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

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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 one 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. Early Boxsters came with a 201bhp 2.5-litre engine and basic trim options. 
The base engine was soon upgraded to 2.7-litres with an S model being made available with a 256bhp 3.2-litre engine in 2000. Power outputs for these engines increased over the years and generally the last of the line cars are the most desirable to go for. A facelift in 2003 saw some minor changes, the most notable of which was the addition of clear front light units and glass rear screens replacing the plastic versions. 
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 on the second hand market, although they shouldn’t be dismissed if you plan on using the car regularly. A 50th Anniversary 550 Spyder was released in 2004 and with only 1953 produced is the rarest 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.
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
A low-mileage facelifted Boxster S can be found for up to £12,500, while most well cared for examples with average mileages trade for in between the £6000 and £10,000 range. Tatty early cars with high mileages can be found for as low as £ 3000, however as ever they may cost you more in repairs down the road, so buy with care.
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.
Words: John Tallodi
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Last updated: 9th Dec 2015
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Porsche Boxster cars for sale

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Porsche Boxster
0 83990 GBP
  • Porsche Boxster

    £23,995 £23,995

    Full service history Met. Blue / Black Leather, Sat/Nav. Sports Chrono, Heated Seats, Sports Steering Wheel, Full Service History

    • Mileage: 24900 mi
    • Engine size: 2893
    For sale
    De Stefano
  • Porsche Boxster

    £59,900 £59,900

    Variant name:Roadster S ,Derivative:S ,Variant: 2.5 S PDK New 718 Turbo Engined Car, 20 inch Alloys Sports Chrono Satellite Navigation Bluetooth DAB BOSE 1 Owner Stunning John Holland Winner of Dealer's Dealer of the Year at the National Car Dealer Awards 2014/15 is delighted to offer for sale this beautifully presented one owner from new Porsche 718 Boxster 2.5 S 2dr PDK. Finished in Basalt Black with complementing full Black Leather Upholstery with Chrome Interior Inlays. This stunning example comes with a huge specification to include, 20" Multi spoke Alloy Wheels with Red Calipers, Satellite Navigation, Bluetooth, Sports Chrono, Multi Function Leather Steering Wheel with Paddle Shift, Climate Control, DAB Radio with BOSE Surround Sound, Heated Electric Seats, Auto Lights, Xenon Headlights, LED Daytime Running Lights Front and Rear Parking Sensors and Tracker. 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 further information.

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 3588 mi
    • Engine size: 2.5
    For sale

    £3,995 £3,995

    This is a very low mileage well kept example of the prestigious Porsche Boxster 2.5 S Sports Convertible with the 5 speed tiptronic automatic gearbox. Finished in Royal Blue Metallic with Pasha Full Leather trim and Black Soft Top. High spec model with many options including Alloy Wheels, Aircon, ABS, Remote Locking Alarm, Cruise Control, Upgraded Stereo and Electric Pack. Valuable Private Plate B1WAK is included in the sale. Taken in part exchange by us direct from the last owner, only 70,000 miles from new with Comprehensive Full Service History including recent MOT and automatic gearbox service. Stunning looker, nice to drive and being offered at a low winter price (Sure to be worth more next Spring)

    • Mileage: 70000 mi
    • Engine size: 2.5
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster 2001

    £4,990 £4,990

    2001, Y Reg, Manual, Dark Blue with Blue Leather interior, 75,000 miles, MOT April 2017. Ceramic IMS bearing fitted and RMS seal replaced at Precision Porsche in 2015, Clutch checked when replacing the IMS bearing but said it was new at some stage and did not need replacing. (Invoice for £1250.00). New battery Nov 2016. Clear front lights (original lights boxed up), Car Cost £31,000 new. CD Player (non original) and Radio, All manuals and Partial Service record. Air Conditioning, Alarm, Alloy Wheels, Central Locking, Electric Windows £4990.00. Phone for more details Tel 07540 237339 (no texts please) Perfect for Christmas, put a wide smile on his/her face. (More pictures available on request)

    • Mileage: 75000 mi
    • Engine size: 2700
    For sale
  • PORSCHE BOXSTER 3.2 S 52000miles FSH Black Heated Leather PCM Sat Nav 19 Alloys Very High Spec 2005

    £13,495 £13,495

    2005 05 Finished in Guards Red with Only 52,000 miles with a Full Service History with Services at 2446 miles, 22549 miles, 30864 miles, 35238 miles, 40952 miles, 43109 miles and 47818 miles, Black Leather Seats, Heated Seats, Electric Memory Seats, Porsche Embossed Head Rests, PCM Satellite Navigation, PSM Porsche Stability Management, Climate Air Conditioning, Xenons, Rear Parking Sensors, Multi Function Steering Wheel, Cruise Control, Trip Computer, Painted Roll Over Hoops and Centre Console, Red Seat Belts, 19" Alloys with Michelin Pilot Sport N Rated Tyres All Round, Electric Windows, Remote Alarm and Central Locking, Electric Mirrors, Black Power Roof. Absolutely Superb Original Condition and Rare to Find with this Specification. UK Supplied with Full Book Pack and Spare Key.

    • Mileage: 52000 mi
    • Engine size: 3.179
    For sale
  • PORSCHE BOXSTER 981 2.7 Manual 6 Speed Only 5200 miles Stunning Car 2015

    £35,995 £35,995

    2015 15 Finished in White with Only 5,200 miles from new, Black Leather Alcantara Seats, Heated Seats, 6 Speed Manual, Porsche Bluetooth, Red Power Roof, Climate Air Conditioning, Remote Alarm and Central Locking, Electric Windows, Electric Mirrors, CD, 19" Unmarked Alloys with Goodyear F1 Tyres all Round. Absolutely Stunning Low Mileage 981 Boxster in a Great Colour Combination and Fantastic Value. UK Supplied with Full Book Pack, Spare Key and Balance of Manufacturers Warranty.

    • Mileage: 5200 mi
    • Engine size: 2.706
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £22,993 £22,993

    Cruise Control, Heated Seats, Service history ****ALL VEHICLES COME WITH A MINIMUM OF 6 MONTHS RAC WARRANTY, 12 MONTHS BREAKDOWN AND HOME START***** GP Cars are delighted to present for sale RED, this stunning Boxster 987 Generation 2 finished in the iconic Guards Red with a black leather/alcantara interior. This unbelievably well maintained example comes with; FULL PORSCHE MAIN DEALER SERVICE HISTORY, NEXT SERVICE DUE SUMMER 2017, Carrera White Instrument Dials, Cruise Control, Heated Seats, Rear Park Assist, Wind Deflector, Storage Box, Mobile Phone Prep, Universal Audio Interface. All original documentation and MOT certificates, Nearly new Michelin Pilot Sport N1 tyres with Porsche Specialist 4 wheel alignment, Leather and alcantara upholstery, Two keys, Category 1 alarm and immobiliser. This car is HPI clear, we accept credit and debit card payments, we can organise competitive finance for you and we would be happy to take your current vehicle in as part exchange. Viewing by appointment only. All vehicles are subject to an £80 administration fee (BB11ENK), £22,993, If somebody replies with the e-mail address leontommy6gmail.com, please disregard and inform us directly, as they are not associated to our business.

    • Mileage: 19000 mi
    • Engine size: 2900
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £19,490 £19,490

    Climate Control, Bluetooth, Full Leather, Alarm, Anti-Theft System, Central Locking, Immobiliser, Remote Alarm, Remote Central Locking, Electric Seats, Heated Seats, Height Adjustable Seat, Adjustable Steering Column, Multi-function Steering Wheel, Power Steering, Stability Control, Traction Control, Trip Computer, ABS, Multiple Airbags, Brake Assist, Colour Coded Body, Front Fog Lamps, Metallic Paintwork, Electric Front Windows, Electric Mirrors, Bose, CD Player, Radio, 19'' Alloys Finished in Aqua Blue metallic with Sand Beige Leather. A beautiful example fitted with Heated Seats and Steering Wheel, Bose Hifi and a Multifunction Steering wheel.The Boxster has 19'' Sport Design Alloy Wheels fitted with Bridgestone Tyres.All our cars are history checked.We are an RAC Approved Dealer and supply our cars with an RAC Warranty and Breakdown Cover.Finance and Part Exchange are available, viewing by appointment please

    • Mileage: 89334 mi
    • Engine size: 3436
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £23,990 £23,990

    Bluetooth, Climate Control, Colour SatNav, Full Leather, iPod Connectivity, Rain-Sensing Wipers, Alarm, Anti-Theft System, Immobiliser, Locking Wheel Nuts, Remote Alarm, Remote Central Locking, Electric Seats, Head Restraints, Heated Seats, Height Adjustable Seat, Lumbar Adjustment, Adjustable Steering Column, Cruise Control, Parking Sensors, Power Steering, Stability Control, Traction Control, Trip Computer, ABS, Multiple Airbags, Brake Assist, Colour Coded Body, Front Fog Lamps, Headlamp Jetwash, Metallic Paintwork, Auto-dip Rearview, Automatic Electric Windows, Electric Mirrors, CD Player, Radio, 19'' Alloys Presented for sale in excellent condition, this Boxster S Black Edition is number 282 of 987 worldwide.The Boxster's specification includes Porsche crested seats, Sport Design steering wheel and Black Edition stainless steel door-entry guards as part of the Black Edition specification.The Porsche also has Bi-Xenon Headlamps, Porsche Communication Management with Navigation and Bose Surround Sound.All our cars are history checked.We are an RAC Approved Dealer and supply our cars with an RAC Warranty and Breakdown Cover.Finance and Part Exchange are available, viewing by appointment please

    • Mileage: 72139 mi
    • Engine size: 3436
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £7,000 £7,000

    We offer this Porsche Boxster 2.7 986 in Absolutely Stunning Condition throughout and with a Full Documented service history including old MOT'S. Here at Auto-Sportiva Ltd we are an AA Approved garage so Buy with Confidence. Ask about our Extendable AA Warranties. Spec Includes- Full Black Leather Interior, 17in Sport Classic Alloy Wheels, Bose Premium Sound System, Air-Conditioning, Next MOT due 01/09/2017, Last serviced on 12/08/2016 at 77,889 miles, Standard Features - Seats Electric (Driver/Passenger), In Car Entertainment (Radio/CD), Electric Windows (Front), Alarm, Airbags, CD Player, Central Door Locking, Radio, Power steering, Remote central locking. 2 seats, Metallic Silver, WE ALWAYS RECOMMEND CALLING OUR SALES TEAM PRIOR TO VIEWING ONE OF OUR VEHICLES TO AVOID ANY DISAPPOINTMENT IF SOLD - FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT - www.auto-sportiva.com. Vehicles Supplied fully inspected, Valeted and with a Comprehensive Warranty and Clear HPI report so Buy with Confidence. Extendable AA Warranties are available including AA Break Down cover. Please ask our Sales Team for more info. Various Finance Packages available. To view this vehicle just put TN13 1BH into your Sat Nav. At Auto-Sportiva we pride ourselves on supplying only the best quality used vehicles and providing the very best service to all of our customers so please give us a call on 01732 450731 to discuss any of our vehicles further or just for some honest advice.

    • Mileage: 80000 mi
    • Engine size: 2700
    For sale

    £8,486 £8,486


    • Mileage: 110314 mi
    • Engine size: 3.2
    For sale

    £6,995 £6,995

    PORSCHE Boxster 24V S finished in Silver (Manual), 110,705 miles only 10 previous owners from new.;;Features include Electric Windows, Alloy Wheels, Independent Vehicle Inspection, 3 Month Warranty, Climate Control, MOT, Adjustable Steering Wheel, Electric Roof, Power Assisted Steering, Air Conditioning, Electric Sunroof, Alarm.;;Only GBP 7,495;;

    • Mileage: 110705 mi
    • Engine size: 3.2
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £7,995 £7,995

    3 owner early Boxster with just 45,900 documented miles and full service history. The second owner of this immaculate Porsche bought the car in 2002 and kept it until early 2016 and kept it in his Porsche collection, hence the low miles. We have the service book that show the registration date of 2nd August 1999 and 7 stamps as follows: a service at 6705 miles at Lancaster Porsche Colchester on 11/08/2000, a major service at AFN Porsche Guildford at 25,340 miles on 13/02/2002, a minor service at the Porsche Centre Guildford at 30,496 miles on 25/07/2005, a major service at the Porsche Centre Guildford at 33,327 miles on 25/07/2008, a minor service at the Porsche Centre Guildford at 35,554 miles on 04/04/2011, a major service at the Porsche Centre Guildford at 39,507 on 06/07/2015 and a major service at Parr UK Porsche specialist at 41,363 miles in February this year. The book also shows brake fluid changes at Porsche centre in 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2015, a condition report in 2005 and 2008 and airbag checks at 2005 and 2015, all at Porsche centres. The car has a MOT that expires 24 July 2017 and it has 4 brand new Pirelli P Zeros. We have 2 keys, the roof is in great condition with a clear back window and it has 4 unmarked alloys. • 3 owners • 45,900 miles • Service history • New Pirelli P Zeros all round • Full service this year We are 30 seconds from junction 2a off the M26 and 5 minutes from junction 2 off the M20. Viewing strictly by appointment. Call us on 07711 645 465 to view. Part exchange welcome.

    • Year: pre 1900
    • Mileage: 45900 mi
    • Engine size: 2.5
    For sale
    Wayne Lamport
  • Porsche Boxster

    £31,990 £31,990

    Variant name:24V S PDK ,Derivative:987 FL (GEN II) ,Variant: S (987) Gen2 PDK 3.4 Sat-Nav Only 5000 Miles Finished In Basalt Black Metallic With Black Leather Interior, First Registered 11/08/2011, This Magnificent Boxster S Has Covered Only 5,000 Miles From New And Comes With Full Porsche Main Dealer Service History, The Specification Includes Sports Chrono Pack Plus, Sports Design Steering Wheel With Paddle Shift, PCM With Satellite Navigation And Bluetooth Phone Modules, 19" Turbo II Alloys, Bose Surround Sound System, Heated Hardback Sports Seats, Universal Audio Interface, Rear Park Assist, PSM (Traction Control), Onboard Computer, 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: 5000 mi
    • Engine size: 3.4
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster 2.7 PDK

    £26,995 £26,995

    Presented in Basalt black, trimmed with black leather. Options include 19" Boxster S alloys, heated seats, wind deflector, Bluetooth, rear park assist, automatic air conditioning/climate control and trip computer. Cridfords Ltd Independent Porsche Specialists since 1987, full service history, supplied with 12 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.

    • Year: 2012
    • Mileage: 40000 mi
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster ON SALE NOW

    £21,995 £21,995

    Porsche Boxster presented in Creme White comes with a full history and the following specification; Red leather interior, three spoke leather sports steering wheel, Instrument dials in black, heated seats, automatic climate control, radio with CD, Bluetooth phone system, rear park assist, wind deflector, Porsche embossed headrests, red hood, roll over hoops in body colour and 17" 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: 56,800 Fuel Type: Petrol Registered: 2010 (10) Doors: 2 Engine Size: 2.9 Finished in: Creme White

    • Year: 2010
    • Mileage: 56800 mi
    For sale
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