- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2004

The Porsche 550 Spyder made its mark on motoring history by becoming one of the foremost race cars in the early 1950s. This Porsche gained its name from being the 550th design project at Porsche, but gained its reputation and place in history by being the first Porsche to be designed strictly for racing.

Even though it is held in high regard for its prowess on the race track, it is probably most famously remembered in the United States as the car James Dean crashed, no fault of the car, in central California, taking the actor’s life.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the first 550 Spyder, Porsche introduces a special edition Boxster S. This car is appropriately dressed in fine silver just as the 550 Spyder was. This special Boxster is equipped like no other. Not only is it equipped with commemorative features, it is also equipped with features as standard equipment that are optional in a regular Boxster.

Stepping beyond the gleaming silver metallic paint previously reserved just for the ultrahigh-performance Carrera GT, you find an interior equally special. The standard leather-wrapped bucket sports seats are heated to keep you warm on those cold evening drives.

The leather is carried over to the emergency brake lever, shift lever as well as inside shift levers and the wonderfully gripable steering wheel. Trim of GT silver is placed tastefully throughout the cockpit, giving the new Boxster a touch of the vintage 550.

A never-before-used dark cocoa top and coordinated leather interior is one of two color schemes available on this Boxster. The other is a more traditional black top combined with gray interior leather.

Tallying up the additional value in this special-edition Boxster is the standard automatic climate control, trip computer and the uplevel sound system.

While Porsche enthusiasts usually seem to chant for more power, they may be justified here. The 3.2-liter flat-six engine receives an additional 6 horsepower over the standard Boxster S, up from 258 to 264. The sublime Porsche exhaust note is enhanced in the Boxster 550 by uniquely shaped stainless-steel tailpipes.

Other changes carry over to give the Boxster 550 a more aggressive stance on the road. With these refinements come better handling. And just in case you find yourself over your head and your driving ability, Porsche has added its stability management system that assists the driver in keeping the vehicle under control.

Two types of alloy wheels are available. In standard form, the Boxster 550 rides on 17-inch wheels, while 18-inch Carrera wheels are optional. Either way, the massive aluminum finish, four-piston brake calipers are visible. These enormous brakes are only an indication of their ability to bring this Porsche safely and surely to a stop even from high speeds.

Though there are no real engineering changers to the five-speed manual transmission, it feels more precise. This is attributed solely to the short-throw shift lever. Making the shifting more like their race cars, Porsche has given this car a sportier feel.

Like so many performance cars, this Boxster is equipped with an automatic. But, like all other Porsches, this automatic incorporates a manual mode. The Porsche Tiptronic is one of the best available today. The precise manual shifting can be accomplished by taping the shift level left or right. Or, if you prefer, you can shift gears by using the thumb controls on the steering wheel thereby never taking your hands off the wheel.

Most disappointing about the Boxster 550 is there will only be a few of these cars available. With a limited number of cars being constructed, they will be hard to find. Will it be an immediate classic?Hard to tell. But, one thing is sure; this is a vehicle that brings a little romance back to the car market.

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