The Porsche Boxster today is wildly heralded as one of the finest handling useable and rewarding sports car money can buy.
Early examples can be bought for peanuts with nice cars available for around the £3000 mark.
Later GTS models can challenge its bigger 911 brother on a twisting road and for real world useable performance ,on occasion, trounce it.
With an all-electric future on the horizon, this is one car you should sit up and take notice of, because it might just be the bargain investment of the decade.
But where did the Boxster Journey Begin?
1991 Financial woes.
The year is 1991, the USSR has just been dissolved, president Bush is busy bombing Iraq and Porsche had just come back from the Tokyo Motor Show, and things were not looking good.
The reaction to its current crop of cars had been dismal to say the least.
The diverse model line up was expensive to produce and not selling in high enough numbers to secure the company’s future.
To top it off Toyota had just rocked the boat by offering to buy the ailing company.
In 1991 Porsche’s model line up looked about as up to date as padded shoulders on mens suits.
It consisted of just 3 cars…
- The 911(964)which had an air-cooled engine in the boot and was an evolution of a 1960’s design.
- The 928 was a front engined fastback Grand Tourer that first appeared in 1978 with the intention of replacing the 911
- The 944 was another wedge-shaped coupe based on the old 924 which had first been introduced in 1976.
…..and that was it!
A new Direction
The 911 had just been Saved from the chopping board by a new CEO, Peter Schutz, a decision that has since proved crucial for Porsche.
It was in the process of getting redesigned and becoming the 993. This was to be a major update, at least under the skin ,and only 20% of the parts from the outgoing model the 964 were being used.
But was still air-cooled and it was proving difficult to get the engine to meet upcoming emissions regulations. Porsche knew they could do no more, after all they had been developing the air cooled engine since 1963 so this was going to be the last 911 to use it.
But the 911 itself was now safe, and the new CEO was betting the companies long term future on finding a way to keep it.
But what of the other cars?
The rakish 928 had failed to capture the 911’s market, a car it was designed to replace.
In fact the last time it was deemed cool was when Tom Cruise dumped one into a lake in Risky business.
But that was in 1982 and almost 10 years on, and unlike Cruise, the car was ageing badly.
The 1980’s wedge styling of the 944 was also dating quickly and was about to become the 968 which despite being heavily updated under the skin still used most of the 944 body parts.
The updated car wasnt due to go on sale until 1992 and was to last just 3 more years before being cancelled.
Turning to Toyota
Porsche found itself in dire need of a car that would sell in big enough numbers to bring in some much-needed capital and stave off a possible sale of the company. So having been pursued by Toyota they decided to take some advise from them.
Toyota, a master of platform sharing and car production gave them the idea that what they needed was a cheaper sports car using parts from its new range topping 911 (993)
However Porsche knew that to make the new car markably different to the 911 and yet cross share components would be impossible if they used the cars air cooled engine.
The other engines available for it were all front mounted and therefore unsuitable for the small sports car they had in mind.
Luckily Porsche had a secret waiting in the wings.
The 911 Water cooled Engine
A new water cooled engine was in development for the 911 in order to secure its long term future past the 993.
This was going to fitted to the next 911 the 996 but that car wasn’t due for another few years.
But this wasn’t a time to be precious and so Porcshe made the bold decision to go ahead and give the Boxster a version of the new 911 engine before the 911 was due to receive it.
Not only would this cut costs but would give it the right DNA in the eyes of its customers and future proof the car.
The Boxster Design brief.
Porsche Boxster Concept cutesy of Mayk Wienkötter https://www.instagram.com/mayk74/
It was an immediate hit with the public and press alike.
The new engine they were using was going to be a variant of the new 911’s.
This was to be a horizontally opposed flat 6 cylinder design and was Porsches first attempt at a water-cooled rear mounted engine.
Two gearboxes were going to be available, a manual 5 speed and an electronically controlled 5-speed tiptronic auto also from the 911.
So obviously it made sense to get the design team who were working on the new 911 (996) to work on the new car.
They realised that by mid-mounting the engine they could achieve a balanced weight distribution which would give the car neutral (read confidence inspiring) handing. This position would also allow them to use much of the 911 front end cutting costs further.
1996 The Launch
The Final design was approved in March of that year but pre production problems resulted in an amendment to the original design.
The decision was taken to lengthen the bonnet in order to fit in some of the components from the 911 (996) rather than design new parts.
Pre production cars began appearing in by mid 1994, and full production cars started rolling of what used to be the 928’s line in Stuttgart by mid 1996.
Porsche also contracted Valmet Automotive formerly know as Saab-Valmet which was a collaboration between Saab and the Finnish Government to manufacture Boxsters under license there.
The first generation Boxster was designated the 986 and when it arrived it was powered by a 2.5 litre flat 6 engine the 0/60 mph came in at 6.7 sec with a top speed of 149 mph.
The press loved it, the car was fun and agile it quickly became the yardstick by which all other sports cars were judged, including Porsche’s own 911.
It blended thrilling performance and excellent road holding with surprising practicality (the Boxster effectively has two boots) and impressive build quality.
That comparison with the 911 was about to become even more valid when the new 911 finally surfaced.
The 911 (996) and Boxster confusion.
The new 911 (996) with which the Boxster was sharing some components wasnt ready by the time the Boxster was starting its production run and so launched after the official release of the new Boxster. This in hindsight this was a massive mistake by Porsche.
The owners of 911’s had (have) a few ideals in common.
- Only 911’s are “real” Porsches
- The design was a classic by now and any deviation from its basic shape would not be welcome
- Air cooled was cool, it made the car unique and the engine bullet proof.
Imagine the reaction then of those hardcore 911 fans when the new car appeared and revealed to not only to have the same bonnet, front wings, headlights, interior and engine architecture as the basic Boxster but it was also sharing a version of its now water-cooled engine.
This new Boxster could be mistaken (from the front anyway) as a new 911 convertible, especially if specced with the right wheels.
Conversely the new design 911 could now also be mistaken for the new Boxster especially when specced with the wrong wheels.
Not ideal then for the reception of the new 911, but great news for potential Boxter buyers who had even more reason to buy the car.
Early cars suffered from porous engine blocks which resulted in water from the cooling system getting into the oil and Porsche didn’t deal with the problem by replacing the faulty blocks, instead it choose to repair those engines as they failed by boring out the blocks and fitting liners.
They used this procedure to repair faulty block’s during engine production as well, so new cars were being delivered with either successfully cast engines or repaired ones straight off the production line.
These engines then went on to suffer cracked and or slipped liners and this wasnt resolved until late 1999.
1999 The S model and more power for all.
By 1999 the Boxster had proved itself and the chassis was clearly capable of taking more power.
Porsche increased the standard cars engine to a 2.7-litre with 220bhp and introduced new Boxster “S” variant with a 3.2-litre engine with 256 bhp
The First Facelift 2003-2005
The facelift cars received a few minor by very welcome updates.
Notably the cars now received a glass rear window, replacing the rubbish plastic ones it had launched with and gained the useful addition a glovebox.
Less welcome was the early adoption of electric bonnet and boot releases, these are great until you suffered a flat battery and the needed to use an emergency and reluctant release hidden in the fuse box.
More notable improvement were the updated steering wheel, and externally the orange indicator lenses were replaced in the headlight and side repeater by clear ones.
The bumper gained a sharper line and new wheels from the 911 were made available.
Mechanically the exhaust was reworked and it got a new free breathing air intake which helped increased the 2.7-litre to 228hp and 260hp for the S version’s 3.2-litre.
The Limited Edition 550
2003 To celebrate the 5oth anniversary of the 550 Spyder Roadster ( the car James Dean famously drove to his death, if you can’t picture it)
It was of course based on the “S” version and was the only Boxster you could buy at the time in GT Silver.
It got 18″ 911 Carrera wheels painted in seal grey with crested centers and the brake calipers were painted in an aluminium effect paint.
The engine was given a special tune to extract 7 bhp more ( wow) and it got a special sports exhaust.
Interior wise it got a perforated leather cover for the ball-shaped gearknob, hand brake, steering wheel, and a bit of extra stitching on the seats.
They made 1953 to match the production year of the 550.
Second Generation Boxster 987 2005-2012
By 2005 Porsche had launched a much updated car, the 987, it was launched alongside the new Porcshe 911 (997) at the Paris Motorshow.
The styling of the two cars had now gone pretty much their own way ( much to delight of the Hardcore 911 fans) with the cars gaining more of their own identity, With 911 going back to its single frogeye lights and the Boxster also adopting a much less blended design, but importantly not one shared with the 911.
The styling was inspired by design cues from the Carrera GT supercar but in generall term was an evolution of the original design with the most obvious changes being those new headlights and larger engine intakes.
The wheel arches where also enlarged so that the fitment of 19″ wheels was possible for the first time and as we all know bigger is better right?
Stick your nose in the cockpit and you’d notice that all the instrument cluster and heating vents now have a more cohesive circular design.
The Engines are now a 2.7L 176 kW (239 PS; 236 bhp) and the ‘S’ models got a 3.2L 206 kW (280 PS; 276 bhp) engine.
These were further updated by 2007 and adopted VarioCam Plus, and further capacity increase to 3.4L in the Boxster S.
2006 The Cayman
You can’t do a history of the Boxster without mentioning the Cayman.
Porsche launch the tin top twin of the Boxster, its intention to be a more focused car, and they prove the point by giving it a bit more power than a Boxster S…..but thats a whole other story and we decided to be continue that on its own page coming soon…subcribe for updates.
2008 987 Facelift
The Boxster and Boxster S models received another facelift in 2008.
Engine capacity grew yet again for the base car now up to 2.9L the ‘S’ version remained at 3.4 but gained direct fuel injection.
A new design 6-speed gearbox was introduced and the dual clutch PDK gearbox appeared for the first time replacing the much maligned tiptronic.
Cosmetically, the headlights and tail lights were updated and the bumper gained larger air intakes with integrated daytime running lights.
Around the back the lower bumper gained a twin diffuser.
The limited editions.
2008 THE RS60 Spyder
Porsche once again found itself with an anniversary to celebrate, this time around it was the Porsche Type 718 RS 60 Spyder, the racer that Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien drove to victory in the 1960 12 Hours of Sebring.
So of course this model was called the RS60 and limited to 1960 models world-wide.
The correct colour to have is of course GT silver with red everything, however some motor journo at the time was quoted as saying it was like a ‘tart’s boudoir’ but the alternative was to have all dark grey leather which dare we say makes it a bit boring.
Porsche manged to wrangle an extra 8 bhp and power was up from 295 bhp to 303 bhp.
They also fitted a sports exhaust and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) as standard.
2009 the design edition
Probably because the RS60 sold out fast the accountants at Porsche decided that they could fit in a few more limited editions, but with no handy anniversary to celebrate they had to come up with some other reason.
Therefore they came up with a car that came with its own watch…we kid you not…here it is.
What they basically did here was to paint a Boxster S white, give it the same 8 BHP upgrade and package it with white 19-inch Sport Design wheels.
But they didn’t stop there..oh no, they painted everything white, the side air intakes, the centre console and the dials on the three round instruments are also finished in white, and they added alight grey stripe to break the white up a bit.
What you now had in Porsche eyes and to quote ” is a car with a genuine GT3 look”.
It did in fairness get Sports Chrono as standard, a GT3 steering wheel and some Alcantara on the gear shift and hand brake.
Production was limited to 500 cars.
The Boxster Spyder 2010
Porsche Launch the Spyder a lightweight stripped out car inspired by the 550 Race Car (the Car James Dean died in if you recall).
Porsche went down the route of ‘less is more’ in order to justify how it went about stripping back the car’s weight, and so out went most of the standard comfort features you’d expect to see even in a basic Boxster. Even the hood went and they dialled into the 3.4 engine the more raucous tune from the Cayman S.
This resulted in a car that was pretty composed but gave no real performance advantage over a standard “S” . However the shape with its one piece rear deck is reminiscent of the Carrera GT and that certainly makes the car stand out from the other two models in the range.
2011 The Black Edition
Leaving no stone unturned in the justification of limited editions, in 2011 Porsche Brought out a black edition.
On the surface this does just look like a black Boxster S, and when we say black then we mean black in that everything that could be painted black was, even the logo’s on the seat, but its more than that.
It got a special set of lightweight 19″ alloys, finished in black of course and this time they manged to squeeze out an extra 10bhp over the Boxster S.
This let the car achieve a sub 5 second 0-60 dash when combined with the PDK gearbox and Sports Chrono Pack Plus which included launch control.
They made 987 examples to match the model designation number and it was comparatively good value at just £1600 more than a standard “S”.
Boxster (981) (2012-2016) The Third generation
Introduced at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show the third generation Boxster was an all new design, with a new body and chassis designed together to improve rigidity by 40 percent.
The track was also increased over the outgoing car by 40mm at the front an 18mm at the rear, and the wheelbase now 60mm longer.
Through the use of new materials the weight of the car was reduced by 35kg or in english about 5.1 stone.
The 2.9L Engine was replaced now back to 2.7L but with added direct fuel injection. Porsche had extracted 261bhp a modest improvement of 10bhp and at slightly higher revs (6700rpm compared to 6400rpm for the 2.9).
However the car does feel noticeably livelier on the road, emissions are down and fuel economy is improved.
In early 2014 the GTS arrived.
This is the most focused Boxster yet with 20-inch 911 turbo wheels, dark light lenses and GTS specific bumpers.
These make the nose 30mm longer than the standard “S”.
Larger air inlets to help the 3.4-litre engine cool as it produce even more power, now upto 326bhp and 273lb ft in total to put it firmly in 911 performance territory.
You also get a sports exhaust.
For comparison a Carrera C2 Cabriolet has only 19bhp more and has a weight penalty of 30kg of on top of the Boxster’s 1420kg.
Dynamically it also gets PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) giving you a combination of sport, and sport plus modes to fine tune suspension and throttle, and if a PDK gearbox quicker changes.
The Sport Chrono gives it dynamic engine mounts like you get on a GT3 911, this minimise’s body movement over the rear axle, and helps the car feels even more planted on accelerating exits out of corners.
The cars ‘Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus’ gives it bi-xenon headlights, first featured on the 911.
These go one step further than most high beam assist systems in that they adjust the range of their beams as cars approach and not simply dip them.
Inside you get Alcantara clad Sports Seats,a GTS staple.
The Boxster Spyder
After the success of the GTS Porsche decided we could deal with an even more extreme version and so Boxster Spyder was introduced in April 2016 at the New York Motor Show.
As well as being lighter by 30kg it’s also has an even more aggressive nose which makes the Spyder longer by 40mm than the “S”and lower by 31mm .
Unique to the Spyder and intended to be reminiscent of the 718 Spyder race car ,of the 1960s, are distinctive streamlined humps just behind the rollover hoop.
This time not content with their usual 8-10bhp increase power, Porsche engineers decided to give the Spyder’s the 3.8-litre egine from a 991 “S” and adapted to fit in its midship position.
Politically it had to be mildly de tuned though so not as to upset the 911 owners and its also 10bhp down on the Cayman GT4.
Giving it a total output of 370bhp that’s 45bhp up on a Boxster GTS , torque is 310lb ft, which is 37lb ft up on the GTS.
Steering taken from the 911 Turbo apparently, and is quick but not quite as quick as the setup in the Cayman GT4.
Carbon ceramics discs were one of the options and PCM Sat Nav isn’t standard to give you the option to save even a tad more weight.
Personally we can’t see that you’d notice the difference and so would rather spec the excellent PCM Nav than carry a map.
The 4th generation 718 Boxster (982) (2016-present) The Turbo Era
By now the world was changing fast and the environmental lobby was gaining traction, triggered by non other Porsche parent company VW, with its emission cheating software fiasco.
The new engines are of 2.0L and 2.5 S, the larger engine utilizes a variable geometry turbo.
Despite losing a couple of cylinders and some displacement and they gain increased torque and BHP over the outgoing Flat 6.
They also deliver better fuel consumption.
The sound is the first thing you’ll worry about, but with a sports exhaust it does pop and crackle, but it has lost some of souring nature of the flat 6.
On S models also get a boost button, a press of which automatically drops down a gear and produces the maximum turbo boost for 20 seconds.
Its meant as an overtaking aid, and it’s certainly impressive, but after the first few goes feels like a bit of a gimmick and in our opinion actually detracts from your driving pleasure.
In October 2017 the new GTS models were announced with their 2.5L engines boosted to produce 361 bhp (269 kW).
We’ll add a review for that when we’ve driven one.
5th generation and Porsche’s Future.
So whats next? at the time of writing the Porsche factory had been closed for 12 Months, the story was that it was re designing the factory floor to allow a new production line for the all-electric Taycan sports tourer.
This was car that defines not only the future direction of Porsche but possibly of all cars.
Tesla may not be making any money yet but its proved that there is already a market for good electric cars, and global pressures mean that ignoring this could be disastrous.
Porsche’s sister company Audi also has a full electric car on its way and Jaguar are already there with the recently released E-Pace.
Most other manufacturers are already working fast on their own electric cars and the current range of hybrids seem like just a stop-gap whilst the infrastructure catches up.
But what does this mean for a performance sports cars manufacture like Porsche who trades off its motoring heritage and emotive sounding cars?
If you’ve driven a Tesla you cant help but be taken with the outright acceleration and immediate power BUT it soon leaves you wondering where’s the drama is. You soon miss that soaring engine note, and the satisfaction of timing that perfect gear change, that’s all sadly absent too.
The 2019 new model 911 are rumoured to be gaining some hybrid technology.
Even the next GT3 which we were assured was always going to be normally aspirated is looking like it’s also going the turbo charged like the rest of the Porsche line up, and if rumours are to be believed, also a hybrid.
Long term we may just be looking at the last petrol powered Porsches.
If you think that’s far-fetched look how far we’ve come in the last year when Porsche announced it would no longer make any diesel cars.
How long will it be until the last Porsche with an engine rolls of the production line?
We predict by 2030, that’s just 11 years….remember where you read it first.