Used Porsche Boxster review: 1997-1999
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Porsche’s attempt to move away from its traditional roots with a range of front-engined sports cars in the 1980s proved disastrous. It wasn’t that the cars were bad, it’s simply that die-hard Porsche fans refused to accept anything other than a car with a rear-mounted air-cooled ‘boxer’ engine and sales of the front-engined cars didn’t get off the ground. With that sort of background the arrival of the Boxster in 1997 was a much anticipated event.
The German sports car maker was acutely aware that it had to expand its range of cars beyond its traditional models or face extinction. The front-engined experiment had failed so there was plenty riding on the Boxster when it was launched.
Unlike the front-engined models – the 924, 944, 928 and 928 – which represented a major departure from Porsche history, the Boxster honoured the past despite being quite different to the great old Porsche models.
For a start it looked like a Porsche. It was reminiscent of the old Speedsters of the 1950s, and bore a clear family resemblance to the 911, which became even clearer with the release of the new generation 911 in 1998 that shared many body panels with the Boxster.
Some hardcore Porsche traditionalists remained unconvinced that it was a “real” Porsche, but sales surged. Aided by a base price tag of $109,900, which made it relatively affordable, the Boxster attracted people to the brand who would never have considered buying a Porsche before.
The Boxster was a marked departure from past Porsche practice although it wasn’t immediately obvious from the outside.
The engine, a horizontally-opposed 2.5-litre six-cylinder ‘boxer’ unit, was totally new. Most notably it was water cooled instead of being air-cooled as was previous Porsche practice, apart from the front-engined cars.
Boasting an alloy cylinder block and heads, dry-sump lubrication, with twin overhead camshafts on each bank and four valves per cylinder, the fuel-injected Boxster engine produced peak power of 150 kW at 6000 rpm. Maximum torque was 245 Nm at 4500 rpm, but importantly more than 200 Nm was available between 1750 rpm and 6400 rpm, which made it smooth and tractable.
The power was transmitted to the rear wheels through either the standard five-speed manual gearbox, or the optional five-speed ‘Tiptronic’ auto that added $7000 to the price tag.
The smart ‘Tiptronic’ auto would choose the correct gear for the moment based on what the driver was doing, accelerating, coasting or braking, but it also offered the driver the fun option of self-shifting using buttons on the steering wheel.
Acceleration was brisk with either transmission, the 1250 kg manual two-seater able to reach 100 km/h in 6.9 seconds, the auto only marginally slower. Top speed was quoted as 240 km/h.
In another departure from past Porsche practice the engine was mid-mounted rather than being slung out behind the rear axle, which was the source of the Porsche reputation for being difficult to drive quickly if you couldn’t conquer their habit of oversteering when you lifted off the throttle.
There was no such problem with the Boxster with its mid-mounted engine. Coupled with its independent suspension front and rear its road manners were impeccable with a wonderful balance that made it a sheer joy to drive.
Powerful four-wheel disc brakes slowed the Boxster with the assistance of standard ABS, while traction control was optional.
Standard wheels were 16-inch alloys, with 17-inch alloys optional.
The Boxster was also comfortable with none of the privations that were part and parcel of old time sports cars. The sports seats were comfortable and supportive and the folding roof worked a treat. With the touch of a button it would lower, taking 12 just seconds before eventually disappearing into the rear compartment.
It was just as easily raised to make the Boxster quiet and thoroughly weatherproof, even at high speed.
There were also two quite generous luggage compartments, which meant you could take along all the luggage you needed on a trip, and you didn’t lose any luggage capacity when the roof was lowered.
The Boxster’s interior was criticised by some owners for being bland. Some of the plastic trim components were a little too hard and plain for a car of such high price, they said, and Porsche reacted by upgrading the interior in the model released in 1999.
Even so the original Boxster interior is roomy and quite well appointed with lashings of leather to soften the hard plastics of the dash and console.
Standard equipment included air-conditioning, a super sound system with CD stacker, twin airbags and remote central locking.
IN THE SHOP
Porsches are generally one of the most bulletproof cars on the road. Many are kept locked away in garages during the week and only brought out on sunny days, but there are also plenty that are used day in day out as round town transport.
Porsches are easily the user-friendliest sports cars on the market. They are just as happy to trundle along in everyday traffic, as they are the blast along an open road at warp speed.
They also give very little trouble. There are plenty of old Porsches on the road with 200,000-plus kilometres showing on the odometer, I’ve even seen a mid-1990s 911 with more than 300,000 km clocked up. The bottom line is that Porsche are built to last, and they do that with admirable reliability.
If you’re shopping privately check the bona fides of any car before you part with your cash. It’s best to buy a car that has been delivered locally rather than an import, even though imports are sometimes attractive because they are usually priced lower.
And check for a service record from a reputable Porsche service agent.
• superbly balanced handling
• brisk but not breathtaking performance
• practical for everyday use
• well designed soft top
|Year||Price From||Price To|
Range and Specs
|(base)||2.5L, PULP, 5 SP||$14,600 – 20,570||1997 Porsche Boxster 1997 (base) Pricing and Specs|
Lowest price, based on third party pricing data