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Sports Cars - The Definitive Discussion



  • kyfdxkyfdx Posts: 70,240
    Get the Boxster S..

    Then, send me the $42K, and I can get one, too.. ;)


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  • kyfdxkyfdx Posts: 70,240
    I don't think either the SLK or the Boxster would be that enjoyable as a 4-season car in the NE...

    What about a 3-series BMW or an Audi A4 convertible (Quattro would be nice)..

    Not what I would call a sports car... but, definitely sporty..



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  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    Comments on the Boxster:

    The Boxster S I am considering is fairly quiet compared to my old Honda S2000, both at highway speeds and under hard acceleration. However, it is a sports car, not a Lexus sedan.

    My golf clubs fit into the rear trunk, barely, without having to remove the driver. It's a medium size Calloway bag.

    Slick roads are going to be tough for any serious sports car with OEM summer performance tires. The Boxster S I am considering has 19" wheels. The base Boxster comes with 17" standard and you should be able to find more all-season alternatives that should help a little. My old S2000 was a disaster on packed snow. Whatever we get will be a third car and, although I expect to use it year round, will have something else as a back up in the worst weather.

    My wife and I live in DC and our 2005 Acura MDX is the first automatic transmission either of us has owned in 30+ years of driving. I have never found city congestion any less frustrating with an automatic, nor have I found it more difficult to endure with a stick. I strongly prefer the control of a true manual in all driving conditions. In the case of the Boxster, the tiptronic is both expensive and poorly performing. I'd consider a different car before getting the Boxster with tiptronic.
  • topspin628topspin628 Posts: 373
    I had a 330i auto with sport package and loved it, but just looking for something else, although the convert. would be a nice car. I found with that car that by putting proper snow tires for winter, it was a little tank and I never had a problem. (You know there were some of us driving before SUV's and front wheel drive cars so I'm not that worried). I was wondering if the same change to proper tires for sports cars also does the trick. I've never owned this category and I'm dating myself a bit, but I still need a car that has good AC, is reliable and can handle the elements since it would be my daily driver. That said, when there's a big storm forecasted, I don't need to head out.
    Are the new Boxsters reliable? Are they comfortable for a 2 hour stretch? I've heard that the S2000 is quite an assault on the senses so that wouldn't be for me.
    Any thoughts on the TT although in convert. form I don't think I could fit golf clubs which would eliminate it for me.

    Any takes on the S4 or A4 convert. Is the S4 worth the premium? I'm not a speed demon but like a bit of attitude in my car.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    Given your "assault on the senses" comment regarding the Honda S2000, I think you need to spend a lot more seat time test driving the various cars you are considering. I myself am dangerously close to 50 and did not find the 2002 S2000 I owned to be nearly as bad as some suggest. I put 18,000 miles on the car in 2.5 years. However, I always had a Nissan Maxima on the bench in the event of poor weather, the need to carry additional passengers or when I just didn't feel like driving a sports car into the city. If I had not had a back-up, I might have found having only the S2000 frustrating at times.

    I am going through a bit of a similar dilemma now trying to decide if I want to get a Boxster S or, possibly, the new 997 911 S Convertible. I've been thinking that perhaps, if I got the 911, I could give up my 2004 Acura TL and make the 911 my only (our second) car, rather than our third (wife has an MDX). The rear seat in the 911 is just large enough to cart my kids on short hops. Not sure where I'm going to come out on this, but the idea of a $100k 911 as my only daily driver is a mental stretch for someone who has only bought Japanese for 30 years on the basis of affordable reliability. It doesn't help that my Acura TL 6-speed I would be giving up is an excellent combination of practicality and sportiness.

    The Boxster, 911 (and S2000) are real sports cars. The S4 or A4 convertible, 330cic and other convertibles are not. I am far too happy with my TL 6-speed to want to simply have a topless coupe, in addition or instead. As for the Audi TT, it is the worst of all worlds, IMO. It's marginally more sporty than a VW Beetle and has less room for golf clubs than a Honda S2000.

    I feel like the blind trying to lead the blind in offering any advice to you, given my indecision. But I stand by my recommendation that you take time to test drive all of your options extensively. What may be one person's "assault on the senses" daily driver may be just perfect for someone else's third car.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Though kyfdx does have an interesting suggestion about that extra 42K, I vote for the 911. Extra seat and better looks imo.

  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    I think the Audi S4 Cabriolet would be perfect for what you're looking for. Awd, power, relatively roomy and I think it can handle the golf bags. The regular A4 cabrios are just too slow imo. The S4 Cab has the attitude you're looking for.

  • The first question that only you can answer is: do you want a real sports car or "just" a sporty convertible?

    Regarding the Audi A4 or S4 convertibles, I am of the opinion that these are overweight vehicles of modest long term quality. I drove the S4 and M3 back to back on a few occasions before deciding to buy an M5. I know that Audi has come a long way since their Audi 5000 debacle, but they are still far inferior to BMW in terms of driving dynamics, IMO. And in spite of putting a lot of effort into their interiors, they just don't hold up mechanically or fit and finish wise after about 60,000 miles. Their low long term resale values appear to reflect this observation.

    But back to my orignial point. The Boxster and S2000 are sports cars. If that's really what you want , you won't get the same feeling (or fun) driving a convertible coupe. On the other hand, if you really need the versitility of a coupe with a rear seat and larger trunk space, then quit teasing yourself with a sports car.

    I would take an M3 or even 330cic over the S4, however. The S4 weighs as much as my 5-passenger, much larger, more powerful and better suspensioned M5. Way too much for even a sporty convertible, let alone a sports car.
  • It seems like the new SLK350 is right up your alley as far as what you're looking for in a car. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a sports car, so much as it's a comfy GT with sporting intentions.

    It's dynamics are good enough for the occasional weekend romp, and when the weather turns inclement, it's stability control will keep you out of the woods. It's not an outright scraper as some of the other cars suggested to you in previous posts, so you don't have to feel bad about driving it everyday over less then perfect roads. However it's engine is good for a sub 5 second sprint to 60 mph when conditions permit, just in case you feel like goosing it a bit.

    The fit and finish are without question, and there's even a modicum of style thrown in for extra measure. The resale value is as high as resale values are these days if you worry about that type of thing. If not, then it'll serve as perfectly reliable transportation with an excellent warranty.

    I'm a devoted BMW driver, but I'm gonna go with the Benz on account of the fact that BMW's offerings don't carry enough tasteful style, in my opinion, to give you what you're looking for.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Very interesting take on the SLK350 from a BMW fan.

  • Driving is what I do. I've not yet seen a practical car that has a better overall driving experience than my E36 M3 sedan. It's the best in terms of dynamics and utility. It's got my 4 doors for the very rare occasion that I decide to carry passengers.

    The new SLK is a better piece going down the road that it's predecessor. The steering is a bit light for my taste, but it's as accurate as German cars get. It exercises restraint as well.

    I've driven the Z4 and find it to be as capable as any roadster. It's well built and handles beautifully. I wish there were a bit more engine in the thing (like the magnesium-block N52 3.0L DOHC straight six), but overall it's exactly what I'd want in a roadster. Right up until someone has to see you in the thing.

    I'm not sure what type of outer world mind control Chris Bangle has obtained over the execs at BMW, but this model year it's finally wearing off. It took said executives realizing a screw up on every model of their sedan line for exactly one model year to realize their mistake.

    Driving is one thing. Being seen in what you're driving is an entirely different thing. The Benz's style is more substantial the the BMW's driving.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    "However it's engine is good for a sub 5 second sprint to 60 mph when conditions permit, just in case you feel like goosing it a bit."

    If in "goosing" you mean driving it off a 200 foot cliff, then perhaps you are right. But that is the only way an SLK350 is ever going to achieve a sub 5 second 0-60 sprint.

    I have been test driving everything under $100k just to make sure that if I take the plunge on a new 997 911S Cabriolet I don't have any buyers remorse. In the roadster category, the SLK w/ auto is only marginally impressive, IMO. The sport shift mode is a joke. I can drink a coffee in the time it takes the transmission to shift after I've flipped the lever. I only got one chance to drive the 6-speed and it was in a light rain, but it did not feel noticably quicker. The SLK is a lot more luxurious and quiet getting to speed, but I am quite sure that it is no quicker than a 2005 S2000 - in the mid 5.5 second range. The new Boxster S, with 280 hp is in a different league in both acceleration and handling, and it's still only tested at 5.0.

    Caution, don't try the 911 unless you are thinking of buying one. The 997 S is rated by Porsche at 4.6 seconds, but I've seen road tests from 3.9 to 4.2. I believe them, but I still haven't decided if I want to part with $100k.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    I think BMW is going to do another 4-door M3 this time around.

    Driving is one thing. Being seen in what you're driving is an entirely different thing. The Benz's style is more substantial the the BMW's driving.

    Very interesting, again. This new SLK is the first one that I actually wouldn't mind having. I usually wouldn't want such a "small" car but it really is so much better made than the previous one. It also, like you said drives much better. I really could go for the SLK55. That is one hot little car imo. I know our friend habitat1 wouldn't go near it because of its automatic only status. Why he is waffling between a mere boxster and a 911 S Cabrio is beyond me..? Get the 911!!!! :P

  • Sub 6 second sprint. My apologies for the typo.
  • The handbuilt motor under the hood of the SLK55 AMG is worth the nearly seventy large alone. I guess it's a good thing you get a great car to go with it. Again it's not a sports car in the out and out sense of the Boxster S or 997, but it'll blow by the former in the quarter on it's way to within half a second of the latter. All while being coddled in typical Benz fashion.

    It handles as well as it's chassis will allow it, but it may meed more tire to maximize those heavy spring rates.

    It may not have perfected sports car imitation, but it's got dragster down to a tee. I can't wait to see if AMG decides to put its bespoke 6.2L 7200rpm DOHC V8 under the hood. Probably not,but you never know how far the Germans will take this horsepower war.
  • topspin628topspin628 Posts: 373
    OK, I admit that I am new to this category and it only recently entered my mind that I might be ready for a sports car (can you say mid life crisis?)

    I love the way the boxster looks and from all I've read it is one heck of a car but not for me and maybe will rule out this entire category for me. I test drove a base with manual transmission and mind you, I am looking at this for a daily driver in mostly urban areas with an occasional jaunt into the country for some fun. Anyway, I found the visibility to be a bit of a problem in that I felt I was sitting way down almost recessed into the car. I think I could have gotten used to that but the thing that would wear me out was the constant sound of the engine (I know this is blasphemy). It's a great sports car sound but to me it made a lot of noise before it really accelerated and then stayed loud at cruising. It seemed almost artificially pumped into the car. I truly respect all who love that aspect and I understand it, but it would get old for me after an hour or so. To each his own. Is the 911 as vocal? Perhaps a GT is more my taste. I found the BMW engines to have a very nice sound that let you know they were there but not nearly as intrusive.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    The 911 is a tad quieter than the Boxster at cruising, but even louder under hard acceleration.

    The BMW Z4 is a bit quieter, as is the SLK350. But, mind you, these are "sports cars" that share their (low-redline) engines with sedans and SUV's. I'm not trying to be critical, but that's not the type of parts sharing or driving experience I would want in my sports car for $50k+.

    If you think the Boxster or 911 are load, try out a pre-2004 Honda S2000 with a 9,000 rpm redline. Or, if you can arrange a test drive, a 8,500 rpm Ferrari 430. These and the Porsche's are gound up sports cars, pure and simple. If that's not what you want, there are plenty of alternatives.
  • stomp32stomp32 Posts: 38
    I'm in early mid-life crisis. There, I admit it. I have always dreamt of owning a 911 and consider it to be the ultimate sports car in that it is reasonably attainable and easily an everyday driver.

    When I finally get the wife's okay, I'll be getting the 997S cab just like habitat and I plan on driving the heck out of it. I think I'll have the most fun on those wet, light rainy days. I'll never find out if the stereo is working or not because I wanna hear that engine! Sure hope my wife doesn't read this.

    I know this doesn't seem believable coming from a Lexus driver, but different cars for different purposes. In the end, just go with what calls to you most. Take your time and drive every car under consideration several times at least and do what your heart and pocketbook tell you. Me, I took just one test drive in the 911 and every other car fell off my list.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    Why he is waffling between a mere boxster and a 911 S Cabrio is beyond me..? Get the 911!!!!

    It's always nice having a devil on your shoulder for these tough decisions!

    Seriously, I have placed an order on a 911S Cabrio for November delivery, with a fully refundable deposit. Wanted to get it in to preserve my options. However, I am still not sure the Boxster S doesn't make more sense, given the circumstances. So besides a pure "go for the 911" emotional response, give me your assessment on the following:

    2005 Boxster S - loaded with PASM, Sport Chrono and all of the options and upgrades I would want for $57,500, approximately $6,000 off MSRP. This is the easiest to drive, tightest, best handling sports car I have driven. It fit's me like a glove. It's also relatively guiltless. I won't be parking in the outer limits of parking lots to protect my baby.

    911 S Cabrio: For about $42k more, including taxes, I can get 75 more horsepower, blinding acceleration and a tiny backseat for my daughters for short spins, but not weekend trips. However, the handling is NOT as good as the Boxster S by almost any measure. It's a bigger, heavier car, and you can feel the weight in the rear. It also does not come without a small measure of guilt. I can afford the extra $42k rather comfortably, but I'm not sure I want to let friends and business associates know that. If I really thought I would be carting my daughters around in it 50% or even 20% of the miles, the decision would be easier. But I suspect it will be more like 5-10%.

    I find both the new Boxster S and 911 to be almost comparable in their interior look and quality. Obviously the 911 is a bit nicer, but the Boxster S is better than the 996 911, IMO.

    So, what say you putting on your rationale hat on top of your emotional head?
  • pisceanpiscean Posts: 13
    Well habitat1, not to intrude on your discussion with merc1, but you could always try the 997 Cab first. If you don't like it, and the handling is not up to par and/or you don't seem to need it to chaffeur your daughters around, then trade it in for a Boxster S after a year or so. The dealership may wind up owing YOU money if you go for a Boxster later. Whatever you get, don't feel guilty though.
  • kyfdxkyfdx Posts: 70,240
    For most of the reasons you delineated.... I'd get the Boxster S....

    It seems you have a lot more reasons on that side of the ledger...

    And, really.... if you can afford a 911... getting the Boxster, then finding out it is the wrong one.. is not going to be something that will keep you from trading up later...

    But, if you drop the big bucks on the 911, then find you'd be happier with the Boxster S.... that money lost on trading the 911 will eat at you...

    Plus.... I like the Boxster... ;)


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  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    Thanks for the responses and good points.

    Psychologically, I am looking at the Boxster S as a decision I need to be reasonably happy with for a year or two. Worst case scenario, I decide I want to "upgrade" to a 911 and I work out the best deal I can down the road. It's easier to write off a few extra bucks in that scenario.

    But buying a 911 now is a more serious commitment. I cannot see myself trading down and losing value to go into a Boxster S after having a 911 Cab S. Kyfdx is very perceptive - that money lost going backwards to getting the cheaper car I could have had in the first place would indeed "eat at me". It's not financially devastating, but it would be psychologically damaging.

    And piscean also hit a good point. Feeling the least bit guilty over a "fun" car is counterproductive to its whole purpose. Whatever I decide, I won't.
  • pisceanpiscean Posts: 13
    Just to add to the confusion (if you're still undecided), you might want to hold off until the new Cayman comes out. I understand it's slated for around January of '06. It just might be a good compromise vehicle between the Boxster and Carrera you might be happy with, habitat1.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    The Cayman looks like a very interesting car - but not for me. I'm just not interested in a two seater fixed roof coupe. Can't take my girls along and can't get a suntan.

    Although for anyone considering a 997 non-S coupe, the Cayman could pose a dilemma. Gives up a tad in straight line acceleration, but the handling is world class and the storage space is more flexible.

    Thanks for the suggestion.
  • auxyoneauxyone Posts: 5

    I just thought I'd throw in my experience with the Boxster and the 911. I had a 2002 Boxster, then traded that in for a 2005 Boxster S, and then traded that in for a 2003 996 Carrera. While I thought that the new Boxster S was a great car, it wasn't in the same league as the 996/997 series, and that kept eating away at me. The Boxster S handled very, very well, but the 996 is more stable at speed, and inspires (at least in me) more confidence. The Boxster S has a lot of power, but the 996 is indeed more powerful in every respect.

    I admit that the 911 has a more difficult learning curve to drive it fast, but once you get it, it's a faster car all around. And the ride is more comfortable, it's roomier, and it's a more "livable" car.

    Anyway, hope I didn't muddle things. Good luck :)
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    I greatly appreciate your two cents and would like a few more if you can spare them:

    (1) Is your 2003 911 a coupe or cab? I have heard that the 997 Cab is better than the 996 at coming close to matching the coupe in handling, but that neither are as tight or nimble as the Boxster S, according to my dealer. I've only driven a 2005 Boxster S and 2005 911 (997) coupe, not the 997 Cab yet. And I admit that after only a couple of test drives, it's hard to come to much of a conclusion.

    (2) Any reason, other than the obvious price difference, that you didn't go for a 2005+ 997? I seem to be a sucker for the 997 upgrades and probably haven't given the 996 fair consideration.

    (3) When you say the 911 is more stable at speed, what speed? Did your 2005 Boxster S have the PASM lowered sport suspension option and 19" wheels (which are being claimed by the dealer to make a noticable difference at higher speeds).

    (4) Please elaborate on what you find makes the 2003 911 more "livable" and comfortable than the 2005 Boxster S.

    (5) Also, did you have the sport chrono option and, if so, did you notice the faster throttle response?

    Thanks in advance. You have some valuable experience to us Porsche shoppers.
  • auxyoneauxyone Posts: 5
    No problem, I'm happy to talk Porsche. (Of course, these are only my opinions based on how I drive, what I like, yadda yadda...)

    1) My 2003 911 is a coupe. I haven't driven the 997 Cab, but I have driven the 996 Cab. The 987S is definitely a more nimble car, but the 996 Cab has more utter nerve. What I always find consistent is that the Boxster S is fun, while the 911 is serious. That's not to say that one slaughters the other performance-wise, it's that feeling you get when you drive them. After all, the 911 is Porsche's flagship model (sans limited production super cars, of course). It's that "weee!" versus "wow" feeling I get :)

    2) I love the 997. I love its interior, the exhaust note, it's looks, etc... but there is one thing about it that I don't like: the steering feel. The new 987/997 cars have this slightly disconnected steering feel compared to the 986/987 cars. I think it's the new variable steering. Anyway, that alone was not the sole reason I chose the 996. It was mostly the cost. I didn't feel like I was losing anything getting the 996 over the 997 other than the nicer interior. (I'm one of those rare people who love the 996 Turbo-style headlights.) I was also able to feel smug about not absorbing the initial big depreciation hit :)

    3) I think the 911 feels more stable than the Boxster S at any speed really, but I was specifically referring to high speeds (90 mph +). However, that's with a caveat. The Boxster S doesn't react as dramatically when you nail the throttle, so you don't feel the front end lighten up a bit like you would in a 911. That's a nice mid-engined advantage that the Boxster has. My Boxster S had the 19" Carrera S wheels, but not PASM. Other than that, the 911 always feels more planted. One thing I always hear from my girlfriend or friends who ride with me consistently is that they feel more comfortable (i.e., not going to die) in the 911.

    4) The 911 has rear "seats". Sure, they aren't really that usable as seats--I don't have a single friend that would consider sitting in them--but they provide a heck of a lot more usable interior space. Today, for example, I was able to cram a 5ft long box in the 911 by folding down the rear seats and reclining the passenger seat. (Magnepan 3.6 tweeter assembly, in case you're interested :) The 911 is also generally quieter during normal driving scenarios; and while my new suspension is a tad tighter, it's less annoying. The loudness issue will very well be different in a Cab though.

    5) I did not have Sport Chrono. I've not actually driven a car with it yet.

    Wow... that's a lot. Hope this helps :)
  • I admit that the 911 has a more difficult learning curve to drive it fast, but once you get it, it's a faster car all around.

    I'm not due for delivery of my '06 997S Coupe until this coming January, but can you (or anyone else) perhaps describe what would be different or difficult in driving this car fast? In this way, I'll at least be somewhat pre-prepared to know what to expect the first few times out until I get used to it or learn how to compensate in whatever way.

  • Congratulations, Piscean, on your purchase!

    If you've ever driven an older rear-engined beetle, you'll catch on to the 911 immediately. Because the car has its engine in the rear, it has its weight biased towards the back, and so when you're driving fast into a corner, for example, you'll find that braking into a turn slightly earlier and powering out earlier is the best approach to keep the car fast and stable. This is in comparison to a Boxster S, for instance, where you would brake a little later into a turn because of its neutral disposition. My 911 does not have PSM so I pretty much had to learn the hard way :)

    The 911 simply has a different handling disposition than a mid- or front-engined car, but it's definitely nothing to be nervous about. You'll find that you can control the handling of the car a lot more gracefully using the throttle than with many other cars. When you get your 997S, and break it in nicely, find a good, curvy road where you can practice gradually.

    The 997S handles better than the 996, and that's no slouch. You're going to love your car!
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    From what I have heard from from several experienced sources, the rear engine setup and significant rear weight bias (38/62 F/R) of the 911 vs. the mid engine, more balanced (47/53 F/R) Boxster S results in a number of handling differences. Under hard acceleration, the front end lightens up even more, making the steering feel a little light. Sharp turns under acceleration cause the rear end to feel like it might break loose, although the electronic stability systems can compensate. Other rear engine nuances that, frankly, I am not an experienced enough driver to describe.

    What was universally recommended to me by all of the experienced 911 drivers I spoke with was to take a Skip Barber or similar performance driving course. They would encourage it for the Boxster S as well, but claimed it was "mandatory" for the 911.

    These unscientifically polled experts agreed that in the hands of a skilled and experienced driver, the 911 S is indded a faster car than the Boxster S. But it takes a lot of skill to fully use the 911's capabilities. (Even R&T's drivers were "only" able to achieve a slalom speed of around 70 mph with the 911 S coupe, whereas they hit 73.9 in the Boxster S - beating the previous all time record posted by a Ferrari Enzo.) According to one friend who has had 3 911's over the past 8 years and has taken several performance driving courses, very few people can come close to learning how to drive a 911 properly without professional instruction. In a recent "day at the track" session at Summit Point outside of Washington D.C., he beat the lap times of every 911 there, including a couple 997 S's, with his 2003 BMW M3. That does not speak to the capabilities of the car, but rather the skill of the driver.

    I'm adding Skip Barber to my option list no matter which way I go. My buddy could probably beat me driving a John Deere tractor.
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