The Porsche Boxster is the current evolution of "economy" sports car from the German company famous for high-performance vehicles.

Designed in the early 90s and initially released in 1996 in Europe and 1997 in the United States, the Boxster takes design cues from the classic Porsche Spyder 550 (mid-engined layout, roadster appearance) and technical developments from the -- nearly eponymous -- Porsche 911 (boxer engine) and the Porsche 928/924/944/968 families (water-cooled). The Spyder is best known as being the sports car James Dean was fond of and died in.

In the mid-70s Porsche started its transition into water-cooled engine designs (much to the dismay of Porsche "purists" who insisted on air-cooled powerplants). Through the 80s, they refined their water-cooled technology in the "inexpensive" 944, 944 Turbo, and later the 968. These vehicles could be produced at less cost than the 911 and broadened Porsche's customer base extensively. The company saw the need to continue to offer a vehicle at a price point underneath its flagship 911, and started to develop the Boxster. As of early 2005, the list price on a Boxster hovers around $50,000 (US) whereas the 911 starts around $70,000 and goes to $150,000 depending on performance.

Their product achieved fruition in 1993, as they demonstrated the Boxster at the Detroit Auto Show. Its design seemed to be polarizing at the time -- some Porsche owners disliked it, but many immediately put deposits on their own car. Some would wait three years or longer before delivery! In the meantime, Porsche discontinued the popular water-cooled V8-powered 928 and the 968.

The production Boxster (codenamed the 986) shared many components with the as-yet-to-be-released 1998 Porsche 911 (codenamed 996, it was the first water-cooled 911). Easily recognizable to amateur Porsche spotters are the non-round headlights common to both models and divergent from previous decades of Porsches. As with almost all modern Porsches, the Boxster has a galvanized steel skin which is very helpful at keeping away things like rust.

The Boxster -- be sure to note the 's' -- is named as a combination of "boxer" and "roadster". Boxer is a nickname given to Porsche's flat engines, wherein opposing cylinder banks are 180 degrees from each other. This results in a wide and relatively short engine which tends to runs smoothly. Because the pistons punch outward, the boxer moniker arose. Roadsters, of course, are typically two-seat cars with a removable or convertible top... and a penchant for driving fast.

By putting this boxer engine in between the front and rear axles, and placing a transaxle between the rear wheels, the weight distribution of the Boxster creates a low center of gravity that is very close to the center of the car. This promotes high turning abilities of the vehicle, especially when combined with four-wheel independent MacPherson suspension which is standard on all Boxsters.

The transaxle on the Boxster comes with either a manual or automatic gearbox. The automatic features Porsche's Tiptronic system, where any of the five ratios can be selected by the driver, overriding the automatic system. It is not a completely computer-controlled manual as in some current cars.

Some statistics, cause everyone loves numbers:

  Engine Type: Six cylinder, horizontally opposed, water cooled
 Displacement: 2.5 L - 2.7 L
  Compression: 11.0:1
   Horsepower: 201 hp @ 6000 rpm - 240 hp @ 6400 rpm
       Torque: 181 ft lb @ 4500 rpm - 199 ft lb @ 4700 rpm
       Valves: 24 (four per cylinder)
   Valvetrain: Dual overhead cam
  Fuel system: Gasoline, Sequential EFI

     0-60 mph: 7.4 s
    Top Speed: 146 mph

Top secret Porsche plans seem to indicate an upcoming hard-top version of the Boxster to enter the market in the next year or two marketed as a Porsche Cayman. Since Porsche is about to release the Panamera, bringing their model lineup to four, the Cayman will be their fifth line.

Porsche Boxster 2005-2019

In the decade and a half since the original WU above, there have been some very substantial changes to the Porsche Boxster including the introduction in 2006 of a hardtop variant called the Cayman. In the world of car enthusiasts, models are further refined by internal manufacturer's designations that allow you to pinpoint the exact variant with further precision. For example, BMW has a long running set of midsize sporty luxury sedans collectively called the five series. In order to pinpoint which five series you are talking about, you need to use the internal model/platform designation, like E39 for example, which narrows it to the model produced from 1995 to 2004. Porsche is no different so I will use the internal designations here as well.

987 - 2005-2012

The 987 was the first major refresh of the Boxster line and also saw the introduction of a hardtop version called the Cayman which is outside of the scope of this wu. Some of the changes were cosmetic, larger wheel arches to accommodate wheels up to 19", larger side engine intake vents to provide better airflow to larger engines, and most importantly, the redesign of the universally despised fried egg headlights. The interiors were also refreshed from the 986 with a more attractive race inspired instrument cluster, round air vents and generally higher quality materials in a more modern cockpit design. Some important mechanical updates also made this a much more refined including larger engine displacement to 2.9 liters for the base model and 3.2 liters for the S variant. The manual gearbox was changed to a six speed.

There were actually two distinct versions of the 987, designated 987.1 and 987.2. The 987.2 was introduced in 2009 and added direct fuel injection and more importantly dropped the lazy Tiptronic automanual transmission in favor of the excellent Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) dual clutch gearbox, a technology Porsche developed for it's racecars in the early 80's that saw testing in the 956 and extensive race use in the following 962. The PDK as all other automated dual clutch transmissions pre-select the next gear making gear changes instantaneous without the need to match revs, hence cars with the PDK are actually faster than the equivalent manuals. The PDK is also shifted via flappy paddles or the gear stick itself while the Tiptronic used thumb buttons on the steering wheel which were extremely unsatisfying.

For many, this generation is the sweet spot between a very mechanical direct car and a more tractable car that can easily be daily driven.

981 - 2012–2016

The third generation Boxster changed several basic dimensions including a wider track and a longer wheelbase while shedding a little bit of weight (77 lbs)and a more modern design language derived from the 918 supercar. Some controversial features were also introduced like electric steering. This was ultimately though an evolutionary change from the 987 including interior refreshing to match the contemporary 911 and some changes to the displacement of the flat six boxer engines and better gas mileage (@ 15% more efficient)

982 - 2016-present

Officially the 718 Boxster, borrowing the designation of the racecar that followed the 550 Spyder of James Dean death fame. This car is a bit polarizing. See, all Boxsters to date had used a six cylinder boxer engine - hence the Boxster portmanteau - the 718 switched to a four cylinder boxer and turbos giving a large portion of the Porsche purists the vapors. Yes, the engine does not sound the same but the car is by all reports an astonishing piece of kit. Exterior and interior changes are evolutionary but I think clean up a few of the minor design peccadilloes of the 981.

One thing that has not changed is that a Boxster base is still the sweet spot of the price/performance/fun equation when considering a pure sports car. The romantic notion of a car that you can comfortably drive long distances to the track, race, and then drive home is completely fulfilled by this little, beautiful car.


Since E2 is not Wikipedia, the reason for this wu is that I have recently, being at the portal of six decades on this good earth, and having completely gone over the edge of the What the fuck cliff, have added a 2011 Boxter Base in a very elegant and discrete Meteor Gray over Sand Beige interior to our motley car "collection". Because my wife has foot issues that hurt her when driving a stick in heavy traffic, the car has the PDK transmission. In use the PDK does not feel like an automatic at all, instead it feels like a ghostly, precise hand is doing the shifting of a manual. The previous owner took very good care of the car and added some very tasteful stealth upgrades including lowering the car a few millimeters, an aftermarket sports exhaust that is very quiet when driving the car sensibly but screams when you put your foot down, etc.

Having added close to 1,500 miles to the original 50,000 I am close to getting used to the car. It is a stiff and bumpy ride in town, especially in the winter ravaged New England streets, but it is a dream on twisty smooth roads as you would expect. This is the first true sports car that I have owned, my 1989 RX7 convertible being really a Grand Tourer and I look forward to many years of top down motoring in the spring sunshine and cool summer evenings

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