Porsche Boxster History


Porsche Type 550 Spyder and 1997 Porsche Boxster
A 1950s Porsche Type 550 Spyder, left, poses with a 1997 Porsche Boxster.
See more pictures of the Porsche Boxster.

The Porsche Boxster is proof that adversity can breed success. Born of the most troubled period in modern Porsche history, the Porsche Boxster was an instant hit with the press and public alike upon its introduction as a 1997 model.

That was no surprise. The Porsche Boxster here was not only the first clean-sheet-design Porsche in 20 years (since the Porsche 928), it was a two-seat roadster with looks and road manners recalling the legendary mid-1950s 550 Spyder. Not only that, the engine was a brand-new water-cooled horizontally opposed ("boxer"), six-cylinder, plunked right behind the cockpit. ("Boxer" plus "roadster" equals "Boxster.")

All this for an initial base price of around $40,000, the most affordable Porsche in years. How could it miss?

Yet success was by no means assured. When it debuted during 1996, the Porsche Boxster was viewed by some as just another "retro roadster" like the BMW Z3 and Mercedes-Benz SLK, both recently launched replies to the popular, less-expensive Mazda Miata, then in its seventh season.

The Z3, SLK, and Miata were classic front-engine/rear-drive open sports cars, and thus arguably less "interesting" than the Porsche. But they appealed nonetheless, suggesting the Boxster's success stemmed as much from high style and low price, not to mention the Porsche badge, as any engineering or performance distinctions.

The Porsche Boxster was part of a second-thoughts product plan hatched in the early 1990s after cancellation of the Type 989 luxury-sedan project. Porsche's sales and cash reserves were fast falling toward zero after more than a decade of price escalation from an ever-stronger German mark, plus waning interest in cars that seemed to change too little for too long.

Survival demanded new models that cut costs through greater component sharing, which is why the 989 was intended to parent a new-generation Porsche 911. But Porsche concluded that another high-priced low-volume car wasn't the answer. What it really needed was a low-cost sports car that could sell profitably and in far greater numbers than the 911.

No one understood this better than Wendelin Wiedeking, who took over as Porsche chairman and CEO in late 1992. Though a materials engineer by training and experience, Wiedeking knew his way around factories and balance sheets.

As he told Georg Kacher for the August 1993 issue of Britain's CAR magazine: "We must cultivate the 911 because it is the backbone of our business. At the same time, we must develop an entry-level car priced below [$40,000]. This segment is six times bigger than the one the 911 competes in. As soon as the new baseline Porsche is in the showroom, I guarantee you that our production will double to over 30,000 vehicles a year."

His prediction proved conservative. Just four years after the Boxster's debut, Porsche volume had almost quadrupled to nearly 56,000 units.

Wiedeking took charge as work was starting on the Boxster, designated Type 986, and a related new 911, the eventual 996-series. Though he endorsed the heavy parts sharing involved, he knew Porsche could never build a $40,000 car. As AutoWeek later observed, "Porsche never suffered from a lack of great cars. It was the process of building those cars that nearly killed [them]."

Accordingly, Wiedeking called in a group of retired Toyota executives to teach Porsche about "lean" manufacturing, "constant improvement" and other strategies that had made Toyota a world automotive superpower. It was a brave act in a tradition-bound company ruled by proud engineers, but Wiedeking knew Porsche must modernize or else.

The Germans were shocked and humbled when the Japanese faulted most everything from initial planning to final assembly. When the dust settled, payroll was cut from nearly 9,000 to 6,800, parts inventory slashed by 82 percent, and the Zuffenhausen plant completely reorganized. Another outcome was Porsche's first tear-down shop, where competitive cars could be taken apart and analyzed.

Meantime, Wiedeking ordered "simultaneous engineering" for the Boxster and the 996. That meant designers, engineers, manufacturing experts, supplier representatives, and others working as a team on all aspects of the programs, not just their pieces of it. No more botched communications, no more blame games.

The Boxster was thus "the first Porsche developed with a priority on efficient assembly," as AutoWeek noted. "The car is full of pre-assembled modules including the front and rear suspensions, [where many] components are the same, front and rear, reducing tooling and production costs." And because of its do-or-die importance, the Boxster came together in record time for Porsche, moving from drawing board to assembly line in three-and-a-half years, versus the usual seven or more. As they say, having a gun to your head tends to improve one's concentration.

In a late-1996 assessment for AutoWeek, efficiency guru James P. Womack, author of The Machine That Changed the World, termed the Boxster a "bet-the-company miracle car. Porsche wouldn't be around if they hadn't stared into the abyss and then eaten a lot of crow...They've [got it] in the range where core buyers can afford it. To make any money on the car, the old Porsche would have had to sell it for $80,000."

Base prices for 1997 were half that. This, after all, was a new Porsche from a "New Porsche." Things were looking up. To understand why, and to learn more about the Boxster, go to the next page.

1997 Porsche Boxster rear view
New price of entry: The midengine Porsche Boxster replaced the front-engine 968.

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:

  • Porsche new cars
  • Porsche used cars
  • 2007 Porsche Boxster
  • 2005-2008 Porsche Boxster
  • 1997 to 2004 Porsche Boxster

1997, 1998, 1999 Porsche Boxster Engine

1997 Porsche Boxster rear view
The Porsche Boxster was the first midengine Porsche since the 914 of the 1970s.

Even as the Porsche Boxster fast-tracked toward production, Porsche assigned a separate team to prepare an exaggerated "concept" preview for the 1993 North American International Show in Detroit.

Crowds loved it, reassuring company planners that they were on the right track. Even so, reporters noted that the concept had no top, little luggage space, and no obvious provision for meeting U.S. crash standards, all of which implied that the production version would be a visual disappointment.

Though some road-testers did have aesthetic quibbles, mostly with the cabin, the Porsche Boxster bowed in late 1996 to boffo notices.

"[T]his car looks, feels and sounds like a proper Porsche," said AutoWeek correspondent Greg Kable. "It is enormous fun to drive. That's the real achievement. The Boxster is finally here, and it's for real."

Car and Driver put the Boxster on its "Ten Best List" for 1998 and again for 1999. "As a do-it-all sports car for the end of the century, the Boxster formula has immense appeal."

As the new entry-level Porsche, the Boxster replaced the Porsche 968, the last of the front-engine four-cylinder line begun with the 924 in the 1970s. Everything about it was new except for a horizontally opposed engine "located somewhere behind the cockpit," as one journalist put it.

Other scribes mentioned that because it was a Porsche, the Boxster shared nothing with a mass-market model, unlike the rival BMW Z3 and Mercedes SLK (though future Porsche 911s would inherit much from the Boxster, per Porsche's "two-for-one" model plan).

In keeping with its affordability mandate, the Porsche Boxster might have been designed for a four-cylinder engine. But Porsche decided the car deserved a six. Besides, a four would have increased engine manufacturing cost and complexity, seeing that future Porsche 911 sixes would use the same basic design.

Regardless, the Boxster was the first production Porsche with water cooling, deemed necessary to meet upcoming emissions standards and noise regulations. The engine, designated M96, was also Porsche's first production unit with twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder.

Per tradition, the block and heads were made of aluminum to save weight, and engineers worked to keep the engine physically compact to allow for a low mounting point behind the cockpit and ahead of the rear wheels, all the better for handling.

Premium engineering abounded in the M96. The crankshaft, for example, was forged, not cast, and ran in seven main bearings. Cylinder walls were etched with silicon by the new Lokasil process, thus eliminating the need for heavy iron liners as a wearing surface. Porsche's Varioram resonance intake system, carried over from the last air-cooled 911s, insured more complete combustion and thus lower emissions.

Engineers chose "oversquare" bore/stroke dimensions of 3.37 x 2.83 inches (85.5 x 72.0 mm), but left plenty of room to enlarge them for future 911s. Total displacement came to 2.5 liters/151 cubic inches. Thanks in part to unusually high 11:1 compression, horsepower totaled 201 at 6000 rpm. Torque was 181 pound-feet peaking at 4500, but Porsche said 147 pound-feet was available from just 1750 rpm.

A standard five-speed manual gearbox sat behind the engine as a transaxle over the rear-wheel centerline. Optional, at a steep $3150, was a new five-speed version of Porsche's Tiptronic automatic, which could be shifted manually from buttons on the steering wheel.

There was just one thing wrong with the Boxster engine: you couldn't show it off. Thanks to clever packaging, the powertrain was hidden, tucked low in the unibody structure to leave room above for top storage and a rear trunk. Of course, there was another trunk in the nose, which also housed the radiator and spare tire. Combined cargo volume was excellent for a two-seater at some 11 cubic feet, though using it to the fullest required creative packing.

OK, but how to service a hidden engine? Porsche said tuneups were all but eliminated by long-life sparkplugs, electronic engine controls, self-tensioning fanbelts and other modern marvels. Most everything else could be done from underneath, though an owner could check and replenish coolant and engine oil from ports in the rear trunk.

1997 Porsche Boxster front view
Body side vents fed air to Boxster's engine, which was virtually hidden from view.

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:

  • Porsche new cars
  • Porsche used cars
  • 2007 Porsche Boxster
  • 2005 and 2006 Porsche Boxster
  • 1997 to 2004 Porsche Boxster


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:

  • Porsche new cars
  • Porsche used cars
  • 2007 Porsche Boxster
  • 2005 and 2006 Porsche Boxster
  • 1997 to 2004 Porsche Boxster

1997, 1998, 1999 Porsche Boxster Reviews

1997 Porsche Boxster front view
The Porsche Boxster got great reviews for its spirit, control, and balance.

Quibbles with Porsche Boxster ergonomics were quickly forgotten on firing up the new water-cooled flat six, which sounded like a Porsche engine, to the delight of marque loyalists.

Acceleration was brisk, not blinding. Porsche quoted 0-60 mph at 6.7 seconds with manual transmission, but Car and Driver clocked 6.2 and Road & Track got 6.1. Tiptronic added about 0.7-second, but it was quite responsive for a "slushbox," and its steering-wheel shift buttons encouraged Formula 1 fantasies.

So did the handling. "It feels nimble, responsive, and agile," C/D's Peter Robinson wrote, "but it's also stable and predictable up to, and at, the very high limits of adhesion...You can dive deep into a tight second-gear corner, back off, even brake if you like, and the Boxster doesn't deviate off the line. Its handling character is almost entirely neutral, and yet small course corrections can be made with the throttle."

In truth, the Porsche Boxster had less power than its chassis could handle, a plus for safety. As Greg Kable noted, one could charge through hairpin turns "without fear of some terrifying tail-led reprisal" as in a 911.

And despite stiff damping and tires, ride was comfortable enough for a sports car, with little of the dreaded convertible cowl shake. Wind buffeting? Not much, especially with the optional $360 glass wind deflector slotted between the headrests. The soft top got high marks for easy operation and tight sealing.

In all, the Porsche Boxster was remarkably "right" for a brand-new car built by a company learning brand-new ways. As C/D's Robinson enthused: "No other roadster offers the same dazzling blend of performance, handling, ride and refinement."

Of course, there's always room for improvements, and the Porsche Boxster got two for 1998: standard door-mounted side airbags and a passenger-seat sensor that deactivated the right-side dashboard airbag to allow using a child safety seat.

Options still loomed large in Porsche's profit picture, so the 1999 Boxster offered desirables like cruise control ($550), leather interior ($1951), heated seats ($390), headlight washers ($224), and a "Technic Sport Package ($1901) with 17-inch wheels and tires, traction control, and firmer springs, shock absorbers and antiroll bars. Remote keyless entry was added for 1999 (at $612), along with a GPS navigation system ($3540) with integrated dashboard screen.

Demand for the Porsche Boxster was strong from the start, so much so that, in 1997, Porsche hired an outside company for additional production to keep up.

Porsche's own plant in Zuffenhausen, Germany, was maxed-out between Boxsters and 911s, and had no room to expand. The contract went to Valmet of Finland, which was already turning out Saab 9-3 convertibles.

Porsche first ordered 5,000 Boxster a year, then upped the count to 10,000 in 1998. Interestingly, Valmet had also sought assistance from Japanese production gurus, and Porsche assured everyone that the Finnish cars were just as well-built as German Boxsters. And Valmet actually helped improve quality by developing an environmentally friendly waterborne paint process that was promptly adopted in Zuffenhausen.

Having demand exceed supply was doubtless a happy problem for Porsche after its recent lean years, but it did test customer patience. As Fred Schwab, then president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America, told Automotive News: "Our dealers just want the cars. They could build it on the moon for all we care."

Boxster took a breather for 1999, then returned with more improvements, the kind that make keen drivers grin. You can read all about them starting on the next page.

1999 Porsche Boxster rear view
Porsche Boxster reviews cited brisk, not blinding acceleration, but plenty of fun.

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:

  • Porsche new cars
  • Porsche used cars
  • 2007 Porsche Boxster
  • 2005 and 2006 Porsche Boxster
  • 1997 to 2004 Porsche Boxster

2000 Porsche Boxster and Porsche Boxster S

Porsche Boxster and Porsche Boxster S
The Porsche Boxster S, left, joined the base Boxster in Porsche's 2000 lineup.

The Porsche Boxster was a great car right out of the box, but everyone knew it deserved more oomph. As the days dwindled down to Y2K, many wondered when it might get Porsche's historically significant S badge-- S for "super," as in more power.

According to Car and Driver's Peter Robinson, a Boxster S had been ready to go in 1998, just "waiting for a call from marketing." The call finally came because "some real competition has shown up, the spanking new Honda S2000 and the proliferating Audi TT."

Robinson went on to explain that the S-model was intended to split the difference in price and performance between the base Boxster and the 911 Carrera. "Porsche wants the S to be interesting enough to attract current Boxster owners, but not so fast that it cannibalizes 911 sales."

But Porsche wasn't content with just one muscled-up Boxster, so it fortified the base model too. Swapping in the crankshaft and conrods from the related 3.4-liter Carrera engine increased stroke by 6 mm, lifting displacement from 2.5 to 2.7 liters. Horsepower climbed by 16 to 217 at 6500 rpm; torque improved by 11 pound-feet to 192 at 4500.

The Boxster S got a 3.2-liter engine with the same 78 mm stroke, a bore widened by 7.5 mm to 93, and the Carrera's latest Bosch Motronic ME7.2 engine computer. Horsepower totaled 250 at 6250 rpm. Torque measured 225 pound-feet, again at 4500 revs.

New for both engines was "e-gas," an electronic "drive-by-wire" throttle control to replace a mechanical linkage, which was now as old-hat as dial telephones.

To complement its extra power, the Boxster S was accorded a close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox (Tiptronic was optional), 17-inch rolling stock (18s were available for both models), and stiffer rear springs. It also boasted larger brakes, another Carrera crib, with front/rear diameters of 12.5/11.8 inches and red-painted calipers.

Exterior visuals involved a large "S" on the rear trunklid, twin round exhaust pipes instead one oval outlet, a central front air duct added to feed an extra radiator, and various titanium-color accents. The interior was more obviously "special," sporting a new three-spoke steering wheel, alloy-look paint accents, better-quality plastics, and an extra insulating layer for the top.

Porsche pegged the 2000 base Boxster at 6.4 seconds in the benchmark 0-60 dash, a modest 0.3-sec up on the 2.5-liter original. The real-world time was probably more like 5.9, but no one seems to have bothered checking, because media naturally focused on the S. And rightly so.

Though Porsche quoted 5.7 seconds here, Car and Driver clocked a 5.2-second sprint to 60 and a 13.8-second standing quarter-mile at 101 mph. "Who-eee, those are Porsche numbers," C/D exclaimed. Handling? As capable and forgiving as ever. C/D found "cornering grip to be excellent on this [S] at 0.92g, up just a shade from the 0.91 of the last Boxster we tested [both cars had the optional 18-inch boots]. The test S understeers predictably, about right for confident control on public roads."

Not all was bliss, however. C/D complained that several design details still weren't fixed after three years. And it groused about inevitably higher prices.

The base Boxster now started at $41,430, while the S debuted at $49,930, which was 911 money not too long before. Alas, prices would keep on rising, and for the same old reason: a weakening dollar, now overpowered by the euro. Even so, Boxster sales held up well.

2000 Porsche Boxster S in motion
The 2000 Porsche Boxster S ran with 250 horsepower to the base Boxster's 217.

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:

  • Porsche new cars
  • Porsche used cars
  • 2007 Porsche Boxster
  • 2005 and 2006 Porsche Boxster
  • 1997 to 2004 Porsche Boxster

2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 Porsche Boxster and Porsche Boxster S

Porsche Boxster, left, and Porsche Boxster S
The Porsche Boxster, left, and Porsche Boxster S gained stability control for 2001.

The Porsche Boxster mostly stood pat for 2001 and 2002, with one notable exception. New for 2001 was optional Porsche Stability Management, one of the best antiskid/traction-control systems around.

Also offered on 911s, PSM used data from various sensors to keep the car on its intended path by braking individual wheels and/or throttling back power. It was rather pricey for the Boxster crowd at $1,215, but worth every penny on dark and stormy nights.

The 2002 model year brought sturdier in-dash cupholders to replace flimsy clip-ons, which answered one of Car and Driver's gripes. Base prices by this time had risen to $42,600 for the base Boxster, $51,600 for the S. Tiptronic added $3,210 to either, a navigation system cost $3,540, and "High-Gloss Turbo-Look" 18-inch alloy wheels beefed the base version by $3,745, the S by $2,180.

A freshening occurred for 2003, just as sales were starting to ease a bit. The big change was adoption of Porsche's VarioCam variable intake-valve timing system, still another gift from big-brother 911. This contributed to modest increases in both power and fuel economy, but did less for torque. The 2.7-liter engine now claimed 228 horsepower, up 11. The S-model's 3.2-liter added eight ponies to reach 258.

X-ray veiw of the Porsche Boxster S
An X-ray veiw of the Porsche Boxster S reveals its efficient midengine layout.

Both Boxsters got inch-larger lightweight wheels (17s base, 18s for the S) plus a revised soft top with glass rear window, a third frame rail, and slightly reduced stack height. A dashboard glovebox finally appeared. Exterior changes were limited to horizontal "strakes" over the front and side air intakes, with the latter changed from black to body color.

The Auto Editors of Consumer Guide said the 2003 models' new power cut 0-60-mph times only fractionally for both Boxsters, to about 6.4 seconds for the base version, 5.7 for the S. Testing manual-transmission versions, Consumer Guide averaged 23.3 mpg with the base Boxster, 17.2 with the S. It gave these Boxsters its top rating for handling, and praised a relocation of the climate controls, which placed them above the radio where they were no longer blocked by the gear lever.

Among demerits was an uncomfortably stiff ride on the 18-inch wheels, and some squeaks and rattles from door and window seals over bumps. The speedometer was marked in broad 25-mph increments and reading speed wasn't helped by a supplemental digital readout rendered illegible in the sun's glare.

Some Consumer Guide test drivers judged body rigidity just fine, but some found that the Boxsters' structure flexed more on uneven pavement than that of rivals such as the Honda S2000 and new-for-2003 BMW Z4.

The only news for the 2004 Porsche Boxster was a mid-season "Anniversary Edition" S-model celebrating the Type 550 Spyder that had so influenced the Boxster's design.

The ambitious $59,900 U.S. base price of the Anniversary Edition S included a "re-chipped" engine with six more horsepower; a slightly lowered, wider-track suspension; specific 18-inch wheels; short-throw manual gearbox; silver-painted brake calipers; stainless-steel exhaust pipes; and cocoa-colored top and interior. Only 1,953 were built, referencing the 550's premiere at the 1953 Paris Auto Show.

So why introduce the special in 2004? Because, Porsche said, that would be 50 years from the 550's competition debut in the fabled Carrera Panamericana (Mexican Road Race), where it finished first in class and third overall. Oh, well...

But more-serious changes were just around the corner. In fact, the popular mid-engine Porsche was about to get its first total makeover. Go to the next page to read all about it.

Porsche Boxster S interior
The Porsche Boxster S interior was a great place to enjoy serious driving fun.

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:

  • Porsche new cars
  • Porsche used cars
  • 2007 Porsche Boxster
  • 2005 and 2006 Porsche Boxster
  • 1997 to 2004 Porsche Boxster

2005 Porsche Boxster and Porsche Boxster S


2005 Porsche Boxster
The 2005 Porsche Boxster launched the second generation of this sports car.

The Porsche Boxster tallied some 160,000 global sales in its first eight years, more than 74,000 in North America alone.

But eight years is an eternity in the car business, and Porsche knew the Boxster would eventually need overhauling to keep pace in a market sector ruled as much by fashionistas as gearheads. Accordingly, designers and engineers got out the fine-tooth combs they'd used for the Porsche 911's 2005 transformation from the 996 generation to the new 997 series.

Significantly, the 2005 Boxster and Boxster S had their own new type number, dumping 986 in favor of 987. They didn't look very different at a glance, but Porsche said they were 80-percent-new, second-generation cars. Closer inspection confirmed it.

Leading the many changes was another power boost, achieved mainly with new "staged" intake manifolding and freer-flow exhaust systems. The 2.7-liter engine added 12 horsepower to reach 240 at 6400 rpm, while the S-model's 3.2-liter claimed 280 horsepower at 6200 rpm, up 22. Torque in each case swelled by seven pound-feet to 199 and 236, respectively, and on tap from 4700 to 6000 rpm.

Both manual transmissions got beefier internals and shorter-throw shifters, and the S-model's standard six-speed was newly available for the base Boxster.

Chassis revisions, as usual, aimed to add strength, subtract weight, improve dynamic response, or all three. A wider axle expanded front track about an inch, and new pivot bearings aided steering precision. The steering itself was the 911's latest variable-ratio mechanism that "speeded up" once the wheel was turned 30 degrees from center.

A redesigned rear subframe furnished more lateral stiffness, and all springs, shocks, suspension mounts and bushings were tweaked. The last was necessitated by larger rolling stock.

The S moved up to standard 18-inch wheels with 235/50 front tires and 265/40 rear covers. These were available for the base model in lieu of 17-inch rims with 205/55s and 235/50s. Optional for both models were new 19-inch alloys wearing 235/45 and 265/35 tires.

Another first-time extra was Porsche Active Suspension Management, computer-controlled shock absorbers that varied firmness to suit speed and road conditions within driver-selected normal and sport modes. This, too, was borrowed from the latest 911s. Brake discs were enlarged to 11.73-inch diameter for the base car and to 12.5 for the S. Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes were yet another new extra, with the same $8,150 surcharge as on 911s.

2005 Porsche Boxster rear view
The revamped 2005 Porsche Boxster had 240 horsepower and started at $43,800.

Complementing all this was a redesigned nose structure with a stiffer cowl that also added a little more space to the front trunk and in the cockpit. Also enhancing crash protection were taller, stronger "safety bar" hoops behind the seats and standard head-protecting side airbags that deployed from the upper door panels, the latter an industry first shared with 911 Cabriolets.

In a change that puzzled some, the '05 Boxsters got the same new-look front end as 997 Carreras, with oval headlamps, larger bumper air intakes and more-prominent fenders. The rest of the skin was new and exclusive, but the changes were subtle, though rear fenders added visual muscle via a nominal 0.8-inch gain in overall body width. Other exterior dimensions changed little or none.

Not so the cockpit, which sported a handsome new dashboard, more-legible gauges, cleaned-up minor controls and visibly higher-grade plastics. Slightly larger door windows made for an airier top-up ambience. The top itself was restyled with a lighter frame and could now be operated on the move at up to 31 mph.

Prices went up again, the base Boxster starting $1,200 higher at $43,800, the S rising $1,500 to $53,100. But those were modest hikes given the many improvements, and standard equipment now included the trip computer and PSM antiskid/traction control that had been options.

A final new option was a 911-style Sport Chrono Plus Package that provided more-aggressive control maps for the throttle, suspension and antiskid systems, just the thing for weekend track days and autocrossing.

For all their added goodies, the 2005 Boxsters were only 33-45 pounds heavier than previous models, yet weren't dramatically quicker. Car and Driver, for instance, timed a six-speed S at 5.1 seconds 0-60 mph; Porsche claimed 5.2 for it, 5.9 for the base car.

And yet this was another Porsche that somehow exceeded the sum of its changes. Indeed, the Boxster S nosed out the flip-top C6 Chevrolet Corvette in a four-way C/D comparison test.

"Sure, the Vette has a ton of protein calories, but the Boxster is the complete meal," the editors explained. "[It] squirts from corner to corner with race-calibrated steering, peerless damping of body motions, and delicious mechanical noises from the back. Decreasing radii, pitching surfaces, granular pavement-the Boxster keeps you grinning through it all...Pleasure is the Boxster's deliverable."

2005 Porsche Boxster S side view
The 2005 Porsche Boxster S shows the revamped Boxster's elongated side vent.

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:

  • Porsche new cars
  • Porsche used cars
  • 2007 Porsche Boxster
  • 2005 and 2006 Porsche Boxster
  • 1997 to 2004 Porsche Boxster

2006 and 2007 Porsche Boxster and Porsche Boxster S

2007 Porsche Boxster
More horsepower, 245 for the Porsche Boxster, 295 for Boxster S was 2007 news.

The Porsche Boxster carried over unchanged for 2006, as Porsche concentrated instead on introducing the 2006 Porsche Cayman, basically a coupe version of the Boxster.

Porsche Boxster prices for 2006 started at $45,000 for the base convertible, $54,7000 for the Boxster S. The most expensive option was ceramic composite brakes, which were available only on the S version and cost $8,150. Porsche touted these as racecar-grade binders adept at dissipating heat and able to deliver sure stops in repeated hard use. And it said their lifespan was longer than that of standard brakes.

Helped by the major revamp for 2005, Boxster sales had climbed from 3,513 in 2004 to 8,327 for the 2005 calendar year. But with the new Cayman sitting next to it in Porsche showrooms, Boxster volume shrank to 4,858 for calendar 2006. Cayman, meanwhile, recorded a healthy 7,320 sales for calendar 2006.

Renewing interest in the Porsche Boxster for 2007 was more power, which in fact brought it in line with Cayman's ratings. The base Boxster's 2.7-liter six gained five horsepower, to 245 at 6400 rpm, and two pound-feet of torque, to 201 at 4600.

The Porsche Boxster S enjoyed a bigger change, courtesy of an increase in displacement. It's new 3.4-liter flat six was basically the 3.2 bored out 2 mm (to 96 mm/3.78 inches). It also borrowed cylinder heads and camshafts from the 3.8-liter Porsche 911 Carrera S. The result was 15 more ponies and 15 additional pound-feet, bringing respective totals to 295 (at 6250 rpm) and 251 (at 4400).

The base Boxster continued with a five-speed manual transmission standard, the S with a six speed standard. The six speed was part of a $2,680 Sport Package for the base model; the option also included PASM. Tiptronic was included in various similar packages, but again added a hefty $3,210 to either model as a stand-alone option.

Despite more power, EPA fuel economy ratings were unchanged for 2007, at 20 mpg city/29 highway for the base five-speed Boxster, and 20/28 for either model with the six speed. With Tiptronic, the base version was rated at 18/26, the S at 20/27.

Base prices climbed nominally for 2007, to $45,600 for the base Boxster, $55,500 for the S. Porsche Active Suspension Management was a popular option at $1,990. For those who wanted both the open-air feel of the original Boxster but a sense of the coupe comfort of the Cayman, Porsche continued to list a removable hardtop with heated glass rear window as a $2,345 Boxster option.

Consumer Guide recognized that the Cayman, with a closed structure more rigid than Boxster's, was in some sense a more focused high-performance tool. But for top-down cruising in speed and style, handling honed to a fine edge, sweet strains of a thoroughbred engine singing behind your ears, there were precious few cars that could match the Boxster.

"Some less-expensive sports cars challenge Boxster…on a fun-per-dollar basis, and some like-priced competitors deliver more outright power," Consumer Guide concluded. "Few, however, match [its] range of strengths; road manners and mechanical sophistication to satisfy the most discriminating driver, a good dose of everyday usability, and the cachet of the Porsche name."

England's Autocar seemed to agree, labeling the latest Boxster a "sublime all-purpose sports car" and, in choosing it over such roadster rivals as the the Mazda MX-5, Audi TT, Mercedes SLK350, and Nissan 350Z, dismissing detractors with, "Forget what other people think -- it's the best."

Whatever fate and future pundits had it store or the car, the Boxster will always be remembered as the car that gave Porsche a new lease on life.

Behind the wheel of a 2007 Porsche Boxster
A 2007 Porsche Boxster, a warm day, a twisting road: the soul of sports motoring.

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:

  • Porsche new cars
  • Porsche used cars
  • 2007 Porsche Boxster
  • 2005 and 2006 Porsche Boxster
  • 1997 to 2004 Porsche Boxster