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Porsche Boxster (986): Buying guide and review (1996-2004)

Porsche Boxster (986): Buying guide and review (1996-2004) Classic and Performance Car
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In the early ‘90s, Porsche was in a very difficult position. Profits were falling, and its best-selling car, the 911, could trace its roots back to a 1960s. It needed to act fast, and introduce a new range of products to revitalise the brand and bring it back to profitability.
Enter the Porsche Boxster, a mid-engined two seater sports car based in part on the upcoming water cooled 996 platform. Initial reception was lukewarm, with critics bemoaning the ‘fried egg’ headlight treatment and relative lack of power from its 2.5-litre engine. As with any major shift, it also took a while for the public to warm to the Boxster. A number of running changes and more powerful engines helped to turn the 986 model a huge seller, which along with the water-cooled 996 helped to secure Porsche’s future.
Today the Boxster is an integral part of Porsches range and the original version is still a cracking drive and exceptional bargain.

Which Boxster to buy?

Porsche has always had a policy of incrementally improving its cars throughout the production lifecycle. In the case of the first Boxster, some changes were made to address mechanical issues while others were improvements to keep the cars current with rivals’ offerings. 
The original 986 Boxster was launched in 1996, sharing architecture with the first water-cooled 911 and helping save Porsche in the process. Some felt it lacked the visual punch of the concept version that wowed crowds at Detroit in 1992. When it finally went into production, it lacked dynamic punch too, although that original 201bhp 2.5-litre engine was supplanted by a 217bhp 2.7 in 2000, and joined by a 250bhp 3.2-litre Boxster S. The enthusiast’s model had arrived. 
In 2003, outputs went up to 225 and 258bhp, and a facelift saw some minor changes to the styling – the most notable of which was the addition of clear front light units and glass rear screens. 
The first generation water cooled boxer engines in the Boxster and 911 have developed a reputation for leaking Rear Main Seals and IMS bearing failures. While the issue is not uncommon, it’s nowhere near as prevalent as you might think. Many specialists offer strengthened replacement parts, and generally a thorough check of the car in these vulnerable areas should be carried out for peace of mind. 
Earliest 2.5-litre cars can be temptingly cheap, but unless they are in perfect condition there are far more desirable models to be had. The 2.7-litre cars have enough power to put a smile on your face, but the 3.2-litre is the real performance choice. 
Tiptronic automatic gearboxes were offered on all models, and while they are generally less desirable, shouldn’t be dismissed if you plan on using the car regularly around town. A 50th Anniversary 550 Spyder was released in 2004 and with only 1953 produced is the rarest (and now-sought-after) of the Boxster models.
If you are prepared to pay good money, it’s worth searching for well looked after car from the last few years of production, preferably owned by an enthusiast. Thanks to the numerous running changes and updated exterior looks, these are by far the best cars to live with. Standard specifications were generally very basic while optional extras were not cheap, so finding a well-specced car is not always easy.

Performance and specs

2004 Porsche Boxster S
Engine 3179cc 24valve DOHC H6 
Power 256bhp @ 6200 rpm 
Torque 229lb ft @ 4600rpm
Top speed 164mph 
0-60mph 5.7 seconds 
Fuel consumption 26.9 mpg 
Insurance group 46
Gearbox six-speed manual

Dimensions and weight

Wheelbase 2415mm
Length 4320mm
Width 1780mm
Height 1780mm
Weight 1320kg

Common problems

• Parts are available from Porsche as well as numerous specialists who stock a whole host of replacement items for the entire range of Boxsters.
• RMS rear seal leaks and IMS bearing failures are very well documented, and any Porsche specialist should be able to diagnose these issues for you. While early cars have a higher rate of failure than face-lifted models, by now most have had upgraded replacement parts fitted, and if not there are a number of specialists who will carry out this work. The final price can be negotiated down on whether this work has been done or not.
• A leaking RMS seal can be replaced when the clutch needs doing next, as the gearbox has to be removed to get to the seal. 
• The IMS Bearing was upgraded a number of times during production however they are a weak point in the design and some specialists have developed replacements that last a lot longer than the original items.
• Cracked cylinder liners affected some of the earlier cars but a running modification in 2000 resolved this issue. 
• Coolant expansion tanks can crack leaking water into the boot. Coolant radiators and the air-con condenser are situated in the front of the car and can get blocked by leaves and road debris.
• Gearboxes are robust and should change gears smoothly; six-speed ‘boxes can jump out of second gear, which points to it needing an expensive rebuild.
• The suspension does not have any major issues, other than lower arm bushes and rose joints on the trailing arms wearing out. Check that the car tracks straight and no creaking noises emanate when turning.
• Rust is not a common issue however blocked drainage channels may allow water to pool behind the seats and some cars can develop rust bubbles around the arches over time. The nose and flanks are prone to road rash, so poor paintwork can be a good bargaining point.
• Interior trim got stronger with successive facelifts. Of early cars, only the best-kept avoid scruffiness inside. Make sure the roof mechanism and electrical fixtures work.

Model history

1996: Porsche Boxster launched with 201bhp 2.5-litre six-cylinder engine
2000: Base engine size increased to 2.7-litres, with power up to 217bhp. Boxster S introduced with 3.2-litre 250bhp engine and standard six-speed gearbox
2001: Optional PSM anti-skid system introduced
2003: Facelift carried out including glass window replacing rear plastic item, front indicator units were made translucent and new wheel and colour options were introduced. Vario-Ram intake system increases engine outputs incrementally with 2.7-litre up 11bhp and 3.2-litre up by 8bhp
2004: Special edition 550 Spyder released with 1953 cars built. Last Boxster rolls off the production line with over 160,000 cars built 

Owners clubs, forums and websites

• www.porscheclubgb.com
• 986forum.com/forums
• www.boxsterregister.org

Summary and prices

For a while it’s been possible to get into a Boxster for £6000 and even less. The money will buy you an enjoyable drive, but you’ll be talking a ratty high-miles 986. Autos are less desirable than manuals. Better to weigh in around £9000 for a smart, serviced, low-mileage late-model manual 3.2S. And we can’t imagine those getting much cheaper.
At the top end are the £15k minters, but at this money it’s really worth considering a later 987 Boxster, especially with the option of PDK for those seeking two pedal models. For a really special Boxster, the 550 Spyder special edition is difficult to beat, but with low mileage cars commanding upwards of £30k, you really have to want one to justify paying the premium. 
The first generation Boxster is a great sports car that can double as a weekend toy and daily transport if required. With prices not likely to get much lower, now might just be the time to invest in one of these great sports cars.
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Last updated: 28th Feb 2017
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Porsche Boxster cars for sale

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  • 1998 Porsche Boxster


    Philip Raby Porsche Porsche Sales and Service This 1998 Porsche Boxster is a real collector’s item, with just 39,000 miles on the clock and two owners from new, the second having owned the car since it was just two years old. The Porsche is finished in eye-catching Speed Yellow with Turbo-look 17-inch alloy wheels, and is in excellent condition. The interior features full Metropole Blue leather, which extends to the door panels and dashboard, which was a rare option on early Boxsters, and the seats are finished in sumptuous Ruffled leather. Another desirable option is full climate control. The car also has a wind deflector and rear storage bin. The Boxster has a well-documented service history. It was treated to a £1000 service in 2016, including new catalytic converters. This year, the car has had a similar amount spend on it, including new air-conditioning condensors (the system now blows icy cold), new water pump, new antiroll bar links and replacement brake fluid, plus a service. Good early Porsche Boxsters are becoming rare and sought-after, which is why we are delighted to have this lovely example in stock. Copyright © [YEAR] Philip Raby Limited

    • Year: 1998
    For sale
    Philip Raby Porsche
  • Porsche Boxster

    £34,850 £34,850

    Variant name:Roadster S ,Derivative:S ,Variant: 3.4 S 2dr PDK Leven Car Company Present This Stunning Porsche Boxster 3.4 S 2dr PDK finished in Platinum Silver Metallic Paint with Red Top and Carrera Red Leather Extended Interior. Contact Us for Further Information or an HDD Video, Tailored Finance Packages Available on Request.

    • Year: 2012
    • Mileage: 35548 mi
    • Engine size: 3.4
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster 3.2S Manual


    Arctic Silver, Black leather interior, Only 2 former keepers, Heated seats, Cruise control, 18in Alloys, ASK Sound system, 3-spoke Steering wheel, Climate Control, Porsche Factory Security System, Computer, Heated rear glass screen, Central remote locking, Multiple airbags, Excellent condition throughout, Immaculate original paintwork, Unmarked interior, HPI clear…..6 MONTH IN-HOUSE PARTS & LABOUR WARRANTY INCLUDED, CREDIT & DEBIT CARDS ACCEPTED, VIEWING BY APPOINTMENT PLEASE. FULL SERVICING FACILITIES FOR YOUR PORSCHE – CALL US ON 01483 79924

    • Mileage: 49000 mi
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £41,993 £41,993

    Variant name:24V S PDK ,Derivative:981 ,Variant: 3.4 24V S PDK Convertible, 20 Carrera Classic Alloys, Sports Exhaust, BOSE, Due in stock we have a beautiful Porsche Boxster 3.4 S PDK Convertible. Offered in Guards Red Gloss with Black leather this car benefits from a host of factory ordered optional extras. Specification includes but is not limited to PDK transmission with stop go function £1922, 20 inch Carrera Classic wheels £1700, Sports exhaust system £1473, BOSE surround sound system £801, Park assist front and rear £599, 2 Zone climate control £518, Bi Xenon headlights including Porsche dynamic light system £477, Mobile phone preparation with Bluetooth interface £445, Sport design steering wheel £429, Heated front seats £283, Wind deflector £182, Power steering Plus £178, Wheel hub covers Porsche badge in colour £109, Top tint windscreen £77, Floor mats in colour matching trim £73, Great spec, Great kerb appeal and one of the finest drivers cars on the market. Please register early interest.

    • Year: 2014
    • Mileage: 23000 mi
    • Engine size: 3.4
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £13,295 £13,295

    Satellite Navigation, Tan Leather interior, Parking Sensors, 18'' Alloys, Full service history Affordable Cars Of Kent are recognised as one of the top 1,000 car dealerships in the whole of the UK & Ireland 2017 By Auto Express in a survey of over 20,000 new & used dealers.Over 70 Used Vehicles In Stock,Visit our Website For a Great Selection Of Used Cars,We Review Our Car Prices Regularly To Give You The Customer The Best Possible Deal..Porsche Boxster 3.4 987 S 2dr Convertible In Stunning Midnight Blue Pearl,SatNav-Tan Leather-Full Porsche/Porsche Specialist Service History,Screen Price Includes Parts & Labour Warranty,FINANCE AVAILABLE FROM 9.9% Apr,LIFETIME WARRANTYS AVAILABLE FROM £199**THIS CAR QUALIFIES FOR OUR TOTAL CARE PACK**All Our Vehicles Are HPI Checked **SPECIAL OFFER** WILLIAMS Synthetic Paint Protection Only £100 When Purchased With a 12 Month Warranty** As We Are Part Of AA Cars This Vehicle Comes With a Full AA History Check & 12 Months AA Breakdown Cover.PLEASE NOTE:Please Call Before Travelling As The Vehicle You Are Looking At May Be At Our Other SiteHaving trouble Getting To Us? Not a Problem,Customer Video Presentations Are Available On Request., Friendly Family Run Business Established For Over 18 Years With Over 70 Used Vehicles In Stock.

    • Mileage: 89000 mi
    • Engine size: 3387
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster 3.4 S

    £38,995 £38,995

    6 Speed Manual Carrera White Full Black Leather Porsche PCM 3.0 Touchscreen Satnav With Universal Audio Interface & Bluetooth Phone Connectivity Telephone Module For PCM 20 Inch Carrera S Alloys Heated Seats 2 Zone Automatic Climate Control Airconditioning Power Steering Plus Park Assist Front & Rear Sensors Sport Design Steering Wheel Sound Package Plus Electrically Folding Exterior Mirrors Porsche PSM Stability Management Onboard Computer Windscreen Toptint Automatic Lights Full Porsche Main Agent Service History Supplied with a Independent mechanical multipoint check & comprehensive 2 years parts and labour warranty. 12 Months MOT A thorough independent multipoint mechanical inspection and rectification of faults found carried out by a renowned Porsche specialist. HPI clear and national mileage register check with certificate At least 6 months or 6000 miles away from the next service All tyres have the correct speed & N rating and a minimum of double the legal tread depth limit

    • Year: 2012
    • Mileage: 24500 mi
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster 1997

    £8,000 £8,000

    I am selling my "Porsche Boxster 2.5 Convertible Car. This car is in perfect condition. I have changed its color from White to Black Matt Rap. MOT will expire in 20th June-2018. You will defiantly enjoy  whenever you drive it. It's always like fly on air. No bargaining, price is fixed. First come first base.   Please text on 07588966552 or mail on "kaleem16y@hotmail.com   

    • Mileage: 131500 mi
    • Engine size: 2500
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £11,500 £11,500

    Metropole Blue Leather., Blue Hood, Power Hood, PCM ) Porsche Communication Management), Sat Navigation, Multiple Airbags, Climate Control, Electric Mirrors, Electric Windows, Electric Seats, Front Centre Armrest, On Board Computer, PSM (Porsche Stability Management), 17'' Boxster Alloys, Rear Spoiler, Wind Deflector, Bose Sound System, Factory Audio, Multi-Disc CD Player, Tracker Security, Factory Alarm, Full service history Excellent Example. High Specification Includes, Sat Nav & Bose. 12 Months Premium Warranty Included.

    • Mileage: 57000 mi
    • Engine size: 2687
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster Reserved


    Porsche Boxster presented in Arctic Silver comes with a full Porsche and specialist history and the following specification; black leather, heated seats, three spoke leather steering wheel, red seat belts, automatic climate control, radio with CD, Bluetooth phone connectivity, wind deflector, roll over hoops in body colour, hard top in body colour and 18" alloy wheels with crested centre caps. Part exchange welcome, competitive finance available. We are a respected Porsche specialist with full Porsche workshop facilities. Viewings welcome by appointment only. Body: Convertible Transmission: Manual Mileage: 24,500 Fuel Type: Petrol Registered: 2009 (09) Doors: 2 Engine Size: 2.9 Finished in: Arctic Silver

    • Year: 2009
    • Mileage: 24500 mi
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £27,990 £27,990

    Variant name:24V S PDK ,Derivative:987 FL (GEN II) ,Variant: (987) 3.4S Gen 2 PDK Sat-Nav This Stunning Boxster S Is Finished In Meteor Grey Metallic With Black Leather Interior, First Registered On 08/12/2011, It Has Covered Only 38750 Miles From New And Comes With Full Porsche Main Dealer Service History, PDK Gearbox, PCM 3 With Satellite Navigation And Bluetooth Phone Modules, Sports Chrono Pack Plus, Sport Design Steering Wheel With Paddle Shift, Bose Sound System, Universal Audio Interface, 19" Carrera S Alloy Wheels, Heated Seats, PSM (Traction Control), Rear Park Assist, Onboard Computer, Power Hood, Front And Rear Fog Lamps, Power Assisted Steering, ABS, Electric Windows, Electric Door Mirrors, Radio CD, Remote Central Locking, Factory Alarm/Immobiliser, HPi Checked, 12 Months Warranty

    • Year: 2011
    • Mileage: 38000 mi
    • Engine size: 3.4
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £42,993 £42,993

    Variant name:24V BLACK EDITION ,Derivative:981 ,Variant: 2.7 24V BLACK EDITION Convertible - Huge Spec, Over 10,000 Pounds of Factory Upgrades New arrival in stock we have a fabulous 2015 (15) Porsche Boxster 981 2.7 Black Edition Roadster which we purchased directly from a local private owner, having sourced the vehicle himself originally as a Porsche demonstrator at only 200 miles. Full Porsche service history: Serviced by Porsche Kendal 09 June 2017. Huge specification includes Full Leather with Aluminium Pack, Porsche Communication Management (PCM) including Navigation (£2141), Sports Seats Plus, Sports Tailpipe, Heated front seats (£283), Individual 2 Zone Climate Control (£518), Sports Steering Wheel (£146), Porsche VTS Tracker, Electrically Folding Exterior Mirrors (£202), Park Assist Front and Rear (£599), 20in Carrera Classic Alloys with Full Colour Wheel Centre Caps (£2671), Bi-Xenon headlights including Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) (£1060), DAB Radio, BOSE Surround Sound-System with integrated jukebox (£801), Cruise Control (£267), Bluetooth Telephone with Telephone Module (£526), Factory fitted sports chassis (20mm lower) for improved handling, Auto Headlight and Wipers,, Auto Dimming Rear View Mirror and Wing Mirrors, Tyre Pressure Monitoring (TPM) and more. Please register early interest - this vehicle is an exceptional purchase opportunity at only 5700 miles.

    • Year: 2015
    • Mileage: 5700 mi
    • Engine size: 2.7
    For sale
  • 2005 Porsche Boxster 3.2 S 2dr, Stunning 2 Owner from new car, last owner for over 10 years with Full Porsche and Specialist Service History.

    £16,490 £16,490

    Multi award-winning prestige car dealership John Holland is excited to offer this beautifully presented 2 Owner from new Porsche Boxster S finished in Dark Blue Metallic with Beige Interior and a Blue Hood, this car has been owner by the last keeper for over 10 years. The specification on this car includes 18inch Wheels, Red Brake Calipers, Part Electric Seats, Electric Windows, Air Conditioning, Electric Mirrors, 6 CD Changer, Wind Deflector and much more. The car has an exception full service history done at Porsche Edinburgh on 19/05/07 at 8650miles, Porsche Glasgow on 28/05/09 at 14224miles and 07/06/11 at 15931miles, Motortune Porsche on 17/06/13 at 17981miles and 22/06/15 at 23606 and finally by ourselves on 03/07/17 at 27492miles. Supplied with 2 keys and all its original owners manuals and wallet. John Holland has been established for over 40 years supplying a premium level of service in the sale of sports, prestige and collectors cars. We have a team of experienced buyers who hand pick our cars from all parts of the UK so you can buy with confidence all vehicles are HPI Clear and prepared to the highest standard, full dealer facilities available call the sales team for fur

    • Year: 2005
    • Mileage: 27498 mi
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £14,390 £14,390

    Boxster S convertible 3.4 with £3000 extras. Manual in Grey with 19" Alloys and red callipers. Bose, Heated seats, Full leather, hand stiched dashboard and steering wheel, CD, 12 volt adaptor. Valve tronic exhaust, large Plenum Chamber and throttle body and industion air filter, professionally fitted by Porsche specialist in Wigston Leicester.

    • Year: 2008
    • Mileage: 67000 mi
    • Engine size: 3.4
    For sale
    Kered Winder
    07901671963 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • Independent Porsche specialists for over 30 years

    £22,995 £22,995

    Presented in stunning Guards red, trimmed with black leather. This low mileage Boxster is equipped with 18" Boxster S alloys, Bluetooth, Porsche sound package, heated seats, rear park assist, aux, automatic air conditioning/climate control, wind deflector and trip computer. Cridfords Ltd Independent Porsche Specialists since 1987, full service history, 6 months warranty. Ask us about the Cridfords Care package including an additional 12 months warranty and Williams F1 ceramic coating paint protection for only £995.00. Finance and part exchange available.

    • Mileage: 14900 mi
    For sale
  • 981 Boxster Spyder

    £83,995 £83,995

    Boxster Spyder 981. 6 speed manual transmission. A 1 owner car (original bill of sale) first registered 30/11/2015 65-registration and supplied by Porsche Centre Mayfair. A very rare Porsche, fewer than 200 Spyders are believed to have been sold in the UK, finished in arguably one of the better colour schemes (Guards Red / Black leather) with a considered and desirable level of optional equipment.

    • Year: 2015
    • Mileage: 6700 mi
    For sale
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