By Bob McHugh
For those of us who enjoy driving the roadster of roadsters, the superb handling mid-engine Porsche Boxster is an automotive masterpiece. Unfortunately the chances of me having one in my garage (on a permanent basis) are slim – but I can dream!
Porsche aficionado’s trace the Boxster’s heritage back to the 550 Spider, a legendary fifties mid-engine competition Porsche that was a class winner at Le Mans. However, in terms of full-production vehicles, the Boxster is the first genuine mid-engine Porsche. It also has the distinction of having the first liquid-cooled (instead of air) “Boxer” engine in a production Porsche.
The Boxer engine, with its horizontally-opposed cylinders, is synonymous with Porsche. Due to its wide and flat shape, engine weight can be positioned low in the vehicle chassis, and this is a big plus in terms of overall vehicle handling dynamics. And the mid-body placement of the engine, ahead of the rear axle, further enhances vehicle balance and handling.
Actually, just finding the engine in a Boxster is a challenge, as it requires a vehicle hoist. Only the very basic maintenance stuff, dipsticks, fluid reservoirs and fill tubes, are accessible from up top. It’s a brutal engine to work on in terms of accessibility (mostly from below), and it’s probably best left to those with Porsche experience. So, expect repairs to be costly!
The dual trunk, one front and another in the rear, is another unusual feature of the Boxster and the combined space is surprisingly large. Naturally you can get designer luggage to fit its unique dimensions, but here again there’s an added cost attached.
Pop the safety latch and the power convertible top operates with a single button. However, the vinyl rear window generally needs a little folding assistance in order to insure that it doesn’t crease. And behind the top there’s another Boxster surprise, a speed dependent rear spoiler that springs to life at 120 km/hour (if you can legally drive at that speed).
1997 Porsche Boxster
2000 Porsche Boxster S
The original Boxster was launched in 1997 and came with a 6-cylinder 2.5 litre engine that can produce 201-horsepower. Fuel consumption is a respectable 12.4 l/100 km in the city and 8.2 l/100 km on the highway. An upgrade in 2000 pushed engine output to 217-hp and a new Boxster S was also introduced.
The go-faster “S” has 3.2 litre engine with a 250-hp max rating, a stiffer suspension, better brakes (same as 911), titanium trim, more standard equipment and twin tail pipes.
Although most used Boxsters have a manual transmission, the automatic, called Tiptronic, is state-of-art technology. It’s a four speed automatic with manual floor and steering wheel shift capabilities. Once again there’s a racing connection here as the Tiptronic started out as a mid-eighties competition transmission called the Porsche Doppelkupplung (Porsche Double Clutch – it sounds better in German).
The ’97 Boxster has an ignition switch housing that may crack and cause the ignition key to stick. It was the only recall on the Boxster and it can cause the failure of various electrical components including headlamps and windshield wipers.
Maybe I should clean out the garage and have a chat with the bank!
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.