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First Drive: 2013 Porsche Boxster

More 911 than ever.

by on Jun.14, 2012

Porsche delivers a "more mature" Boxster for 2013.

Hollywood executives aren’t the only ones who seem to come up with similar ideas all at the same time.  When Porsche introduced the original Boxster, back in 1997, it hit market about the same time as several other European roadsters, notably including the Mercedes-Benz SLK and BMW Z3.

The Porsche Boxster was clearly the sportiest of the three – though no one would likely confuse it with the German maker’s classic sports car, the 911.  It didn’t have the style, the body stiffness, the power or the performance.  It was, by comparison, something of a youthful toy.

To its credit, each successive generation of the Boxster has gotten better and better.  And during its unveiling in Geneva, last March, when we asked Porsche chief designer Michael Mauer what the goal was with the all-new model his response was simple: “to make it more mature.”  After spending a couple days with the 2013 Porsche Boxster we’d have to say that nails it.

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If there’s a downside, it’s something Porsche should worry about.  The new model is so solid, so nimble and so attractive that those 911 wannabes who might otherwise have to strain to get into the flagship model might now comfortably enjoy – rather than settle for – the Boxster as an alternative.


Mercedes Reportedly Readying SLA Mini-Roadster

Could tackle Audi TT and reported BMW Z2.

by on Sep.06, 2011

A decade-and-some later, Mercedes may finally introduce a version of this SLA concept roadster.

Better late than never, apparently.  More than a decade after showing off its Vision SLA, a concept for a Miata-sized luxury roadster, Mercedes-Benz appears to be ready to bring it to market.

Industry sources indicate the soft-top would not only be the smallest 2-seater in the tri-star line-up but would also be the first to drive the front wheels when it comes to market, apparently as early as next year, if industry scuttlebutt proves accurate.

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That fits with comments made by Mercedes’ U.S. CEO Ernst Lieb, earlier this year, following the unveiling of the latest A-Class concept vehicle at the New York Auto Show.  At the time, Lieb not only confirmed a version of the A-Class will come to the States but hinted that Mercedes would probably have as many as four distinct body styles based on the new platform.

The smallest offering in the Mercedes line-up would go up against the likes of the Miata, or in the luxury segment, the Audi TT and the 1-Series roadster reportedly being developed by BMW.


First Drive: 2009 BMW Z4

What's wrong with doing too much, too well?

by on Apr.28, 2009

BMW hopes to win over snobbish roadster purists with the launch of its all-new update of the Z4.

BMW hopes to win over snobbish roadster purists with the launch of its all-new update of the Z4.

Climbing into the southern extremes of the Swiss Alps, I muscle the ancient roadster into a corner, well aware of the way its skinny tires have begun to slide on the wet pavement.  The guardrails are few, even though the drop-offs are becoming increasingly steep.  As I steadily climb higher, the rain morphs into snow, the wind whipping it in through the open cockpit.

Spend a few hours behind the wheel of an antique BMW 315 and you understand the classic definition of roadster.  Fun, absolutely, but it’s also primitive, cramped even dangerous when road conditions are less than perfect.  So it’s not hard to understand why I jumped at the opportunity to swap out for the car my traveling companion had chosen for the day, a 2009 BMW Z4.

The name may be familiar, but the ’09 roadster is a very different beast from the one you might already know.  It is, for one thing, the first complete makeover of the Z4 since 2002.  Among other things, the Bavarian maker has opted, this time, for a foldaway hardtop, rather than the canvas roof that the old Z4 shared with BMW roadsters dating back to my pre-War 315.