Let's take a look at Porsche's entry level sportscar that's been around for a quarter of a century now. How did they come up with the idea? And how important has the Boxster been to the brand? You'll read all about it in this article. Oh, and happy birthday, Porsche Boxster!
Actually, the history of the Porsche Boxster starts way further back than 25 years ago. Early in the 1990s, Porsche was going through tough times. Sales figures were declining while production costs were excessively high. One of the main problems was the company’s four technically very independent product lines. They were selling the 911, 944, 968 and 928. Four types of cars that didn't share too much technolopy. Some large car manufacturers were even thinking about a takeover. In many ways, the Boxster marked the end of these hard times.
Porsche Boxster Concept shown in Detroit
There were a few key assets to the Boxster (a portmanteau of the words 'boxer' and 'roadster') that mark the turnaround for Porsche's success. The idea was conceived in 1991. It became a key part of a new strategy for Porsche. Horst Marchart (Research and Development), Wendelin Wiedeking (Production and Materials Management) and Dieter Laxy, (Sales) were the key figures in the process of turning Porsche into a profitable brand again.
"The idea was to create an additional product line from the vehicle concept and components of a new 911 to guarantee clear identification of the car as a Porsche." - Horst Marchart
At the time, Porsche was working on the Type 989, which you could now explain as the prequel to the Panamera. But for the next big thing to come out of the factory, Porsche wanted to use parts of the next generation 911, to make sure the smaller model identified as a Porsche. The Type 989 simply wasn't suitable to this idea.
It had to be a sportscar, and it had to be a car available to a larger public. A car which shared technology and bodyparts with the next generation 911 (the 996 model). It was to be a two-seater, should cost around 70,000 marks and it should appeal to younger customers. So that's where the idea of a small roadster came to life. Type 986 was now officially a project.
The mid-engine concept of the 986, with short body overhang at the rear and a front end extending well beyond the front axle, were all references to cars like the Porsche 550 Spyder and 718 RS 60. The central exhaust was a reference to these legendary cars as well.
In 1993 the concept car of the mid-engined Porsche Boxster was shown to the public at the Detroit Motor Show. It was received so well that the Porsche Executive Board basicly stopped the development of the design and said: “Build it just like the concept car” and looking back now that was probably a smart call. The smaller, entry level Porsche that would be positioned beneath the 911 in the model line-up, became quite a succes. It turned out to be a key to attracting younger buyers as well.
Porsche Boxster 986 production model (1996)
The first (986) generation Boxster had the same front end, doors and loads of other components that were also used in the 996 generation 911. It was designed by Grant Larson under the supervision of Design Director Harm Lagaaij. Porsche was able to reduce production costs by sharing assembly lines between the two cars. Also, a lot of components only had to be designed once for both cars. There was a lot of comment on the headlight design of the 986 and 996. To this day, purists will tell you a Porsche (especially a 911) should always have round headlights. But by having all the lights including the indicators in one element, there was a huge reduction in assembly, material and production costs.
Porsche made a bold move by introducing the Boxster (986) first, in 1996. The Porsche 911 (996) came to market in 1997, thereby becoming the '911 with a Boxster-nose'. Even though there was a lot of criticism on the Porsche strategy, it did bring them the long-term succes they hoped for. By being more efficient and economical, the brand managed to turn the odds and became one of the most succesful, most profitable brands in the world.
Porsche Boxster 986 engines
The centrally installed flat-six (or 'boxer') engine initially had a displacement of 2.5 litres and an output of 204 horsepower. It was water cooled and had four-valve technology and variable intake timing. In 1999 a 2.7-litre engine initially with 220 hp and later 228 hp were installed. The Boxster S came to the market as well, powered by a 3.2 litre flat six with 252 horsepower, which was soon upped to 260 horsepower.
Porsche Boxster 987 (2004)
The 987 generation of 2004 was basicly a refined version of the 986. It had a fresher design, 17-inch wheels as standard and a redesigned interior. Some modern technologies found their way to the Boxster, such as PASM (Porsche Adaptive Suspension Management), PCCB (Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake) and the Sport Chrono pack. The engines were refined and delivered 240 and 280 horsepower now. At the end of the 987 lifecycle that had grown to 255 horsepower from a displacement of 2.9 litres and 310 horsepower from a 3.4. The Tiptronic S was also ditched for the PDK, if one would choose the automatic gearbox.
Porsche Boxster 981 (2012)
The 981 generation Porsche Boxster was introduced in 2012. It certainly was a way more extensive redesign, but it was still based on the previous model. It had a new, restyled and lighter body as well as a revamped chassis. The boxer engines came with direct petrol injection, ranging from a 2.7 litre, 265 horsepower flat six to a 3.4-litre engine with 315 horsepower.
The Boxster GTS was introduced in april 2014, which sported a 330 horsepower 3.4 and the Boxster Spyder was the absolute highlight of this generation of Boxster, rocking the 3.8-litre engine with 375 PS.
Porsche 718 Boxster 982 (2016)
And then there's the current 982 generation Porsche Boxster, which sports the 718 badge. That badge has heritage, but we also suspect it was supposed to legitimize the downsizing of the engines. It also made the Boxster equal to the Cayman in the model line-up. Before the 718 model designation, the Cayman was always positioned above the Boxster in engine power and pricing.
As mentioned, Porsche set a new course with the Boxster in January 2016 with four-cylinder boxer turbo engines. The 2.0 litre base engine delivers 300 horsepower and the 2.5 Boxster S had 350 horsepower. The Boxster GTS delivered 365 horsepower.
Unfortunately for Porsche it got quite some criticism for no longer supplying six cylinder engines. If the recent introduction to six cylinders is a reaction to these complaints, we'll never know. What we do know is, that Porsche brought back the six cylinder power plants to the 718 Boxster.
In the summer of 2019, the new Boxster Spyder was introduced alongside the 718 Cayman GT4. They share a 420 horsepower 4.0 litre naturally aspirated engine. Since 2020, this six cylinder engine has also powered the recent version of the 718 Boxster GTS 4.0, be it with 10 horsepower less at 400 hp.
Porsche 718 Boxster 25 years
Over the years, more than 357.000 Boxsters were produced. To celebrate 25 years of the Porsche Boxster, it has now introduced a limited edition anniversary model. It has the 4.0 engine with 400 horsepower, just like the GTS. The differences are in the aesthetics. Porsche offers the Boxster 25 Years in GT Silver Metallic, but you can opt for Deep Black Metallic or Carrara White Metallic if you want. There's contrasting Neodyme paint on the front apron and side air intakes, as well as for the lettering and part of the two-tone 20 inch wheels which are unique to the Boxster 25 years. Porsche explains Neodyme as 'a copper-like shimmering brown, which provides an exciting contrast to the basic GT Silver Metallic colour on the pioneering 1993 showpiece.'
The fuel filler cap is enhanced by Porsche script from the Exclusive Design range. The high-gloss tailpipes of the sports exhaust system are finished in aluminium look, while the windscreen surround is finished in contrasting Black.
The special model gets a Bordeaux leather interior to match the red fabric convertible top which is embossed with Boxster 25 lettering. Black interior and top are also available. The aluminium interior pack, 14-way electrically adjustable sports seats, “Boxster 25" lettering on the door sill trims and a heated GT sports leather steering wheel are standard.
Zero to hundred sprints are done in four seconds flat, while the top speed is reached at 293 km/h. There's some standard goodies on board including PASM and PTV (Porsche Torque Vectoring) with a mechanical limited-slip differential.
Cool stuff. Happy birthday, Porsche!