Porsche PASM vs. Sport Suspension for Boxster & Cayman (981)

A head-on shot of a yellow Porsche Boxster 981 in a modern underground parking garage

DSC_1673” by Mateusz Wołek, used under CC BY / Text imposed on original

When buying a used 2013-2015 Porsche Boxster/Boxster S or Cayman/Cayman S, should you get PASMSport Suspension, or neither? 

To start, a brief summary of both options:

1. 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.

2015-porsche-boxster-gts-center-console-controls

The PASM button is the shock abosrber icon directly below the ‘SPORT PLUS’ button on the left side of the console.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).

2. Sport Suspension

  • 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.

porsche configurator

Extra Notes on Ride Height

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.

Summary

Order the PASM option UNLESS you plan on taking your Boxster to the track a lot, or only care about maximum handling capabilities.

Footnotes

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.

9 comments on “Porsche PASM vs. Sport Suspension for Boxster & Cayman (981)
  1. Thanks Dan, for your clarifying post above! I am ordering a Cayman GTS today. Stance is almost as much of a priority for me as dampening quality. I’m in Michigan – the roads are pretty bad. I have a 993 with Bilstein PSS10’s all the way down, and I can tolerate it. I can’t decide whether to order sport suspension and call it good, or order pasm and then bilsteins later. Would love to hear from someone who has pasm w/ bilstein experience.

    • Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I unfortunately have yet to own – and do not currently own – a P-car. Lamentations aside, very nice choice on the GTS, basically a Cayman S with free go-fast goodies. Oh, and what I would give to have a ride in a 993, let alone with Bilstein suspension!

      The different suspension options do create a little bit of a dilemma, especially if you are considering aftermarket upgrades later in the vehicle’s life. I think I would personally go with PASM from the factory since most of my driving would be commuting with a few track days thrown in every year – leaving the possibility of upgrading to aftermarket suspension if I so desired.

  2. Just took an old HS buddy for a ride around a closed smooth course. Boxster with PASM . Very spirited ride, with several sharp turns and a series of “S’s”. He owns a very nice Corvette but enjoyed the ride. Go with PASM as at least one half the time you and your passenger will appreciate having a comfortable trip.

    • Hi Jerry,

      Thank you for taking the time to reply with your opinions based on an actual road test! Would you say that having the PASM system in “sport” mode makes the Boxster too stiff for everyday driving around town?

      • I guess it depends on local roads. Seems RR crossings are not appreciated as you’re going along a smooth road and then, BANG the RR crossing hits before the computer has time to soften up. Just to add another variable I installed a Schnell rear support bar this morning. Sharpens up the corners. Might mention my 981 is a very early model and the Rennline rear stabilizer wouldn’t fit (it has tie downs too) because the bolts that attach rod to bracket don’t line up with the factory (small round & square) holes in the pan and push against the pan. The guys at Rennline were nice enough to let me return it. I have a manual trans and wonder if the pan is different. There are several photos on the net. Look close and you can see the 991 with Renn’s bar does not quite line up. Porsche makes lots of “roasting pans” and I guess some fit better. I may install an X-73 rear bar in near future.

  3. Forgot to mention one of the engineers at Rennline thought their stabilizer Would fit with 7/8″ bolts. The ones in my kit were 1″. Both kits are high quality hardware. The Rennline kit has a built in tie down ring for you track guys.

  4. Good to hear about the Schnell rear support bar, which I am looking at. They also offer a front tower support which looks promising. I am contemplating those two additions plus their rear adjustable bar and front GT2 bar as possible alternatives to installation of the X73 Sport Suspension. The X73 is very tempting but costs twice (with installation) what the other additions will, and moves the car into a sphere which may affect resale and broader use practicality. The moth in me who seeks the flame wants the X73. Anyone have input?

  5. I ordered my 996 with both PSM and Sport Suspension. I keep the PSM engaged always. Great firm ride.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *