Porsche’s new 991 911 is being widely heralded as the greatest 911 of all-time; but without the Boxster, the 991 may never have come to being. In the late 90’s Porsche wasn’t in the best of health financially, creditors were knocking on the door and acquisition was on the cards. Then along came the Boxster, the marque’s biggest seller until the Cayenne was introduced in 2002. Designed from the outset as a convertible (with a roof tacked on to make the Cayman in 2005) it was the first porsche designed as such since the 550 Spyder of 1953. Initially powered by a 2.5L flat six with 150kw, the engine increased to a 2.7L in later models and a 3.2L in the up-spec S models which eventually spun out 196kw.
986 Boxsters inherited the 996 911’s styling which according to some wasn’t Porsche’s finest work; I think it’s aged quite well when you consider the car pictured is now 18 years old. It also inherited many interior, suspension and braking components from the 911 but one vital thing it didn’t share with Porsche’s best known model was engine location. Situated in the middle of the car, driving the rear wheels through an open differential the Boxster did away with many engineering and handling issues that plague the rear engined 911. The combination of relatively stiff chassis (for a convertible) low centre of gravity and mid-engine configuration meant that the Boxster’s weight distribution of 47/53 per cent (compared to 39/61 per cent for similar vintage 911) was more akin your conventional sports cars.
You can now buy these early 2.5L Boxsters for silly money (well under $20k in Australia) which I think you can agree, means you’re getting quite a lot of car for your money. While entry into a Boxster is relatively affordable, you’re still buying a Porsche which means you have to maintain a Porsche. Simple things like oil and coolant changes become an expensive exercise when you realise that the flat-six is lubricated by 8.5L of oil and cooled by around 17L of coolant. It’s only money though right? and when you hear the induction noise of the 2.5L flat-six at around 3,000rpm up to its 6,500rpm redline you’ll realise that it’s all been worth it. The 5-speed gearbox (6-speed in later models) is buttery smooth, but has surprisingly long throws between its gears. It’s lucky the gearbox is so nice to operate because you’ll be using it regularly to keep the revs in the previously mentioned 3,000-to-6,000rpm power band. Torque isn’t exactly abundant in these early 2.5L cars.
Outright speed isn’t what the Boxster was about however. These cars were focused on handling and even after 18 years on the road they still impress with their balance and general composure. You sit low with your feet stretched outwards, behind an almost vertical steering wheel. Like 911’s the rev counter is front and centre and the rest of the interior is typically average late 90’s plastic. The leather seats however are near perfect and hug your love handles perfectly. Body roll is almost non-existent and the steering has been described as feeling “like you’re holding a tie rod in each hand”. Braking is much the same as the handling; out standing. Brembo supplied callipers and discs to Porsche and with initial weight of under 1,300kg they’re what you could call over braked. if you’re into driving then you have to experience a Boxster on a good stretch of road at least once in your life.
Many Porsche “enthusiasts” don’t think that Boxsters are “real” Porsches. I would hazard a guess that these “enthusiasts” have never actually driven a Boxster, because if they did they’d realise that these cars are every bit as Porsche as a 911. They combine creamy smooth flat sixes with class leading handling and (in my eyes at least) look fantastic. The Boxster is arguably one of Porsche’s most important models because the simple fact is that without the Boxster, the 991 might not have existed and Porsche would more-than-likely be a very different marque to what it is today. The Boxster still survives today and still provides Porsche with money to make cars like the 918, which I think you’ll agree is a good thing. I’d also hazard to guess that prices for this future classic will start to rise soon, so get in while the going’s good.