The 2013-2015 Porsche Boxster and Cayman are known as the “981” a.k.a. 3rd generation Boxster/Cayman. (The 2nd generation Boxster/Cayman is the “987” and the 1st generation Boxster is the “986”).
To start, a brief summary of both options:
PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management)
- Electronically controlled damper system with two manually selectable settings (“Standard” and “Sport”)
- Reduced ride height of 10mm
I think the easiest way to explain what PASM (+$1,790) is, is to basically think of it as a “smart suspension,” using the word “smart” like we do to describe “smart” phones. With Porsche Active Suspension Management, the shock absorbers will talk to the car’s central computer (think of it as the car’s brain) and describe the road conditions.
You can think of the shock absorbers as our feet, and the car’s brain as our own human brain. If your feet feel a jagged, rough surface, they will tell your brain, “Whoa, be careful, you can’t move too fast on this surface or else you’ll hurt yourself.” You will adapt based on that feedback by moving more cautiously or taking smaller strides.
Similarly, if the PASM shock absorbers feel a jagged, rough surface, they’ll pass on that information to the car’s central computer—its brain—which will realize, “Hey, this road surface is very rough, let’s be careful.” The car’s brain will send a message to the shock absorbers telling them to adapt by changing their dampening characteristics: a fancy way of saying they will become stiffer or softer.
If the road is smooth, it’ll tell the car, ‘Hey, you can stiffen up man, the conditions are great.’ Conversely, if you’re on some pothole ridden travesty in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, PASM will say ‘Hey, this road is nasty, make the car more comfortable for the driver!’
Hopefully I haven’t lost you yet because it’s about to get slightly more complicated. If you do not order the PASM option, there is a 2nd suspension option you can order called ‘Sport Suspension’ which goes for $1,235 (You can, of course, also order your Boxster without either, but I’d find that strange as the Boxster is aimed primarily at enthusiasts).
- Non-adjustable (stiffer springs, stiffer shock absorbers, stiffer anti-roll bars)
- Reduced ride height of 20mm
Sport Suspension equipped Boxster’s have a PERMANENTLY stiffened suspension vs. if you ordered the car without any suspension upgrade option. It’s kind of like having a PASM equipped car stuck in ‘Sport’ mode 24/7. This is not a ‘smart’ suspension as opposed to PASM, there are no sensors in a Sport Suspension equipped car to tell the car’s central brain what’s going on. It’s tuned for optimal performance all the time and you can’t change it.
A PASM equipped Boxster is 10mm lower than a no suspension upgrade option Boxster. A Sport Suspension equipped Boxster is 20mm lower than a no suspension upgrade option Boxster. So, therefore, a Sport Suspension equipped Boxster is 10mm lower than a PASM equipped Boxster. Here’s a chart to hopefully simply things:
Boxster ride height from highest to lowest:
1. No suspension upgrade option (stock ride height)
2. PASM (~0.4 inches lower than stock)
3. Sport Suspension (~0.8 inches lower than stock)
You CANNOT order both PASM and Sport Suspension, it’s either one or the other. I think purely by the numbers, PASM is by far the more popular option. Owners seem to agree that it rides great on all road surfaces (it’s probably better for resale value too vs. Sport Suspension).
If you were concerned only with performance with little regard for comfort on harsher roads, that would be a scenario you’d tick the Sport Suspension option rather than PASM. A Sport Suspension equipped Boxster would look a little more aggressive too as it sits 10mm closer to the ground than a PASM Boxster.
Order the PASM option UNLESS you plan on taking your Boxster to the track a lot, or only care about maximum handling capabilities.
On Porsche’s website, their description of the PASM system is a little bit confusing. If I understand correctly, even if you are in ‘Sport’ mode, the system can still revert back to the ‘Normal’ setting if it senses the road is uneven. Conversely, it does the opposite if you are in ‘Normal’, i.e. it will switch to ‘Sport’ mode by itself if it senses you are driving fast.
This post from Rennlist.com seems to confirm what I wrote above – if you are in ‘Sport’ mode and the road is horrible, it will automatically make the car ride in a more comfortable manner.
In the same post, conveniently, the board member also writes: “I noticed they [Porsche] are poor describers of their own systems. This is very disappointing as many of us, I suspect, enjoy technology and have a capacity to understand.”
I, too, thought the same thing when reading their description of the PASM system.