While the 911 represented the Porsche brand in the 20th century, the Boxster helped usher in a more successful Porsche for the 21st century. This mid-engine roadster created a way for sports cars enthusiasts to embrace the Porsche brand more affordably. Let’s check out the story behind this remarkable car.
The story starts in 1995 with the discontinuation of the 928 supercars and the midline 968. This left the tired 911 to carry on the Porsche tradition. But there weren’t many takers for a pricey sports car. And without a savior, Porsche might have become a nameplate exclusive to the history books.
To say the brand needed something new and affordable is an understatement. So the folks in Stuttgart rolled up their sleeves and went to work. For inspiration, they quickly turned to the Mazda Miata, which debuted in 1989. This tiny convertible changed Mazda’s fortunes and made other companies take notice.
With the Miata as a baseline, Porsche began the development of its own premium roadster. The Boxster concept debuted at the 1993 North American International Auto Show in Detroit with cues from the 1950 550 Spyder. Its name came from the mid-mounted six-cylinder boxer engine that powered this roadster. The media and public LOVED the Boxster, but the automaker had a problem; production costs.
Since Porsche designed the Boxster from scratch, it needed a completely new factory setup. And while the company was excellent at engineering cars, its strengths didn’t include factory design. So, Porsche brought in ex-Toyota staff to create an all-new and more efficient production line. Costs dropped significantly, and assembly time dropped by half.
Another thing to note is that while Porsche was making the Boxster, it was also developing the 996 (the internal designation for the new 911). As a result, the Boxster shared some style and body parts with its big brother. As demand increased for its new entry-level car, the automaker hired Finland’s Valmet to build the Boxster.
The first-gen Boxster made its debut in 1996. The design featured a new chassis platform with mid-engine placement, a long hood, and an open roof. The roadster body style was heavily inspired by the 550 Spyder’s curvy nose and rounded rear. Parts, including the headlights, hood, and interior elements, were shared with the reworked Porsche 911.
The Boxster’s water-cooled 2.5-liter flat-six engine pushed out 204 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. A 0-60 mph time of six seconds offered a lot of performance bang for the buck. Plus, a weight distribution close to the perfect 50:50 ratio fostered agile handling.
Porsche had also learned its lesson from other “entry-level” models like the much-derided 914. The Boxster was affordable but not cheap. Premium fit and finish and high-quality components ensured no one would sneer at this capable roadster.
The Boxster became an unabashed hit as sales climbed and Porsche returned to profitability. Keeping the momentum going, a more powerful Boxster S hit the streets. Its 3.2-liter flat-six engine offered 250 horsepower and a 161 mph top speed. A 2002 facelift helped the Boxster stay fresh through 2004, the last year of the first generation.
The second-gen Boxster made its first appearance at the 2004 Paris Motor Show with an all-new 2.7-liter flat-six engine. Exterior features included revised headlights, bigger intake vents, and more prominent wheel arches. Cabin updates featured a circular instrument cluster, restyled vents, and an enlarged center console.
Output started at 236 horsepower, with the Boxster S making 276 ponies via the leftover 3.2-liter engine. Now dubbed the 987 series, the Boxster shared the limelight with a new stablemate, the Cayman. While marketed as an all-new car, the Cayman mainly was a hardtop version of the Boxster. To separate things, Porsche gave Cayman an additional 15 horsepower, a stiffer suspension, more cargo space, and a higher price tag. A more robust Cayman S first appeared in 2006.
The Boxster got an engine upgrade with Porsche variable valve technology the following year. Output now matched the Cayman. The 3.2-liter engine increased to 3.4-liters and found a home in the Boxster S and Cayman S.
2008 saw a refreshed Boxster with updated front and rear ends, larger vents, daytime running lights, and twin rear diffusers. The base engine grew to 2.9-liters, and the Boxster S benefited from direct fuel injection. Both Boxster variants enjoyed gearbox improvements with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
For 2009, Porsche went with the “more is less” theme by introducing the Boxster Spyder. There was more power (and price) with a reworked 3.2-liter engine making an additional ten horsepower. Aided by a six-speed stick and launch control, the Spyder could reach 60 mph from a standstill in 4.8 seconds. The “less” came in as Porsche removed door handles, air conditioning, and the sound system. To further reduce weight, the Spyder used aluminum doors, a carbon fiber interior, racing seats, and cloth door handle straps.
Like the Spyder, the Cayman also got a limited edition R variant in its lineup.
The third-gen Boxster arrived in 2012 with significant revisions. While still relying on its DNA, the 981 Boxster featured a more aggressive look and extra power. Base output increased by 25 horsepower while the S gained 35 ponies. Transmission updates included torque vectoring and active mounts.
The Boxster’s new body incorporated a longer wheelbase and a one-inch wider rear track. Improved torsional rigidity in the chassis and a 77-pound weight loss further added to Porsche’s credentials.
Appearing in 2014, the Boxster GTS offered 15 additional horsepower thanks to the trusty 3.4-liter flat-six engine. Revised front and rear fascias helped make this variant more distinctive than its brethren, and smart pricing made the GTS more affordable than a maxed-out Boxster S.
The third-gen Boxster passed the torch to its successor in 2016. At this time, Porsche brought the fourth-generation 982 Boxster more closely to its Cayman relative. Both cars are now marketed with “718” labels (718 Boxster and 718 Cayman).
Other changes include dropping the signature flat-six engine in favor of a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder boxer arrangement. A base Boxster now enjoys 300 horsepower and 0-60 mph time of five seconds, while the 350 horsepower Boxster S only needs 4.1 seconds.
The fourth-gen body carries on with a long hood and curvy front end, but this newest Boxster embraces modernity with style and function. New LED headlights with clear turn signal indicators add to a distinctive profile, and larger vents improve airflow to the engine. At the same time, the cabin features the new PCM 4.0 infotainment system with a larger center screen and a driver-focused cockpit.
A Boxster GTS 4.0 appeared in 2020 with the same power plant as the Cayman GT4, a 396-horsepower 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine. The Boxster T debuted the same year with an upgraded suspension, 20-inch wheels, adaptive shocks, brake-based torque vectoring, and active engine mounts.
For 2022, the Boxster continues with a range of variants: base, S, T, GTS 4.0, the 25 Years commemoration edition, and Spyder.
Trust Auto in Sykesville is the place to turn a Porsche dream into reality. Our extensive selection of high-quality premium pre-owned vehicles includes many Porsche models like the Boxster, Cayman, Panamera, 911, Macan, and Cayenne. Contact us today to schedule a test drive or take advantage of our 100% online shopping experience. Want to learn more about Porsche’s history? Read our other blog articles, including What To Know Before Buying A Porsche Cayenne.
Posted Saturday, February 19, 2022