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Sports Cars - The Definitive Discussion



  • With the exception of the back seat, the Vette (on my top 5 list of favorite cars of all time) has all those things you've mentioned.

    Is this to say that all sports cars must be two seat coupes? Has the definition of sports car not evolved as much as the automotive landscape as a whole? Sure there are basic elements that comprise every sports car that is a sports car (and I think enough of everyone within this forum to know what those elements are).

    However, are we to continually limit ourselves to thinking that a buckboard ride and no amenities are the final bastions of sports car-dom? Or can a compromise be met? Is it possible to be able to handle well and provide a supple ride? Can I take off faster than Jennifer Lopez in matrimony while carrying, dare I say... groceries? Have manufacturers come far enough in their processes to be able to race a chassis season after season, only to have it serve double duty in the consumer market as a coupe, convertible, sedan and estate (wagon)?

    I just can't limit myself to the notion that just because a vehicle can do one thing, it cannot be classified as another. If it can do both, then it earns both titles and should wear them well. Don't tell me that just because I'm studious do my homework every night, I shouldn't be able to run the 40m in less than 5 secs, and the 100m in less than 11. Don't tell me that because I'm a hard working mechanic or technician, that I can't get dressed up after hours and waltz with my wife because I'm better at it than she is.

    Finally, please don't tell me that a sports car can't have power seats, back seats, cupholders and [gasp!] a trunk. I'll take the Pepsi challenge against the best out there when my M5 gets here. Don't for one second think that my 500bhp and well sorted suspension won't do the talking for me on either road or track against any sports car out there. There may be better sports cars out there, but that doesn't disqualify me from being included among them.
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    I guess the 'thing' about passing Boxsters started when I started reading international sports car mags and some US versions. All the reviews would go on about how great the Boxster was and ignore the Corvette, in a tight autocross I'd have to give them the point. But, on a road track the Boxster's I've seen, even with more experienced drivers don't show me much, not even the S. I'm not that experienced, hey the first time I passed a Miata I was happy, it doesn't take much from where I started.
    A stock Corvette from just last year to 3+ years ago when I got one, set up for the track is mid $40's to under $40k, actual price of two in our garage. Compare that to the Boxster out the door before tax and licence and Shifty is right, the Vette is a much better deal. And that applies to touring as well as performance.
    Then again most people I meet at the track are very helpful, as I try to be now to those just starting. Some Porsche drivers, well let's just say they weren't always so helpful. But that's individuals, it just struck me early on. One in particular in a Boxster S who really seemed upset when I passed him the first time I went to a Driving Event after having been to a race school for a couple days and had one day in my car with professional instruction. All he knew was that it was my first track event and I was riding with an instructor, all of which was true if not the whole story. I just grinned a lot. :D He thought he belonged in a higher group but the event promoter didn't. My passing him was sort of the final straw in his coping skills. He complained but my instructor said it was a very safe pass of someone who was holding up traffic. They usually aren't that blunt. :blush:
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    I agree, except about the pricing, as noted above. I've been passed by WRX's and Evo's and don't worry about it too much, they are nice Rally cars and very fast when handled well. But, I too don't see them as something I would enjoy driving, either on the street or at the track.

    As for the M5, gosh, having seen what I've seen in M3's I expect that I would be very impressed. Now the best I've seen have Dinan suspension but even stock they are amazing, but again, I'll take the bang for the buck! Hey even the C5 has one cup holder, useless as it is. ;)
  • xkssxkss Posts: 722
    The M5 is less of a "sports car" than the original M5.

    The new M5 lacks a driver-oriented interior.

    has too many gizmos.

    doesn't have a manual transmission.

    now as to the new M5 keeping up with a new Z06.

    The new Corvette Z06 weighs around 900 pounds less than the new M5. Hmmmm...

    TVR seems to make some awesome sports cars.

  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Now that brand would add a lot of zest and color to the U.S. sports car market. They're such unique cars.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,445
    nah, an M5 doesn't even come close to my personal conception of a sports car---what I mean by that, is the mental image that comes to my mind when I hear the word "sports car".

    When someone says "beautiful woman" I don't think of a woman in her 50s, although she may be beautiful by the standards of a 50 year old. When someone says "island in the sea" I don't think of Long Island, yet it qualifies.

    I guess I mean that the term "sports car" has a visceral meaning, an "archtypal" meaning beyond mere logical argument. Power seats and automatic tranmission? How can that be?

    Z06---awesome car, but I simply don't like Corvette styling at all and never have since 1958. Z06 is BETTER than C5 but that butt is terrible IMHO. Also too BIG--same complaint with Ferrari, so settle down---

    I don't like sportscars with tires the width of road rollers, and 7 feet wide door to door. It's too much work (for me) to drive them fast on the narrow roads I like up here in Marin county. Even my 928 is sometimes a pain for this reason. It's got a heavy response. When I switch to my friends 911 it's like a ballerina compared to a hippo.

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  • skeezixskeezix Posts: 45
    How come you don't like big rears on cars? Your 928 has a big rear, doesn't it?
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    Maybe it's just big square rears which are a problem while those big round rears are better.

    Wait, we're talking about cars, right? ;)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,445
    I'm not particularly fond of my car's butt either but yes, I really never liked the Kammback style or any hint of it....while the 928 is too bulbous in the back at least it isn't a kammback. I think kammback really dates a car and dooms it to oblivion.

    At least the 928's big butt is functional. It's a full hatchback and you could stuff a piano in there...I got a refrigerator in mine once.

    Also I don't like plastic cars of any kind, as long as we're all talking about ME.

    This includes fiberglass, kevlar, plastic, etc.

    I want metal, I want curves, I want two seats, I want lotsa noise, great handling---basically a totally useless car for anything other than having fun.

    Making a sports car "useful" is the Kiss of Death in my book.

    Oh, do I think than that a Porsche 928 is a sports car?

    No, it's a genuine GT car -- (definition: two people, real fast, in comfort and luxury, for long distances).

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  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    "I really never liked the Kammback style or any hint of it...."

    I dunno - I've kinda got a soft spot for the Cobra Daytona Coupe look. I think the Kammback style looks very 'purposeful'; just what a true 'sportscar' should look like.

    "No, it's a genuine GT car --"

    I'm glad someone finally brought this up: when we discuss "Sports Cars" (and the associated 'what is' and 'what is not' a Sports Car), it seems as though inevitably everyone splits into 2 camps:

    1. Sports Car as a distinctly different class of automobile (ie: a "Sports Car" is not a "GT" which is not a "Sports Sedan" which is not a "Sporty Coupe" which is not a "Muscle Car"). In other words, a particular vehicle falls into only ONE category. So, a Celica is a 'sporty coupe' (not a 'sports car'), a 928 is a 'GT' (not a 'sports car'), and a BMW 3-series is a 'sports sedan' (not a 'sports car').

    2. Sports Car as an overall umbrella classification which can be broken down further into different types of cars. Under this definition, virtually anything 'sporty' is a 'sports car'.

    Perhaps we should kick it around a bit to see if we can reach some consensus about whether or not 'sports cars' should be a seperate distinct classification or if it is simply an overall umbrella term?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,445
    Maybe the Cobra coupe works better as a Kammback because of the short rear deck. Also it's so incredibly rare (only 58 I believe) that nobody cares what it looks like, they just want one. Some Kammbacks are more tolerable than others but it is a "severe" body form. I think there really was a Dr. Kamm, too.

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  • designmandesignman Posts: 2,129
    How about the four-man bobsled? Is that any less of a “sports car” than the two-man version? M5 and M3... your IN baby!!!

  • designmandesignman Posts: 2,129
    “Some Porsche drivers, well let's just say they weren't always so helpful. But that's individuals, it just struck me early on. One in particular in a Boxster S…”

    I figured there was some social element to your disdain for Boxsters. Certain impressions are hard to shed, and arrogance is probably the surest ticket to a negative impression no doubt. I have heard that Porsche owners are helpful to each other at track events, but then again this is within the Porsche fraternity. Personally, I consider myself a member of the sports-car fraternity first, not the brand fraternity. Even though there are particular sports cars I would never buy, I basically like most of them. So whenever I see anyone with ANY sports car, I feel an immediate connection, regardless of their reasons for owning one.
  • xkssxkss Posts: 722
    The new Corvette is nearly the same length as a new 911.
  • scott1256scott1256 Posts: 531
    I notice sales of the Cadillac XLR are up substantially in March and April. My choice in this market would be an SL or a Corvette but the XLR presents an interesting alternative.

    XLR sales have been mostly in the 250-300 range since introduction. March and April 05 sales were 453 and 502 units respectively. This is about half Mercedes SL sales but a big increase for the XLR. We'll see if it continues.
  • designmandesignman Posts: 2,129
    Think of common English usage versus accepted usage. Pronunciation of the word "nuclear" as "nu-kye-lar" is nearly sanctioned by Webster's. Even though there are luminaries who use the corrupted version, they'll look at you sideways in literary circles if you pronounce it this way. So it is very easy to understand the purists' thumbs-down on sport sedans and such.

    Anyway, here's a link that wrangles mildly with the definition of a sports car:;jsessionid=1bl9m817so6pq?method=4&dsid=2222&dekey=Spor- - ts+car&gwp=8&curtab=2222_1&sbid=lc01b

    Shifty… After reading over my post #140 I'm thinking it may have appeared smug and contentious toward you. Sorry if it came across as such, this was not my intention. Sometimes the wriitten word belies the thought and tone.

    scott1256… Don't forget this is the roadster-buying season. What's the discount story with XLR?

    Merc… I'll get to the Mustang sooner or later.
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    Great link and thanks for the info! Now the next Boxster I see, I'll have to just think of it as an overpowered Miata and be helpful, anyway, given the limitations noted.

    Good read about the current One Lap and car vs. driver skills.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,445
    No, you weren't smug or contentious....that's MY job around here :P

    I like that sports car definition....rather says it all.

    I realize everyone wants to be in the fraternity but I'll never call a 4-door sedan a sports car until I'm in my grave, so fahgeddaboutit.

    You have to draw a line in the sand, as difficult as that is, and some are IN and some are OUT---otherwise, welcome, folks to the new Tower of Babble and your new Kia 4-door "sports car".

    Compromise has always rendered language meaningless. Isn't that where most of the ridiculous "PC" langauge comes from---trying to include everybody in everything?

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  • scott1256scott1256 Posts: 531
    You are right, it is roadster season. What surprises me is that XLR sales are so much higher this year compared to March/April of 2004.

    As far as discounts - in Jan/Feb 05 there were some higher discounts ($4,000+ off MSRP). Maybe this cleared out inventory.

    Most XLR sales now are closer to MSRP. CarsDirect is currently $1,000 off MSRP for Miami and other buying services are up as well.
  • It's understood that you refuse to see the other side of things, Shifty. I still respect your opinion on this board and continue to look forward to your educated and witty remarks.

    I hope you weren't referring to my calling the M5 a sports car in your most recent post. Even though I've accepted the fact that, in your eyes, the M5 will never be a sports car, I can't accept the grouping of said M5 with a Kia costing 13 grand. Even if it is your view, I just can't see a consumer, enthusiast, journalist or salesperson putting a $80K+ "super sedan" (gotta love that moniker) within the same category (or being excluded from the same category) a workaday econobox. I just can't,
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,445
    No, no, I meant that if we include the M5 as a sports car, then ANYONE owning ANY kind of sedan will demand entry into the club....and in a weird way, they be right, based on appearances alone.

    So to avoid this, we have the category "sports sedan" which is another branch of SPORT. It's a sedan but one with awesome performance---goodbye Hyundai..

    If there were no such thing as two seater, very light, agile, very small convertibles and coupes, then an M5 could be a sports car I suppose...but how on earth can an S2000 and an M5 be in the same class? They couldn't be more different.

    The whole idea of "definition" is to differentiate, in other words.

    So for inexpensive coupes with spoilers and fancy wheels, we have the category "sporty sedans"---that is the appearance of sport without putting the rubber on the road to prove it. A Sebring convertible is a "sporty" car, no doubt about it, but will it hang with a German sports sedan---no, the suspension and brakes will protest mightily in a short time. I've cooked the brakes and tires on many a pretend "sports car" in 15 minutes or less.

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  • speeds2muchspeeds2much Posts: 164
    No doubt this definition of "sports car" versus sports sedan, GT, etc. is significant.

    I think I encountered this difference over the weekend during a test drive of the 997. Have to say (and I know I'm opening myself up for criticism) the car didn't drive and feel like a sports car to me. I was disappointed and surprised. What I expect from a sports car (or even a sport GT) is a glued-to-the-road feeling, along with sharp turn-in and quickness. The 997 is truly a GT imo. Engine pulls like a locomotive in mid-high doubt about that. But there's way too much motion going on underneath. The car bobbed and pitched over bumps in "Normal" PSM mode, then buttoned down noticeably in "Sport" mode...although not enough for me. I found it difficult to set the nose into a line, in part because there's not enough visbility of the road ahead from the seating position. I found the ride supple, even soft, and knew I'd want the -20mm sport suspension, which apparently is a must for the track. Also thought the sport shifter would be a worthwhile option because the throws were a little long. So the options list seems to be Porsche's admission that it's not a total "sports car," otherwise why would they offer a sport suspention and sport shifter? What got me the most, though, is that I'm not the kind of guy who wants to get beaten up on the road in order to brag about lap times, yet craved more sport in this car...the car was just too soft. If anything, going into the test drive I expected to find the car too wild for my tastes. Go figure. :confuse:

    As a GT the car also failed imo, primarily because the car idles far too roughly. The "shimmy" described in some reviews was more a "bouncing" and "shaking," a la 60s muscle car. Again, I was surprised Porsche engineers dialed in this much roughness in their $80K flagship!? It said to me: you all think the 911 got too soft, okay, jerks, how's THIS for you? :surprise:

    I think the Boxster S, having driven one, feels like a sports car. Sharp and responsive, easy to find a line. The Cayman S will probably be a true driver's car, too. Why is it, though, that in 2005 it's hard to find a true sports GT at any price south of $200,000? The Jag XK coupe doesn't even offer a manual transmission.

    BTW, I drove a BMW 330ci after the 911 and thought that's it, quiet inside but taut, sharp, quick. Better overall imo and far less $$. So maybe I'm really a Bimmer kinda guy, after all. May have to buy one and then dream about having a Boxster as a 2nd car. :shades:
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,445
    I think the Boxster S is the best, overall, balanced, "can do it all" sportscar at the moment.

    The 997 requires (speaking for myself) a higher skill level to drive at 9/10th than a Corvette or a Boxster, and I don't quite have that level. Also I don't like the 996/997 engines as much as the 993s---I think the 993 engine is stronger and better built by far. One reason I think so is that you can buy a 996 crate engine for only $7,000 bucks. To rebuild a 993 would cost $12K easy.

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  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    Well you convinced me that I need to go out and test drive a Boxster S again. Especially after getting word that the earliest I could get a 997 911S Convertible would be late this year or early next.

    The one psychological problem I will have is that the Boxster S costs twice as much as a Honda S2000 - which I owned from 2001 to 2004. In some ways, it is easier justifying three times the price for a 911 that, for the time being, can seat my two daughters in the back seat. But heck, you might consider that as ample reason to defrock the 911 of a "sports car" label.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,445
    I feel your pain, and the Honda S2000 is a great car for the money, but after all, it's still a Honda and feels and looks like a Japanese car ( for better and for worse). Can you say NSX? Same thing happened to that car. On paper it looked great, they are extremely competent and fast, and they run great, too---- and on paper you'd say "why on earth would someone buy a Ferrari?" But they did anyway, and the NSX has always struggled for sales.

    My theory is that people with some money in their pockets are not stupid. If they are choosing a Boxster S over a Honda S2000, they are making a decision based on something more than Pavlovian slobbering over a marketing scheme. They must see something in the S that makes it worth it to them.

    What that something is might vary from buyer to buyer, and sure, prestige IS a part of the sports car market. But there is in fact something "german" about a German car, in looks and feel, that you don't get in a Japanse car, and vice-versa. Some people HATE how german cars drive and both ways.

    I'm just glad that sports cars today DO feel and look so different.

    I'll confess...when I see an S2000 I have to look hard---is it an MR2? From 300 100 yards, is it a Miata?

    But I see a Boxster and I know what it is. I like that when I'm choosing a car.

    I saw a very funny but very CRUEL bumpter sticker about Miatas but I can't post it, sorry.

    I'd spec race a Miata in a heartbeat but wouldn't own one for the reasons stated above---my own hangups.

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  • All this time I thought I was the only one with reservations about the 997 after driving one in Miami a few weeks ago. It probably didn't help that I was cross-shopping between the new 997 S, and a 1996 993 Turbo. It wasn't the outright engine power I was monitoring mainly because the Turbo had been modified by Ruf.

    I was paying more attention to the compression/rebound settings of the suspension on this "sportier" model. The amount of vertical motion, while better than a lot of sports cars out there, wasn't what it used to be in the 993. The Turbo's shock/spring settings had been left untouched by Ruf, so a bit of a head to head comparison was unknowingly staged.

    The 993 rode like a proper GT in a straight line just as the 997 did. Throw in a 20mph bumpy freeway on ramp, however, and the difference couldn't be more apparent. The 993 soaked up the cracks and dips like nobody's business, yet maintained it's composure with a minimal amount of body movement. The 997 felt as if it had something to prove, chattering over certain sections of the freeway while its low profile tires kept my backside on edge.

    I then drove the standard Boxster (the Boxster S was out on another test drive) and everything I couldn't stand about the 997 was remedied with one lap around the block.

    I too am a BMW driver, but my notion going into the test was that a new 997, standard or S, would be able to have more composure than some guy's modified 325i. I left the store both disappointed and happy simultaneously.

    My suggestion? If there's ever an alternative to the 997, it's either the Boxster S or a 1996 993 Turbo.
  • spark123spark123 Posts: 1
    oh god, the euro snobbery on this forum... Mr Shiftlight you make it sound like being Japanese or "just a Honda" is a bad thing. Since when did reliability (something no German car can claim) become a bad thing? With that kind of attitude, I suppose it may be hard to give any Japanese car praise.
    And if you say that the S2000 "feels" like any other Japanese car out there, then you clearly haven't driven many Japanese cars. And by feel, I am hoping you are not talking about the interior materials, which is definitely NOT the most important part of a sportscar!

    If you are actually giving the S2000 a real and fair review, then I suppose you aren't really a purist or enthusiast driver... you want comfort in your "sportscar", and would be willing to compromise performance, weight, and agility to get luxury. Lets face it, most modern German cars are geared more towards luxury than performance (excluding the Porsche GT2/GT3/GT3RS/CGT). Not that luxury is a bad thing (I own a 545i as my daily). But... luxury equals weight, and weight is no good for a true sportscar.

    You really have to admire the wonderful chassis of the S2000... it has none of the drawbacks of being a convertible; it is still lightweight, rigid, no scuttle shake, and is one of the most agile cars sold today (even though it is a 5 year old design). It transmits every nuance of the road without becoming a jarring ride. A true enthusiast's car. You might say that the S2000 has a twitchy rear end, but I would love to twitch the S2000 on a tight race track, feeding in some opposite lock while the high revving powerplant is blaring in my ears. Your comparison of the S2000 to the Miata is a complement, as the Miata is a wonderful car (both in looks and in driving dynamics), regardless of the negative stereotypes that popular culture has applied to it. The Miata, afterall, was the spring board to the modern roadster. The S2000 is not for everyone. It takes a skilled driver to drive it to its full potential. Average drivers may be happier in a Boxster S, as it is more driver friendly... a "safer" car.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    It's all relative, Shifty.

    I'm now in a fortunate financial position where a Ferrari 430, if I could actually get one, would put less of a dent in my net worth than the Honda S2000 did in 2001. But, in my brief discussions with the Ferrari sales manager, I was immediately turned off by his indication that 8,000 miles a year over 3-4 years would "kill" the resale value of a 430. The highest mileage 360 they had taken in on trade was about 25,000 miles and it took a $30k hit compared to models with under 10,000 miles. So the ultimate sports car is supposed to sit in one's garage 95% of the time??

    I don't disagree with you that the Boxster S and S2000 go about there business in very different ways. Frankly, I would have thought you, the far more discerning definer of "sports car" might have said anything with a redline of under 7,500 doesn't qualify. The Boxster falls nearly 1,000 rpm short. The new BMW M5 exceeds it by over 500 rpm. And on this particular dimension of sports car-i-ness, the S2000 has much more in common with the Ferrari 430 than does the Boxster.

    I doubt I will buy another S2000 just to prove my point. Been there, done that. But I sure hope that the performance and "feel" of the new 280 hp Boxster S impresses me a lot more than the 2002 model did. It was a fine sportscar, but only matched the performance of the S2000 and did not have the fun to drive factor of the higher redline or tighter, crisper gearbox.

    P.S. Your theory that "people with some money in their pockets are not stupid" is worth reconsidering. There are a lot of folks in my area with more money than brains. And although my own net worth has gone up about ten fold in the last four years, I could only wish that I was actually smarter than before.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,445
    Hahaha..."everybody is a genius in a bull market" as they say.....

    I think some of you are reflecting your own sensitivity about Honda....if you read my post I didn't say one bad thing about the S2000 and only commented that a) the styling is somewhat derivative, and b) that it "feels" like a Japanese car....which it does to me....who else's feelings can I tap into directly? I've driven great Japanese cars, especially EVOs where I have a lot of seat time, and they also feel just like Japanese cars feel -- by that I mean the engine note, ergonomics, even the smell. You could blindfold me and put me in either a Corvette, Honda S2000 or a Boxster and I'd know in ten seconds which one I was in. Of course, I can't drive like that---well maybe on an airfield or at Burning Man or something....LOL!!

    Anyway, I am sorry if you are touchy about such mild criticisms, but giving that they represent my subjective opinions about how things "feel", I think they are defensible. Also you just blew right by my far more severe criticism of how the 997 feels to me. I was nicer to Honda than Porsche and you slap me for being rotten to Honda. My jaw dropeth mightily :P

    Not only that, but how cars "feel" are MAJOR factors in the buying process of sports cars, as we've seen time and time again in this forum.

    I mean really, think about it. A company say like Porsche makes a certain type of car for 40 years---you don't think there is strong genetic material in the product? I do. And S2000s have Honda genetic material in them. That's why they feel Japanese. I am driving not just a 2005 Honda, but 30 years of Honda in America.

    As for habitat's comment:

    " But I sure hope that the performance and "feel" of the new 280 hp Boxster S impresses me a lot more than the 2002 model did"

    I think it will. All cars improve. I hated the old S2000 transmission and I didn't like the power peaks at all. I felt like I was driving a big motorcycle with a very light flywheel. Had fun but wouldn't drive one every day. Now I hear the 2005 has ironed out some of this. So I also need to take another spin someday.

    Oh, there is no ideal sportscar that will win our hearts forever...I've looked all my life (sigh).

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  • speeds2muchspeeds2much Posts: 164
    Ultimatedriver, your comparison of the 993 Turbo vs the 997 explains to me why many hang onto their's not just a matter of nostalgia. I haven't driven a Boxster S since 2001, and expect the wider track with the 05 update makes the 997 premium even less justified. That said, I can appreciate the selling point of having the rear jump seats. For those with small kids, it's a binary outcome, really.

    BTW, on the S2000, I actually like the front's wedge styling. Looks great coming down the road. The rear is way too generic for my tastes. But overall, it's one fine sports car and I wouldn't fault anyone for choosing an S2000 over a Boxster S. The Honda name has reverse snob appeal, too. The Boxster's main rational selling point, imo, is space (both storage and interior). Other advantages over the Honda would be torque, engine sound, interior quality and winter capability. But for a 3-season open-top car with an all-out personality, the Honda's hard to beat, especially for someone who wants to be understated. Hmmm...except for the Elise, but I digress, that's a street-legal go-cart....

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