1996 Porsche 993 C4S


2001 Porsche Boxster



Before I begin, please note that none of the following is intended as material to start a flame-war or otherwise make someone angry. I own both cars and love them, but I've never been one to pull any punches and will quite readily speak my mind. If you're not the type who can read a review objectively, please skip this!

In May 2001 I bought the Boxster, which was my first Porsche after wanting one for a couple of decades. My father nearly bought a 911 in '79, but ended up with a Mercedes 300CD instead. A more practical car for him, but I was perhaps the most disappointed 12 year old on the planet at the time.  He finally bought a 964 Cabriolet in '87, which further fueled my desire to own one. I've always wanted/needed a truck or SUV, so that's what I've driven for most of the past 17 years, but I've had Porsche-on-the-brain the whole time. I now have two Porsches and an outstanding SUV, and I'm thankful that I've been fortunate enough to own such nice cars.

The second Porsche, the Carrera 4S, was acquired as the result of a trade about a month ago. I had been driving a '01 BMW X5 for a bit over a year and loved it, but not enough to keep it. I have a '99 Land Cruiser, which is a much better SUV than the X5, and I had the Boxster for a sports car. The X5's attempt at being sporty is noble, but it's not a sports car even if it is the best handling/braking/etc. SUV on the planet. The C4S was at the BMW dealer where I bought the X5, so they were more than happy to make the trade and both parties were happy.

I've been driving both cars on the same roads to compare and contrast them. Each is a fine vehicle, and neither wins hands-down over the other. For those of you who think that the Boxster is not a "real" Porsche, you really need to drive one for a while and make up your own mind. Don't fall into the trap set by those moldy figs.  

From 0-60 the C4S is said to take 5.3 or so seconds and the Boxster anywhere from 6.0 to 6.6 seconds, depending on the source. I am not a good drag-racer, which seems to be the case for all but a few people. With these two cars it's a tossup as to which one is going to win, with the driver's skill and luck being more of a factor than a few tenths of a second. A friend of mine has an S2000 that is quicker than the Boxster and a bit less so than the C4S, on paper at least. I can win or lose a 0-60 contest against him in either car, which is evidence to support my claims.

Things are quite different at higher speeds, and from 20-70, 40-80, and so on, the C4S will positively spank the Boxster unless it's in the wrong gear. It can be left in 3rd and will pull very quickly to high speeds (for the US), whereas the Boxster will most likely need to shift a bit. While following a friend driving the Boxster I was easily able to close the distance, even when he was accelerating full out. I can only imagine what a TT or tweaked 993 must be like...

This one is quite tough, but after a few drives I think I'm getting a handle on the differences. If you were to jump into either car without ever having driven one, the Boxster is better. Anyone can drive one with no prep, and they'll quickly come to realize that its limits are very high. If you hit a corner at high speed and realize that it is sharper than expected, just turn the wheel a bit more. The Boxster is on rails and will not let you down. A driver has to try hard or be very stupid to get into trouble in the Boxster on most roads. If you do push it you can sense the limits well before you hit them.

The C4S handles well, in fact it may have ultimately better handling than the Boxster, but you're not as likely to feel as confident when you first drive one. It's better (arguably) than most 2WD 911's, but it takes a bit getting used to. The 4WD is hard to notice, and so far I've not once been able to feel it pulling in the way that some trucks and SUVs can. But when combined with the huge tires and taut suspension, this thing handles very well. As with the Boxster, just steer and it will do what you want. The front-end is a bit "floatier" than with the Boxster, but it never feels as if it's not gripping as if magnets are being used.

This is a mixed-bag, and one that I'm sure I'll be trying to figure out for a while. The quality of materials in the C4S is perhaps a bit better than with the Boxster. I don't have the full-leather in either car, but the vinyl, plastic, and leather in each is good, if not up to Audi or BMW standards. I really like the dash material in the C4S better, even if the dash design itself is quite dated. The Boxster suffers from the shiny controls that Porsche made the mistake of using on the pre-2002 cars, and I don't care if the "Bakelite-look" is classic. It's shiny and cheap looking, and would be better left to an econobox.

Both cars suffer from having carpet on the doors. I don' t know if the interior designers at Porsche are stuck in the '70s or something, but this is way too cheezy for cars such as these. The door panels in both are nice enough otherwise, although the huge sections of beige in the 993 drive me nuts. Porsches should have black interiors.

Ergonomically the Boxster is a bit better, although it's not perfect. I'm tall enough that the lower vertical section of the center console is where my knee wants to be. I might "delete" it as some have done, but I've heard that the carpets for the replacement kit don't match well. I have to look at the interior and want it to be nice.  Speaking of deletes, I'll probably delete the useless back seats in the C4S, again depending on if I can find something that looks nice.

The Boxster is without a doubt the best looking open-top Porsche, but the C4S is one of the best looking Porsches ever. At first I thought that the C4S needed a whale-tail (or whatever you choose to call the rear spoiler), but now I'm not so sure. Both cars get the attention of nearly ever other driver and pedestrian, and so far it's a draw as to which one gets more.

Regarding the individual bits, I think that the nose of the Boxster is better, especially with the Litronics in place of the stock units. The '02 996s and the late-model Turbos are even better, although the latter is a bit over the top. The profiles of each are very nice, although the Boxster looks a bit goofy with the top up and should only be driven like that in bad weather. The rear of the C4S is outstanding, and the extra width of the fenders makes a great car look even better. One of my favorite tunes is "Baby Got Back", and that's the theme-song for this car!

The Boxster has great brakes, in fact they seem to be better than almost every other car except for some other Porsches, Vettes, and Ferraris. The Boxster S should be even better, but for all but extreme driving or track use, I can't imagine why anyone would need better brakes than the base model offers. That being said, after driving the C4S and experiencing the stopping power of the "Big Reds", I can understand what truly powerful brakes are all bout. It can stop so quickly that I warn my friends about them before they drive, telling them to make sure that no one is behind them if they hit the brakes hard.

Driving Experience
While I don't typically anthropomorphize cars, it helps a bit when comparing these cars. The Boxster is the more feminine of the two, although I would disagree with those who call it a "chick car". It's not a Miata.  This is due more to the engine, I think, rather than the styling or anything else. The Boxster's engine sounds great with the top down and over 4000 RPM, but below that you mostly hear a mechanical whine, and it's even worse with the top up. The C4S on the other hand has that "race car" sound from idle to redline, and it sounds great even with the windows up and sunroof closed. Both cars have sounds that vary quite a bit with the RPMs, and anyone who doesn't drive every now and then with the radio off is missing out.

The C4S is a bit "harder" to drive, quite literally when you compare the clutch, shifter, and so on with that of the Boxster. This may have to do with the relative ages of the cars, with the C4S being an updated 60's design vs. the modern design of the Boxster. I guess people are just wimpier than they used to be.  For a daily driver the C4S is fine, but if I were in stop-and-go traffic all day long then the lighter controls in the Boxster might be less fatiguing. I would prefer something in-between the two cars, with more feel and effort than the Boxster but less so than the C4S. Each could probably be adjusted a bit to suit, I guess.

In summary, each car is quite nice, and there are only a few other makes and models that I'd rather have.  



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