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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 Cabriolet - 2.5l 1998

    €11,500 - €14,950 est. (£9,956.70 - £12,943.71 est.) €11,500 - €14,950 est. (£9,956.70 - £12,943.71 est.)
    Online Auction
    Auction Date: 01 Jan 1970
    RESERVE PRICE
    Catawiki Auctions
  • PORSCHE BOXSTER S 986 manual 2002

    £8,500 £8,500

    Due in as a part exchange, this Porsche Boxter S is in Artic Silver with Metropole Blue full leather, Just 2 previous owners and with a comprehensive service history file, and in addition to the standard spec, the car has full leather,Porsche Stability Management,upgraded sound system,rear park assist, on board computer,Litronic headlights,18" Sport alloys, silver rear centre console and roll bars and Tracker, the full spec is detailed in the photos.. We have prepared this car to a very high standard, including refurbishing the alloy wheels.All our cars come with an RAC warranty, which can be extended for up to 2 years at additional cost. We welcome your car as part exchange and will always help you find the best way to finance your purchase. Andrew Shipp Autos are based 5 miles south of Horsham in West Sussex. Please contact Andrew on 01403 865645 to arrange a viewing and test drive

    • Mileage: 78000 mi
    • Engine size: 3.2
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster S |

    £63,450 £63,450

    Specification MAKE Porsche MODEL (718) Boxster S COLOUR Rhodium Silver Metallic YEAR 2016/16 MILEAGE 1900 DESCRIPTION We are delighted to be able to offer for sale this exceptional high specification 718 Porsche Boxster S. Finished in Rhodium Silver with Black Leather Interior. Supplied with the balance of the manufacturers warranty. STANDARD EQUIPMENT Anti Locking Brakes, Driver and Passenger Airbags, Electrically Operated Black Soft Top, Electric Windows, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Bluetooth Telephone Connectivity, OPTIONAL EXTRAS LED Headlights inc Porsche Dynamics, 20" Carrera S Alloy Wheels Painted Black, Cruise Control, Heated Seats, Porsche Active Suspension Management, Heated Multi Function Steering Wheel, Two Zone Automatic Climate Control, Light Design Package, Electrically Folding Exterior Mirrors, GT Sport Steering Wheel, Fully Electric Sports Seats, Automatically Diming Mirrors, Sport Chrono Package, DAB Radio, Sports Exhaust System, Front and Rear Park Assist, Navigation Module with Touchscreen. TRANSMISSION PDK Gearbox ENGINE CAPACITY 2497 STANDARD POWER (BHP) 350 EMISSIONS (CO 2 ) 167 PRICE £63,450 Interested in vehicle × INTERESTED IN VEHICLE Porsche (718) Bo

    • Mileage: 63450 mi
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £25,989 £25,989

    Variant name:24V S PDK ,Derivative:987 FL (GEN II) ,Variant: 24V S PDK Black Sports Leather, PDK Transmission, 19" Turbo II Wheels, Sports Chrono Package Plus, PCM with Navigation, Mobile Phone Preparation, Fully Auto Climate Control, Sound Package Plus, Sports Exhaust, Three Spoke Multi-Function Steering Wheel, Park Assist, Auto Dipping Mirrors with Integrated Rain Sensor, Seat Heating, Seat Belts in Guards Red, Porsche Embossed Headrests, Crested Wheel Centres, Universal Audio Interface

    • Year: 2011
    • Mileage: 45463 mi
    • Engine size: 3.4
    For sale
  • PORSCHE BOXSTER 3.2 S 2001

    £7,750 £7,750

    2001 "51" PORSCHE BOXTER 3.2 S CONVERTIBLE, 6 SPEED MANUAL, ONLY 63,000 GENUINE VERY LOW MILES, ONLY 2 FORMER KEEPERS, SAME OWNER SINCE 2003! FULL PORSCHE MAIN DEALER AND SPECIALIST SERVICE HISTORY(LAST SERVICED 13/09/2016) THIS CAR REALLY IS A PRISTINE EXAMPLE, IT COMES WITH FULL BLACK LEATHER INTERIOR, PARTIAL ELECTRIC SEATS, AUTOMATIC CLIMATE CONTROLLED AIR CONDITIONING, WIND DEFLECTOR, ELECTRIC ROOF, HEATED FRONT SCREEN, BOSE SOUND SYSTEM, CD PLAYER, ELECTRIC WINDOWS, ELECTRIC MIRRORS, ABS, TRACTION CONTROL, SPARE REMOTE KEY, ORIGINAL BOOK PACK SUPPLIED.;;;;12 MONTHS ROAD TAX ONLY GBP 295;;PART EXCHANGE ALWAYS WELCOME. ;;3 MONTHS PARTS AND LABOUR WARRANTY WHICH CAN BE EXTENDED UP TO 18 MONTHS FOR JUST GBP 299. ;;ALL MAJOR DEBIT AND CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED. ;;COMPETITIVE FINANCE CAN BE ARRANGED, PLEASE CALL FOR A QUOTE. ;;IF YOU HAVE EVER BEEN REFUSED FINANCE PLEASE CALL US AND WE WILL BE ABLE TO HELP. ;;FULLY HPI CLEAR. ;;TO VIEW ALL OUR CARS FOR SALE PLEASE VISIT WWW.VANTAGECARSALES.COM;;WE ARE BASED NEAR ASHFORD IN KENT.;;OPEN 7 DAYS 9.00am TO 9.00pm VIEWING BY APPOINTMENT ONLY, EVENING VIEWINGS CAN ALSO BE ARRANGED IN OUR FULLY LIT SHOWROOM.

    • Mileage: 63000 mi
    • Engine size: 3.2
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    €23,500(£20,346.30) €23,500(£20,346.30)

    Beautiful Porsche Boxster 987 with many options and documentation. Recent full service. Comes with the following options: - Tiptronic 5 speed with buttons on the steering wheel - Bose sound system - Xenon - Black 18 inch alloy wheels - Continental SportContact 3 ZR tires (265/235) - Seal Grau Metallic paint - Cruise Control - Airconditioning - Rain sensor - Headlamp washer - Remote central door locking - Leather sport seats with seat heating - Electric windows and mirrors - Automatically dimmable mirrors - Fog lights - Sport exhaust - Cup holders and CD compartment - USB connector - Pioneer touch screen Navigation AV system - 99.200 km Comes with all books, original tools, 3 keys and many service invoices. On Dutch EU registration. Please contact us to make an appointment to view this Porsche Boxster in our showroom in Bilthoven, The Netherlands.

    • Year: 2005
    • Mileage: 99200 mi
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £21,490 £21,490

    Air Conditioning, Full Leather, Alarm, Anti-Theft System, Central Locking, Locking Wheel Nuts, Remote Alarm, Remote Central Locking, Front Centre Armrest, Height Adjustable Seat, Adjustable Steering Column, Parking Sensors, Power Steering, Stability Control, Traction Control, Trip Computer, Multiple Airbags, Colour Coded Body, Metallic Paintwork, Automatic Electric Windows, Electric Front Windows, Electric Mirrors, Bose, CD Player, Radio, 18'' Alloys Our 2009 2.9 PDK Boxster is finished in Midnight Blue Metallic with Blue Leather.The Porsche is in beautiful condition inside and out have only covered 20,000 miles. The Boxster has had two owners from new and has a complete service history. The Porsche is fitted with Bose Speaker System, Parking Assist and Full Leather.Finance and Part Exchange are available.We are an RAC Approved Dealer and Trading Standards Approved Dealer.Finance and Part Exchange are available, viewing by appointment please

    • Mileage: 19985 mi
    • Engine size: 2893
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £12,990 £12,990

    Variant name:24V S ,Derivative:987 ,Variant: (987) 3.2S Manual Convertible ***THIS 2 OWNER PORSCHE BOXSTER 3.2S 6 SPEED MANUAL WILL BE ARRIVING SOON AT 911BOX*** Finished In Arctic Silver Metallic With Metropole Blue Leather Interior. First Registered 26/06/2006 ***MORE DETAILS AND IMAGES TO FOLLOW SHORTLY***

    • Year: 2006
    • Mileage: 58000 mi
    • Engine size: 3.2
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster ON SALE NOW

    £12,995 £12,995

    Porsche Boxster presented in Seal Grey comes with a full Porsche/Specialist history and the following specification; Stone Grey leather interior, heated seats, three spoke leather steering wheel, automatic climate control, radio with CD, Bose sound, wind deflector, rear park assist, top tint on windscreen and 18" Boxster S alloy wheels. Part exchange welcome, competitive finance available. We are a respectable Porsche specialist with full Porsche workshop facilities. Viewings welcome by appointment only. Body: Convertible Transmission: Manual Mileage: 66,000 Fuel Type: Petrol Registered: 2006 (06) Doors: 2 Engine Size: 2.7 Finished in: Seal Grey

    • Year: 2006
    • Mileage: 66000 mi
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster S

    POA POA

    Porsche Boxster S 3.4 Convertible 6 Speed Manual registered January 2008 finished in Metallic Basalt Black with Black Roof, Part-Electric Heated Black Leather Sports Seats, Automatic Air Conditioning, Rear Parking Sensors, 3-CD Changer, Electric Windows and Mirrors, Xenon Headlamps, 19 Inch Alloys, Floor Mats, Full Service History at 13,733 on 01/12/09 at Porsche Bournemouth; 30,254 on 12/12/2011 at Porsche Cambridge and 48,735 on 21/01/2014 including Drive Belt Change at Nelson Porsche Specialists. Finance available on request - subject to status and terms. Ask about our Company Directors packages. Fully Valeted; UK Wide Delivery Available; Part Exchange Welcome. Follow us on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

    • Year: 2008
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £12,250 £12,250

    Climate Control, Full Leather, Alarm, Central Locking, Immobiliser, Locking Wheel Nuts, Remote Central Locking, Remote Alarm, Front Centre Armrest, Heated Seats, Height Adjustable Seat, Parking Sensors, Power Steering, Stability Control, Traction Control, Trip Computer, ABS, Multiple Airbags, Colour Coded Body, Front Fog Lamps, Metallic Paintwork, Automatic Electric Windows, Electric Mirrors, CD Player, Radio, 19'' Alloys, Full service history Finished in Midnight Blue Metallic with Ocean Blue Leather interior this Porsche is a lovely looking car.The Boxster is fitted with 19'' Carerra Classic Alloys wheels and the specification includes Full Leather Interior, Heated Seats, Automatic Climate Control and Parking Assistance.Our Boxster drives beautifully and viewing is recommended.We are an RAC and Trading Standards Approved Dealer. Finance and Part Exchange are possible.Viewing by appointment please

    • Mileage: 63324 mi
    • Engine size: 2687
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £21,495 £21,495

    COMPETITIVE NO DEPOSIT 5.9 % APR ON REQUEST, 50 % OFF 3 YEAR PREMIUM WARRANTY OFFER, WEAR & TEAR ''INCLUDING WORN PARTS'', PARTS & LABOUR, NO EXCESS, UPTO CURRENT MARKET VALUE, NATIONWIDE COVER, COURTESY CAR, PRICE MATCH GUARANTEED ON LIKE FOR LIKE VEHICLES, LATE NIGHT VIEWINGS BY APPOINTMENT, ALL OUR VEHICLES ARE HPI AND MILEAGE VERIFIED Here We Have A Immaculate Manual Porsche Boxster Convertible Finished In Unmarked Meteor Grey Metallic, This Vehicle Is Absolutely Stunning Inside And Out And Aslo Boasts Full Porsche Documented Service History And Also Comes With A Great Specification Including: Black Extended Leather Sports Seats, Satellite Navigation, Bluetooth, Sport Chrono Pack Including Sports Button, Pasm, Cruise Control, Wind Deflector, Bi Xenon Litronic Headlights, Rear Parking Sensors, Finished Off With Unmarked 18'' Cayman S Wheels With Porsche Coloured Centre Crests, A 3Yr Warranty Is Available At A Cost Of £1995, But For A Limited Period We Are Offering 50% Discount Leaving Only £995 To Pay. Low Rate 5.9% Finance

    • Mileage: 27000 mi
    • Engine size: 2893
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster

    £7,995 £7,995

    Air Conditioning, Full Leather, Memory Seats, Powered Folding Mirrors, Alarm, Anti-Theft System, Central Locking, Immobiliser, Locking Wheel Nuts, Remote Alarm, Remote Central Locking, Electric Seats, Front Centre Armrest, Head Restraints, Sports Seats, Adjustable Steering Column, Cruise Control, Power Steering, Traction Control, ABS, Colour Coded Body, Front Fog Lamps, Metallic Paintwork, Premium Cloth soft top, Automatic Electric Windows, Electric Front Windows, Electric Mirrors, Electric Windows, Bose, 18'' Alloys, Part service history

    • Mileage: 87000 mi
    • Engine size: 2700
    For sale
  • Porsche Boxster ON SALE NOW

    £20,990 £20,990

    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: 56,000 Fuel Type: Petrol Registered: 2010 (10) Doors: 2 Engine Size: 2.9 Finished in: Creme White

    • Year: 2010
    • Mileage: 56000 mi
    For sale
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