1997, 1998, 1999 Porsche Boxster Chassis

Porsche Boxster with removable hardtop
Boxster's chassis was a study in balance. This Boxster has a removable hardtop.

The 1997 Porsche Boxster hit showrooms to brisk demand, helped by attractive base pricing: $39,980 with manual transmission, $43,130 with automatic, not including a $765 destination charge. Porsche must have been right in its assertion that buyers wouldn't be put off by a sports car with an engine accessible only to trained technicians.

Of course, options escalated the sticker quickly. A key extra was the Sport Touring Package at $7,032 with manual transmission, $6,927 with automatic. It counted among its features cruise control, six-disc CD changer, on-board computer, aluminum interior trim, chrome roll bar, wind deflector, oval center exhaust outlet and 17-inch wheels to replace the standard 16s. The $1,901 Technic Sport Package included the 17s plus traction control and a sport suspension.

A score of other options included a $2,249 removable hardtop, to $1,351 rain-sensing windshield wipers, to $2,432 "Sport Classic" 17-inch wheels. In all, it would have been difficult to spend $50,000 on Porsche's new entry-level model.

The production Porsche Boxster was necessarily larger than the sexy concept to provide suitable front/rear "crush zones" and sufficient people/parcels space. In fact, the two-seater was nearly as a large as the 911, which found room for two small rear seats, though the nostalgic styling artfully disguised the fact.

The 1997 Boxster was 169.8 inches long, 70.1 inches wide, and 50.8 inches tall. Wheelbase was 95.1 inches, a full 5.5 inches longer than a 993-series 911's. The Boxster also had 2.3-inch wider tracks than its rear-engine cousin, yet its turning circle was 2.8-feet tighter (at 35.8).

Base curb weight was around 2,800 pounds, a little porkier than the soft-top BMW Z3, but 250 pounds trimmer than the hideaway-hardtop Mercedes SLK. Speaking of tops, the Boxster came with a double-layer cloth roof that powered up or down in just 12 seconds. Some testers groused about the plastic rear window, but a removable 55-pound aluminum hardtop with heated backlight was available at $2,250.

Sports cars are defined as much by their chassis capability as by horsepower or styling, and the Porsche Boxster had a very fine chassis.

The suspension was all-new but typically Porsche, with a coil-wrapped strut at each corner, antiroll bars fore and aft, lower A-arms in front, and rear geometry composed of lateral links, trailing links, and toe-control links. Steering was the expected power rack-and-pinion.

Brakes were Porsche's usual four-wheel discs with standard antilock control and large rotors (11.74 inches front, 11.5 inches rear). Standard rolling stock involved 16-inch pressure-cast alloy wheels and Z-rated tires of 205/55 aspect fore, 225/50 aft. Optional were 17-inch wheels with 205/50s and 255/40s, respectively. Traction control with Porsche's Automatic Brake Differential was also available, if arguably less essential than in the tail-heavy 911.

Speaking of which, the Boxster's front/rear weight distribution was about 50/50, ideal for cornering. Midengine cars also tend to be more straight-line stable than rear-engine designs like the 911, but the Boxster also benefited from Porsche's usual care with aerodynamics.

The claimed drag coefficient was 0.31, very good for the fairly short length, and a smooth underbody cover helped minimize unwanted front-end lift at higher speeds. Another aero aid borrowed from the 911 was the rear spoiler that powered up from between the taillights above 75 mph and retracted below 50. It was only 3.1 inches tall, but it worked.

The cockpit still needed work, judging by consistent criticism of it in early reviews. The issue wasn't space, the Boxster was comfortably roomier than either the BMW Z3 or Mercedes SLK, or seat comfort. The problem was execution, a likely consequence of the cost-conscious design effort. Georg Kacher, writing in Automobile, thought the interior "rather anonymous and plasticky."

Others griped about hard-to-read gauges, audio and climate-control buttons too numerous and too small, footwell intrusion from the front wheelarches, and a telescopic steering wheel that needed tilt adjustment too. Various slots and pockets provided small-item storage, but there was no dashboard glovebox, precluded by a standard passenger-side airbag.

Porsche Boxster front view
The Porsche Boxster's all-new suspension boasted proven Porsche expertise.

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356

Porsche 911

Porsche 914

Porsche 924, 944, 968

Porsche 928

Porsche 959

Porsche Boxster

Porsche Cayenne

Porsche Cayman

For prices, reviews, and more on Porsche from the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, see: