Don't let carmakers fool you. When they roll out a "special edition" of a vehicle it often means the regular version isn't so special anymore, and sales are slowing down.
To build excitement they install a plaque with the word "limited" on it, load the car with a bunch of options and sell it all to you for a cut-rate price. It's just another way of moving the metal.
The 2008 Boxster RS60 Spyder is guilty on all counts, but it is also a Porsche, so you also get better aerodynamics, a wider stance and more power. It’s a much better way of moving the metal.
The power bump isn't much, just 8 horsepower, but it makes the RS60 the first Boxster to break the 300-horsepower barrier at 303. A button on the center stack marked "sport" lets you to accompany the extra thrust with a loud and raspy tailpipe tune that’s worthy of a Grammy or at least an American Music Award. Acceleration isn't noticeably affected (0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds), and top speed increases only 1 mph to a piddling 170 mph, but the new sound raises the grin level much more than that.
At a meeting of the Metro New York Porsche Club of America at Pocono Raceway, I heard more than a few "whoa, cool" responses from a group of current Boxster owners who were clearly impressed. It’s almost pathetic to see how giddy a bunch of 30- and 40-somethings, myself included, can get over a little added noise, but that’s what the RS60 does to exhaust note aficionados.
Along with the extra width -- the wheels and tires are the same size as what you get on a standard Boxster S, they're just set about half an inch further apart -- the RS60 also comes with Porsche's Active Suspension Management system (PASM). This is the same computer-controlled suspension that allows the 5,000-pound Cayenne SUV to do a very good impersonation of a nimble little sports car.
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In the ton-lighter RS60, PASM kept the mid-engine car under control on the smooth infield section of Pocono's South Course, while nicely soaking up the bumps on a rough stretch of the oval that’s been beating up NASCAR drivers for years.
A small car like this shouldn’t need much electronic assistance on a track, so the real value of PASM is its ability to transform the RS60 from a stiffly-sprung racer into a relatively plush highway cruiser at will. After initially cringing when I found myself entering a miles-long stretch of highway graded for resurfacing on my way home, I was surprised at how well the RS60 isolated itself from the mess of asphalt underneath. Some luxury cars I’ve driven recently wouldn't have impressed as much.
The same goes for the fit and finish of the cabin. The Carrera Red leather covering everything from the seats to the top of the dashboard can be pretty garish at first sight, but the burgundy hue is probably the only shade of red that I could enter into a long-term relationship with, if one was arranged.
Combined with GT Silver Metallic exterior paint, the overall look is meant to evoke the Porsche 718 RS60 from 1960, the first of its cars to win a major race. A dark grey interior is available if you aren't that nostalgic.
This being a "limited" edition, only 1,960 copies will be made and, in case you forget to tell your friends that you have one of them, the requisite numbered plaque is posted in front of the passenger seat to impress them.
The other noticeable differences from the rest of the Boxster family are the unique custom leather and aluminum shifter and an instrument binnacle that has been relieved of the hood that normally covers the dials. The deletion is another tip of the hat to the past and a nice touch. Probably the first time a special edition has had something removed instead of added on.
Still no iPod connection, though, and the sound system could use a couple of speakers behind the seats. I also found myself wishing there were some stereo controls on the steering wheel.
I can hear the collective groan from all of you Porschephiles out there, but when you’re driving the RS60 the way you should, the last thing you want to do is take your hands off the wheel. Good thing the exhaust nearly makes music redundant.
The RS60-specific exterior modifications are limited to the slick new front end with its prominent chin spoiler and solid-red taillight covers in the back. All of the other changes, including the wheels and titanium-look side air vents, are available as options on the standard Boxster S.
The extra horsepower isn't available at all prices and neither is that exhaust. The combo is almost worth the cost of admission, but not quite. Fortunately the RS60 is only about $10,000 more than the Boxster S, which is a big savings over ordering the full suite of options a la carte.
Fuel efficiency doesn’t change and is a reasonable-for-a-sports-car 26 mpg highway, 18 mpg city. If you take it easy on the way to the track, 30 mpg is achievable on the interstate.
A new Boxster should be on the way in a couple of years. In the meantime, you can enjoy what is probably the best one yet. It is very special indeed.
2008 PORSCHE BOXSTER RS60 SPYDER
Base Price: $64,900
Type: Mid-engine, rear-drive, two-passenger convertible
Engine: 3.4-liter Flat-6
Power: 303 horsepower, 251 pound-foot torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual
0-60 mph: 5.4 sec
Top Speed: 170 mph
MPG: 18 city/26 hwy
What do you think of the RS60?
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Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com's Automotive Editor.