Birth of a Better Boxster – the Little Porsche That Could

I know there are those of you who think that anything other than a 911 is not a real Porsche. To all of you I say drive it you'll like it.


Now to be fair, the Boxster, which may have saved Porsche financially, was both popular and controversial from the moment it debuted in 1996 as a 1997 model.

Unlike most cars, which start out as coupes and then are later offered as roadsters, the Boxster spent its first decade with a ragtop until the Cayman came along.

But this is not a problem for most aficionados of the German legend. What most 911 fans could not get their heads around was the 2.5 liter engine. It was smaller, and located not in the rear, but in the middle! Never mind that this made for better balance, allowing the car to respond more quickly than its big brother. Sacrilege!

Keep in mind, a lot of Porsche loyalists were still reconciling themselves to the switch from air cooled to water cooled engines in the 911, let alone the clean sheet design that is the Boxster. 

Early models, which I have driven, had their issues. The first year or two were notorious for electrical problems. Later versions, especially the 987 version built from about 2005 on, are ironically known for good overall reliability.

This is a good thing as even small repairs generate large bills. Its the parts. You take a VW part, label it as a Porsche part, and triple the price.

Then there was the clutch. A joy to use, if you like stalling out. The sound of the original six cylinder engine is wonderful, and the brakes have always been a strong point, but the word underpowered leaped to mind.

In 2000 Porsche brought out the S version, adding more horsepower, torque, and more buyers. The 3.2 liter engine put out 249 hp versus the base models 201.

The trademark large center mounted exhaust was replaced with smaller twin exhausts on the Boxster S. Subjective, but the single exhaust looked better. Oh well.

The watershed year is 2005, where Porsche claims it retained only 20 % of the previous model parts, while leaving the stunning sheet metal mostly unmolested.

Now, one reason that Porsche may have dripped power boosts slowly over the years is the concern that they would cannibalize 911 sales if the Boxster boasted the same power output as their flagship. Especially as it arguably handles better.

The output on current Boxsters easily exceeds that of the 911s from just a few years back, but as the 911 has been upgraded, Porsche felt they could give Boxster owners a break. Kind of like saying you cant get married until your older sibling does. Or make more money than your boss.

Silly, but there it is.

I mentioned a difficult clutch earlier, and I did this only to set you up for the greatly improved modern car that is the 2005 and beyond Boxster.  Newer Boxsters from 2009 now feature 2.9 liters and 255 horsepower in the base model and 3.4 liters and 310 horsepower in the S.

The clutch? Easy to use. The response? Even more linear, with more power from the base Boxster than the older Boxster S had.  Brakes? Still the gold standard, even more so with the ceramic brake option.  Handling? The PASM system lets you corner hard while keeping you from spinning like a gyroscope.

Visually, small changes have been made over the years. The side intake gills, which were black, now are silver. The new headlight design was taken from the Porsche Carrera GT.

Now if only they could have taken the engine from Porsches supercar as well.

Small details, but you dont scrap a great looking design, you evolve it.  The leather seats, the electric ragtop, needed no change and none was made.

A new Porsche Boxster, the 2011 Boxster Spyder, will use the Cayman S engine to produce 320 horsepower and 273 ft-lbs of torque moving only 2811 pounds. This will be the lightest Porsche sold. The car will be lowered an inch and offered with firmed up suspension to improve handling.  Price is targeted at $ 61,200 for this limited edition.

The car is set for release in 2010, and will offer you a choice of a standard six-speed manual or PDK dual-clutch gear box as an option. Make mine a manual, please.

Some people still dont respect the upstart from Stuttgart. Then again, some of us always have.

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