Introduced for 1997, the Porsche Boxster came about from Porsche's desire to produce a more affordable premium sports car than the 911. To say it was a success would be an understatement — it quickly became one of the best-selling sports cars of all time.
The Boxster delivers the visceral thrills expected from a Porsche. Combining a finely balanced mid-engine layout, a sonorous flat-six engine and sharp, communicative steering, the Boxster provides one of the most satisfying drives around, regardless of price.
Three generations of the Porsche Boxster were produced over the course of 20 model years. In typical Porsche fashion, the changes from one to the next were evolutionary. Build quality and comfort improved through the years, and convenience features, safety, performance and styling were all likewise continuously updated to better equip the Boxster for battle against its worthy rivals.
Note that Porsche recently renamed its newest generation the 718 Boxster. As such, this review covers only older models. Still, a used Porsche Boxster remains one of our top choices for driving enthusiasts searching for a thrilling convertible sports car.
Used Porsche Boxsters
The most recent Boxster, the third-generation model, was produced for the 2013 to 2016 model years. This Boxster's styling is crisper than that of the previous two generations, with relatively angular headlights and a unique full-width fin spoiler that bisects the more mature-looking taillights. The sumptuous cabin is larger and features a tall center console design adapted from the Panamera for the whole line of Porsche models. Although this generation's electric power-assisted steering isn't quite as telepathic as its predecessor's hydraulic system, it's still sublime.
Initially offered in base and S trim levels, the Boxster welcomed the sporty GTS trim and the optional Burmester audio system for 2014. The following year brought the availability of a rearview camera, and 2016 marked the debut of the ultimate Boxster, the Spyder. Sporting 375 horsepower, upgraded brakes and a lowered sport suspension, the Spyder also featured a lighter, very minimalist convertible top and unique styling tweaks.
Depending on the year and trim level, engine choices for this generation ranged from a 2.7-liter, 265-hp flat six-cylinder on the base Boxster on up to a 3.8-liter, 375-hp flat-six seen in the Spyder. Between those two were the 3.4-liter S (with 315 hp) and the GTS (with 330 hp). Transmission choices included a six-speed manual and a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic gearbox known as PDK. The zero-to-60 times ranged from 5.5 seconds for the base Boxster down to 4.2 seconds for a GTS with the automatic transmission.
This final generation of the flat six-cylinder-powered Boxster drew raves for agile handling, handsome interior, engaging personality and massive options roster. Since even the base engine makes more power than what the early second-generation Boxster S was capable of, you should be quite happy with any configuration. Gripes are few and essentially mirror those about previous Boxsters, which include poor rearward visibility, a mediocre standard audio system, and luggage space that is split up between two small trunks.
The second-generation Boxster ran from the 2005 to the 2012 model years. This generation featured evolutionary but significant styling changes from its predecessor, including separate roundish headlights in place of the previous (and often-derided) combination headlight/turn-signal clusters. The interior underwent a major overhaul, receiving a cleaner dashboard design and richer materials. In addition, the torsional rigidity of the chassis was improved, resulting in noticeably better balance and control.
Originally, this Boxster came in base and S variants. The base had a 2.7-liter flat-six that produced 240 hp, while the Boxster S' bigger flat-six displaced 3.2 liters with an output of 280 horses. Transmission choices were a five-speed manual (base), a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. For 2007, the 2.7-liter was upgraded to pump out 245 hp and the Boxster S received a 3.4-liter engine with 295 hp. There were a few minor equipment upgrades made during this time period as well.
A more extensive refresh was implemented for 2009, starting with further upgrades for both engines. The base model now featured a 2.9-liter flat-six good for 255 hp, while the Boxster S got a 3.4-liter flat-six good for 310 hp. Both came standard with the six-speed manual, while the PDK automatic debuted on the Boxster's options list. This refresh also brought an updated optional navigation system with a larger screen and better controls, as well as new options that included ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, an iPod interface and satellite radio. The exterior styling was also slightly updated.
For 2011, the Boxster Spyder was introduced. For this specialized lightweight model, Porsche removed the sound system and air conditioning (you could add them back as options) as well as the power-operated top. The latter was replaced by a manually operated two-piece soft top that was more tarp than roof, and about as easy to erect as a tent. But what the Spyder lost in creature comforts, it gained in other areas, notably a 10-hp boost and even sharper handling.
The later Boxsters of this generation are obviously more appealing. From a performance standpoint, the PDK transmission is superior to the traditional automatic since it is much quicker to shift gears and engages the driver more readily. (The manual transmission is still tops for bringing out the most of the car, of course.) But even with a older second-generation Boxster, we'd happily take one on a spirited back road run or use its (admittedly small) twin trunks for daily driver duty.
The original Boxster was produced for 1997 to 2004. At the time, it was considered to be a key release for the brand. Porsche had been struggling financially through the early and mid-1990s, and the Boxster's simplicity, affordability and sweet driving dynamics made it a huge hit.
This first-generation Porsche Boxster came with a power-operated soft top and a 201-hp, 2.5-liter flat-six engine. In 2000, the big news was the addition of a second, even sportier S model. The Boxster S featured 250 hp, larger wheels and brakes and a more stiffly tuned suspension. For 2001, the tweaks mostly involved interior refinements in layout and materials quality. But underneath, the sophisticated Porsche Stability Management system was made available for both models. For 2004, Porsche increased the power output of both engines slightly.
First-generation Boxsters have a significant following in online forums, with many common maintenance procedures outlined in detail for those inclined to do their own work. You can pick one up for less than a new economy car these days, so the temptation has never been greater. If you do your homework and have a thorough pre-purchase inspection performed, an original Boxster could make for an excellent weekend toy on a budget.