The Porsche Boxster got great reviews for its spirit, control, and balance.
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.
Porsche Boxster reviews cited brisk, not blinding acceleration, but plenty of fun.
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