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Road & Travel's 2004 Sexy Car Buyer's Guide

Porsche Boxster
2004 Porsche Boxster

Just turn on the engine and listen. It throbs. It purrs. Less dominant than its larger siblings, it is torquey just the same. It elicits a surge of raw, campy lust like an undershirted Leonardo De Caprio or the forever haunting spirit of an inscrutable James Dean. Does "Catch me if you Can" or "East of Eden" light your fire? Does Nicole Richie's declared penchant for sweaty men pique an interest in finding one of your own?

As a backdrop for the mid-engine Boxster roadster -- the smallest of its U.S. breed -- such scenarios only heighten the legendary pull of anything remotely Porsche that has carved out nearly cult status among even the most sophisticated of its owners.

Toss in some unexpected little discrepancies ( a somewhat better-than-expected mileage among them, thanks to high performance engine adjusters) and you have a vehicle that surprises while commanding respect. A chrome dual "sports exhaust," centered for authoritative punch and rumbling sound, shows off either of the Boxster's two hunky sixes, tuned "just right" so an errant ear, far off, has no doubt a legend is approaching.

The word Boxster, a mix mined from the horizontally-opposed "boxer" engine and "roadster" names, trips a little less easily off the tongue. But it doesn't hide the $42,600 2.7-liter's 225-horsepower or the 258-horsepower of the 3.2-liter on the pricier, up-powered Boxster S (badged at $60,665). The Boxster awaits a six-speed manual when it's time for an update, settling now for a smooth five-speed. Tiptronic S auto (with semi-manual) lends a sporty touch.

Porsche, fun and in-your-face are somewhat synonymous. They dare. They do, when other's won't try, like the rearward wind screen to flaunt it with the heater going full blast and the top down on a bone-chilling Northern day. Warm weather flaunts are a given. (Ah, and with steamy, undershirted passenger in full show?)