So I had an 06 911 S 'vert for a short time, a few months back. Then I drove a Cayman S in anger. I was convinced I wanted mid-engine goodness. So I sold the 911 and began my hunt for an 09-12 Boxster S with PDK (yes I decided to go to an automatic!)
The 09-12 has the PDK and the new direct injection motor has no bearing or oiling issues.
After a couple of months of CL and autotrader, I finally saw one nearby that was a nice color, low miles (21k), and some nice basic options - heated seats and headlights that "look" into turns
I wanted the track-ready "Sport" mode shifting but I can have the software added. The adaptive dampers ("PASM") was on my wish list but I did not see a single car nationwide with it. And I can retrofit that too - folks sell the factory option to upgrade to Bilstein PSS9's or other.
The car feels very tight and new. It's tighter than the 911 Cab. It's hard to say it's a convertible unless you really pay attention.
The Bridgestone RE050A tires have good grip despite being brand new. Much more grip than the Hankook EVO V12's on the 911.
The tires clearly aren't as awesome as the almighty Michelin Pilot Super Sports on the Cayman S I drove. They aren't as smooth nor quiet and are a bit down on grip. PSS are ungodly good street tires. I'm thinking of selling these Bridgestones while they're new and getting maybe the Hankook RS3's.
The wheels are 18" and pristine... I tried searching for used wider wheels but I couldn't find any right now. These are 18x8 and 18x9... folks usually go for 18x8.5 and 18x10 for the track and 10 mm wider front, and 20 mm wider rear. OZ Alleggerita are very popular, and light.
The PDK, even without the Sport/ Sport Plus mode is very good. It is very smooth, reasonably quick, and of course is a huge relief in the heavy traffic on my way home from the dealer.
In auto mode, it's like a very very good automatic. In manual mode, it's very good... except I occasionally still get confused with the direction of the lever and the buttons on the wheel. I really want to reverse that... I thought I got used to it at one point, then I got it backwards again. Using the stick to up or downshift is much better than the wheel buttons. I did a search for anyone who reversed it (hopefully it's only a pair of wires), but found nothing.
The $1500 upgrade to install the sport plus software and buttons should totally transform the car in auto mode. It is so good everyone says it's better than manual mode on the track or street.
The car handles pretty neutral. Very little push. I didn't realize how much I missed getting the tail out a bit on power out. The 911 just squats and goes. The 911 was an understeering pig before adding front camber; afterwards it was closer to neutral. It felt loose after turn-in before you got on the gas, but it could put power down with impunity. The Boxster is closer to the miata. Compared to the 911, it has better turn in, is more agile, and just feels more like an extension of yourself. It's exactly what I was looking for. Compared to the miata it is just way more planted. CG feels lower and the car feels wider. Much less twitchy by comparison.
The damping is to-die-for. It feels like the tiniest movement of the wheels is damped. No lost motion. Ohmygod how does Porsche do it? The CG feels low, doesn't have much body roll despite ride being smooth, and the car just.... flows. It doesn't lose composure on whoop-de-dos.
There's plenty of power for passing at lower speeds, despite lacking the big power of the 911.
When I see a used set of the factory adaptive shocks ("PASM"), a rare option, I will buy them and get this tunable controller:
DSC Sport electronic suspension control TPC Racing
The factory PASM shocks and springs are lower, *smoother* in street mode, yet handle better at the track (in stiff mode).
Nitpicks: the top mechanism already has an issue that is pretty common. The dealer is gonna look at it. The gas pedals feels a tiny bit too friction-y, but I don't notice it unless I pay attention. The brakes are squishier than the 911's or the miata with the 1" master cylinder. Maybe it has some air in it (the pads are half gone so shouldn't be squishy). The +/- direction on the shifter is backwards.
UPDATE: So I drove the Boxster on mountain roads - day, night, wet, and dry. It was a near spiritual experience. This car is preternaturally good. The way the steering, brakes, throttle, suspension, and transmission all work together... it just *flows*. I have driven 3 earlier sub-generations of Boxsters/Caymans and they were not this good. The last time I had a "spiritual" car experience was when I drove a Ferrari F430. I now know where the car gods are, and they work at Porsche. (Maybe they moved there from Ferrari).