Despite a string of legendary air-cooled marvels to its bow, the start of the 1990s saw Porsche’s fortunes take a dip as appetite for its previous offerings – the 928, 944 and 968 – began to wane; Stuttgart faithfuls wanted something new and they were not to be disappointed.
With a concept having been teasingly released in 1993, those looking for a slice of Porsche’s latest pie would have to wait until 1996 before the 986 – or Boxster – would hit the market, but when it did, it signalled a turnaround for the company’s fortunes.
Originally intended to house a flat-four, ‘blown’ engine, the Boxster (an amalgamation of ‘boxer’ because of the engine layout and ‘roadster’) eventually featured a 2.5-litre water-cooled flat-six that would also be a first for Porsche, thanks to its mid-engined positioning. The 2.5-litre unit would eventually be upgraded to a 2.7-litre engine, along with a 3.2-litre offering from 1999, but regardless of size, its positioning within the Boxster was a success – near-perfect weight distribution being an obvious positive.
One major factor in the introduction of the 986 Boxster, was that it provided a ‘jumping in’ point for those aspiring to new Porsche ownership. Although some parts were shared and the new offering clearly took some of its design cues from its big brother, it offered certain financial breaks when compared to a new 911 and would, the manufacturer hoped, lead owners to stepping further up the ladder as time went by.
In 2002, the Boxster received a subtle makeover: new wheel offerings, bumper design was sharpened and the plastic rear window replaced with heated glass, but it was very much a case of ‘if it’s not broke, don’t try and fix it’.
The Boxster’s final celebration (before the second generation – the 981 – was introduced) came in 2004 – the same year that production ceased – with the launch of the limited edition 550 Spyder Boxster S Special Edition. Built to pay homage to the 1953 550 Spyder, just 1,953 were built, guaranteeing their place as collector’s items.
The Porsche badge often seems to polarise opinion among those without one already in the garage and, as with any Stuttgart offering, time spent getting to know the Boxster is a very worthwhile investment. However, compared to an earlier 911 for example, the 986 is extremely accommodating from the off and is almost more MX5-like in its ergonomic design.
Although the flat-six may at first fail to knock you back into your seat, using the rev range on offer is key and kissing the redline every now and then will certainly do no harm, whilst helping to ensure the smile remains on your face. In fact, although a little long in the tooth now, a well maintained and serviced example is a very sweet and smooth engine; when coupled with a Boxster that has had the same loving treatment, you have a tight package that offers decent handling without being harsh or twitchy.
With a decent sized boot up front (as far as a two-seater sports car can offer), electric folding roof and all the design hallmarks expected of a Porsche (both inside and out), the 986 Boxster still makes for an excellent option that is capable of chewing up the miles as a tourer, or exploring twisting back roads with eagerness. It’s comfortable, engaging and above all, you are left feeling good about having the keys in your pocket.