When production of the unsuccessful 968 ended in 1995, Porsche was briefly without a second cheaper model positioned below the 911. This changed in 1996 with the introduction of the Boxster. Porsche made the smart move of making use the rebirth of the roadster (caused largely by the Maxda MX-5, with BMW already on the bandwagon with the Z3), combining a traditional Porsche flat-six engine with an all-new mid-engined platform. The car was an immediate success, prompting Porsche to outsource part of the production to Valmet in Finland.
The first generation (986) was built from 1996 to 2004. Initially, the only engine offered was a 2.5l with 204 hp. In 2000, the Boxster S model was added, featuring a 252 hp 3.2l engine. The base model engine’s displacement was increased to 2.7l, with power increased to 220 hp. Another revision was performed in 2003, with power output increasing to 228/260 hp. The base model had a five-speed transmission, the S a six-speed.
The second generation (987) was introduced at the end of 2004. Throughout the production run, engine power increased from 240 to 255 hp for the base model and 280 to 310 hp for the S. 2005 saw the introduction of the Cayman, the coupé version of the Boxster.
The third generation (981) was introduced in 2012. A revised model (982) was introduced in 2016, now carrying the 718 Boxster moniker. This did not happen without some controversy, as the flat six engine was dropped in favour of a turbocharged flat-four.
- Porsche’s best-handling car
- Readily available, early models have become quite cheap
- Relatively light-weight (below 1,300kg for the 986)
- Decent brakes
- The well-publicized IMS bearing issues. This problem can be permanently solved, but it costs money.
- Porsche part and labour prices
- Not an easy car to work on, as the engine is mostly inaccessible
- Limited practical use as daily car
With prices of the early model approaching the level of NA Mazda Miatas, the Boxster has become an interesting car to buy. Don’t make the mistake of buying the cheapest you can find, as maintenance costs are on another level than e.g. BMW. Get a car in good condition with maintenance record and preferably a replaced IMS, or a later car (2003 onwards) that doesn’t have the IMS issue. If you’re not into convertibles, then the Cayman is your thing, but these are quite a bit more expensive since they are considerably younger.