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Used Porsche Boxster review: 1997-2000

The user-friendly and reliable Porsche Boxster is one of the great sportscars of the '90s.  Porsche's attempt to move away from its traditional roots with a range of front-engined sports cars in the 1980s proved disastrous.

It was not that the cars were bad, it was simply that diehard Porsche fans refused to accept anything other than a car with a rear-mounted, air-cooled, boxer engine. Sales of the front-engined cars did not go well.  Given that history, the arrival of the Boxster in 1997 was much anticipated.

The German sportscar maker was acutely aware it had to expand its range beyond its traditional models or face extinction. The front-engine experiment had failed, so a lot was riding on the Boxster.

Unlike the front-engined models – the 924, 944 and 928, which represented a major departure for Porsche – the Boxster honoured the past, despite being quite different from the great old Porsche models.

For a start it looked like a Porsche. It was reminiscent of the Speedsters of the 1950s, and bore a clear resemblance to the 911. That became even clearer with the release of the new 911 in 1998, which shared many body panels with the Boxster.

Some traditionalists remained unconvinced the Boxster was a real Porsche, but sales surged. Aided by a relatively affordable base price of $109,900, it attracted people to the brand who otherwise would never have considered buying a Porsche.

Model watch

The Boxster was a marked departure from past Porsche practice, though that wasn't immediately obvious.  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 in the front-engined cars.

With an alloy block and heads, twin overhead camshafts on each bank and four valves per cylinder, the fuel-injected Boxster engine produced peak power of 150kW at 6000rpm. Maximum torque was 245Nm at 4500 revs, but, importantly, more than 200Nm was available between 1750 and 6400 revs, which made it smooth and tractable.

Power was transmitted to the rear wheels through either a five-speed manual gearbox or the optional five-speed Tiptronic auto, which added $7000 to the price.  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 fun option of self-shifting using buttons on the steering wheel.

Acceleration was brisk with either transmission, the 1250kg manual two-seater able to reach 100km/h in 6.9 seconds, the auto marginally slower. Top speed was quoted as 240km/h.  In another departure, the engine was mid-mounted rather than being behind the wheels.

Rear-mounting was the source of Porsche's 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 for the Boxster. With independent suspension front and rear, its road manners were impeccable and it had a wonderful balance.

Powerful four-wheel disc brakes slowed it with the help of standard ABS; traction control was optional. Standard wheels were 16-inch alloys; 17-inch alloys optional.

The seats were comfortable and supportive and the folding roof worked a treat, disappearing into the rear compartment in 12 seconds.  It was just as easily raised to make the Boxster quiet and thoroughly weatherproof, even at high speed.

Two quite generous luggage compartments meant you could take all the luggage you needed for a trip, and you didn't lose luggage capacity when the roof was down.

The Boxster's interior was criticised by some for being bland. Some of the plastic trim was a little too hard and plain for such a costly car, they said, so Porsche upgraded the interior in the 1999 model.

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 among the most bulletproof cars on the road. Many are kept locked away in garages during the week and come out only on sunny days. But plenty are used every day around town.

Porsches are easily the most user-friendly sportscars on the market. They are just as happy to trundle along in traffic as blast along on track days at warp speed.

They also give very little trouble. Plenty of old Porsches on the road have 200,000km or more on the odometer – we've seen a mid-1990s 911 with more than 300,000km.  The bottom line is: Porsches are built to last, and they do that with admirable reliability.

If you're shopping privately, check the bona fides of a car before you part with your money. It's best to buy a car that has been delivered locally rather than an import, even though imports sometimes cost less.  Check for a service record from a reputable Porsche service agent.


Year Price From Price To
2000 $13,000 $23,870
1999 $12,500 $23,870
1998 $12,500 $20,570
1997 $11,800 $20,570

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(base) 2.5L, PULP, 5 SP $14,600 – 20,570 1997 Porsche Boxster 1997 (base) Pricing and Specs
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist


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