By Emme Hall.
I’ll admit it: I’m a convertible gal. More specifically I am a 2 seater, RWD, convertible gal, making this week’s Autocomparo very difficult indeed. I’ll be looking at the 2013 Porsche Boxster S and the 2013 BMW Z4 sDrive35is, both of which have been on my must-drive list for quite some time. Will this be an agonizing decision or will there be one feature that sets these two cars apart?
The Porsche Boxster S comes with a 3.4L flat-6 engine, knocking out 315 horsepower and 266 lb/ft of torque. This rear-wheel-drive sports car comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, although the 7-speed dual clutch PDK transmission is optional. 60 mph comes in 4.9 seconds with the manual and EPA fuel ratings aren’t too shabby either: 20 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined for the manual, 21/30/24 with PDK. The Boxster S comes standard with 19” wheels, cruise control, air conditioning, Bluetooth, a power operated soft-top, bi-xenon headlights, 6-way adjustable seats, red-painted brake calipers (the red paint makes you stop quicker), and auto stop/start.
If you really want the good stuff on your Boxster, be prepared to open your wallet mighty wide. A Convenience package gets you all comfy with heated seats, a wind deflector, and dual-zone climate control. The Premium package is the former plus 10-way adjustable sport seats, adaptive headlights, and auto-dimming mirrors. If you’re looking for navigation, satellite radio, and iPod connectivity, be prepared to pay for the Infotainment package.
Performance upgrades can be added a la carte, and really, why would you want to skimp here? A mechanical limited-slip rear differential is an absolute necessity, as well as the adaptive suspension. You can also add electronic torque vectoring, ceramic brakes, and parking sensors. Want more? Spring for the Sport Chrono package for a lap timer, driver adjustable chassis settings, and dynamic transmission mounts to mitigate weight transfer during gearshifts.
The mid-engine Boxster is quite possibly one of the most fun cars I’ve ever driven. It’s light and nimble, able to take corners at great speed and it’s confidence inspiring on even the sketchiest of roads. Some might scoff at the Boxster’s spec numbers when compared to the 911, but those in the know understand that this is one hell of a ride. The car comes off the line quickly and screams gloriously through the high revs. Shifts are short and precise, throttle response is quick, and smiles are aplenty.
Porsche recently switched from its much-lauded hydraulic-assist steering to electric-assist and the world nearly drown in the tears of Porsche purists. I was skeptical at first, as I’ve been an old school hydraulic gal from day one. But the Germans have brought some kind of steering voodoo and produced an electric system that is quick and precise. It has just enough heft to it and you can still feel every pebble on the road. This is the electric-assist system all steering should aspire to be.
The BMW Z4 sDrive35is gets a 3.0L TwinPower Turbo inline 6 cylinder engine, good for 335 hp and 332 lb/ft of torque, with an overboost increasing torque to 369 lb/ft. Power is put to the rear wheels via a dual clutch transmission, so two pedal is all you get, people. 0 becomes 60 mph in 5 seconds and EPA fuel ratings are 17 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway, and 19 mpg combined.
The sDrive35is comes standard with 18” wheels, power retractable hardtop, sport seats, cruise control, Bluetooth, HD radio, iPod connectivity, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, dual zone climate control, a sport steering wheel, lowered suspension, and some unique styling details to set it apart from the other Z4 models.
You can also pony up for optional packages. The Technology package adds navigation, real time traffic, voice control, BMW Apps, The Cold Weather package offers heated seats and steering wheel and retractable headlight washers. Like Porsche, you could also feed a small country with the money spent on stand-alone options. Parking sensors, satellite radio, 6-CD changer, steering wheel paddle shifters, an upgraded sound system, and the BMW Apps interface are among the options available.
The Z4 rides more like a luxury treat yourself kind of car, rather than the roadster it purports to be. It’s about 500 pounds heavier than the Boxster S, which becomes obvious the first time you throw it into a turn. The standard run flat tires combined with the electric power steering make for some rather numb feedback, and while there are front and rear stabilizer bars to keep you feeling fairly well planted in the corners, there is no limited slip differential to up your confidence even further. The ride is more compliant than the Boxster and it feels very solid at high speeds, with minimal wind noise, top up or down.
The 2013 Porsche Boxster S starts at $60,900 and the 2013 BMW Z4 sDrive35is starts a bit higher at $64,200. Keep in mind that all the goodies will increase your final price on both these cars substantially. I got up to $88,425 on the build your Boxster page on the Porsche website, and I hadn’t even gotten to interior options.
Despite the expensive options, the winner of todays comparo is the Boxster for two reasons: 1) you’re just more connected in the car. You don’t sit in a Boxster, you wear it. It’s all-engaging and encompasses your soul like no other car can. 2) It comes standard with a 6 speed manual transmission, while the Z4 restricts me to two pedals only. Sure if I HAD to drive a car with two pedals, PDK is the way to go, but a car like the Boxster deserves a manual. Hell, *I* deserve a manual, and so do you. Get thee to the Porsche dealership.