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Why the 986 Boxster is a Porsche that we should all be shopping for

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Article by Rob Sass
Photos courtesy Porsche

Above: 2002 Porsche Boxster (left) and Boxster S.

The 986 Boxster is today’s 914. We have not-so-scientific proof: According to the Mart section of the September 1997 issue of Porsche Panorama (which incidentally, featured a brace of new 986 Boxsters on the cover), the price of a great then 20-year-old 914 was about $4,000 to $5,000. Adjusted for inflation, that figure becomes about $8,000 in 2018 money. Coincidentally, eight grand or so is about what a nice early Boxster will set you back today. But with the Boxster, you get over 200 horsepower, air-conditioning that will freeze you out, and heat that will more than keep your blood circulating on a sub-zero day. It’s an enormously underrated car that a lot of us should be looking at adding to our garages.


Above: 2000 Porsche Boxster S.

Road testers of the day gushed unanimously
The Boxster was the right car at the right time for Porsche AG. Slow-selling transaxle models and inefficient production methods had put Porsche on the ropes in the early 1990s. They needed a solid hit and they got one in the Boxster, which the normally reserved Road & Track gushed was “tantalizing, tempting and terrific.” Performance of the base car was more than adequate with 0-60 miles per hour coming up in 6.1 seconds and a top speed of 149 mph. Or, roughly comparable to a 3.2-liter 911 Carrera of 1984-89.


Above: 2001 Porsche Boxster S.

Motor Trend said this in its first Boxster test: “On the road, the drivetrain, suspension, brakes, and rack-and-pinion steering work in concert like a well-rehearsed philharmonic. Each element fuses with the next to create a rewarding, communicative link between driver and car, transforming subtle inputs into controlled responses. It’s all Porsche all the time.”

Very little has changed in the ensuing years, with the exception of the fact that the automotive performance/horsepower arms race has continued unabated, making the Boxster’s performance envelope look somewhat quaint compared to a new 718, although certainly not in comparison to a 914.

Why are they so cheap?
According to NPR.com, “The Sideways Effect” is generally credited with depressing the market for merlot wine. There’s a memorable line from the 2005 movie “Sideways” in which protagonist Miles Raymond (played by Paul Giammatti) profanely expresses his deep contempt for the wine — a variety of red that apparently, his ex-wife liked — declaring, "No, if anyone orders merlot, I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any f****** merlot!" In the wake of “Sideways,” merlot sales (which to be fair were already declining) accelerated their sales slide to about 1.4% per month according to USA Today and continued to go down at that rate for a year before leveling out.


Above: 2001 Porsche Boxster S.

Is it possible that the 986 Boxster has, like merlot, also been the victim of a throwaway line from pop culture that stuck? Did it suffer its own "Sideways Effect?" If it’s true, you can likely blame the HBO mob series “The Sopranos.” In one episode of the show, a friend of Tony Junior’s bragged at the dinner table about the performance of his dad’s Boxster, to which thug Ralphie Cifaretto dismisses the car by colorfully suggesting that the Boxster lacks a certain element of machismo. The dis seems to have stuck.


Above: 2002 Porsche Boxster.

And then there’s the well-publicized intermediate shaft bearing issue that affects every Boxster in varying degrees from 1997 until the end of the 2008 model year. While there are thousands of unaffected Boxsters running around and several peace-of-mind solutions exist to the problem, some potential buyers remain gun shy about the 986. Slowly, we seem to be getting past the baggage. Buzz around the 986 Boxster is possibly stronger than ever, with increasing demand for cars in the launch colors of silver and red as well as other bright oddballs like Zanzibar Red (which appears dark orange) and Speed Yellow. A factory hard top is also a desirable extra.


Above: 2002 Porsche Boxster S (left) and Boxster with a factory hard top.

Back in the 1990s, most of us thought that the seemingly endless supply of cheap 914s would last forever. We thought wrong. It’s probably time to grab an early Boxster and enjoy one of the best pure sports cars of the last quarter-century.

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