictable as it is quick and fun to drive. Although tuned with performance in mind, its suspension manages to soak up most pavement irregularities, delivering surprisingly good ride quality.

Furnished for two, the cabin doesn't sacrifice comfort for sporty trappings. Yes, it is a driver-centric cockpit, but driver and passenger alike have plenty of leg and elbow room. Plump side bolsters hold driver and passenger firmly upright; while ample bottom cushions provide gobs of thigh and upper leg support. A nearly three-hour slog from Greenville, SC to Atlanta's airport seemed like a quick run to the corner grocery store.

Interior styling is clean and tidy almost to the point of simplicity. Arranged for ease of driver operation, all key controls and gauges are well within the driver's sight and easy reach. Leather-wrapped, the flat-bottom, three-spoke steering wheel fills the driver's hands.

Cargo space is at a premium. With just 9 cu.ft. of it, Boxster has a bit less luggage and cargo capacity than the Chevrolet Camaro Convertible. But where Camaro's cargo room is concentrated in one spot, Boxster's is divided: a little more than half under the hood and the rest under the rear deck lid.

Operating with the touch of a button, the electric top raises and lowers in less than 10 seconds, which can be accomplished at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. Rear visibility is less than optimum with the top raised. Learning to make the most of the heated power outboard mirrors is a necessity.

Standard features on every Boxster include full power accessories, six-way adjustable power leather-covered seats, trip computer, manual climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, a 7-inch color touchscreen, and a four-speaker audio system with CD player and iPod interface.

Avoid getting a little crazy when checking off options boxes or you could find yourself adding thousands of dollars to the bottom line. Our test Boxster S had more than $25,000 of add-ons.

In terms of pure performance, Boxster is a winner. A blast to drive, it turns heads wherever it goes. Aggressive acceleration, flawless handling and better-than-expected fuel economy earn it high marks. It's a sports car engineered to be driven every day.

Russ Heaps ā€” MyCarData