Evolutionary: Where the Porsche Boxster came from and where it’s going – Driving

Charting the history of Porsche’s celebrated enthusiast model

Publishing date:

Jan 23, 2022  •  36 minutes ago  •  5 minute read  •  Join the conversation Porsche 986 Boxster Photo by Brendan McAleer

Article content

Both cars have Porsche badges up front and a flat-six engine tucked in the middle. The roof comes off both, and in both cases removing it is kind of a pain. They’ve both got two seats and a manual transmission. Heck, they’re even both blue.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Fitting, because this 1970 914-6 and 2021 Spyder function as bookends to a breed. It’s the little brother to the 911, the one that didn’t get the headline-grabbing peak power, but was often the more satisfying to drive: the Boxster.

Precisely because it’s not a 911, Porsche’s had a bit more flexibility to change up the Boxster’s recipe in the past, and has some pretty big plans for the future. Here’s where the Boxster came from, and where it’s going to.

A Porsche For The Rest Of Us Volks

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The Porsche 914 had a somewhat protracted birth. In concept, it was supposed to be sold as both a Volkswagen (as a four-cylinder) and a Porsche (with a six-cylinder), thus neatly providing VW with a replacement for the Karmann Ghia, and slotting in under the 911 as Porsche’s entry model.

As it happens, a bout of the periodic Volkswagen-Porsche infighting erupted, and when the dust settled, all types of 914s would be sold as Porsches. Unfortunately, they would also cost more than anticipated, and for the price of the six-cylinder 914-6, you might as well buy a basic 911T.

As a proto-Boxster, the 914-6 was a bit hamstrung by its price, and its relatively vague shift action. It also didn’t make a great deal of power, with just 109 hp from a 2.0L flat-six engine.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

But oh, how it howls on a backroad today. The flat-six demands you wring every ounce of power from it, and sings happily when you do. The dog-leg shifter requires a certain amount of patience to get right, but the rest of the driving experience is bliss. Not exactly fast, but bliss none the less.

Eggs Over Easy

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The 914 shuffled off to be replaced by the front-engine 944 as the (relatively) affordable Porsche in the family. But both the 944 and the 968 that followed it began looking a bit unfashionable as the 1990s arrived, so Porsche turned to a pair of relatively new design hires: Grant Larson and Pinky Lai.

Together, the pair came up with the gorgeous Boxster Concept, which debuted in Detroit in 1993. The production model changed slightly to fit the brief, and ended up sharing many parts with the 996-chassis 911 that would follow.

This included the headlights. Porsche fans refer to the runny-yolk look of the early Boxsters blobby headlights as “fried eggs” and it’s not always a term used with kindness. A bigger worry were the failures experienced in some of the early engines, as this was Porsche’s first effort at building a water-cooled flat-six.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

  1. Rolling the dice on a spotless Porsche Boxster is a dream come true

  2. 6 things I learned driving the new Porsche 718 Spyder

Still, by the time a facelift arrived in 2002 and eliminated those fried egg lights, the Boxster was a hit. In fact, until the Cayenne was launched one year later, the Boxster reigned supreme as Porsche’s all-time leading volume seller.

A base-model Boxster of this era is not the quickest of cars, but they remain a delight to drive. The entry-level models got a 2.7L flat-six that made right around 220 hp, making straight-line performance brisk but not enough to get you in much trouble. Instead, the driver gets to revel in how small and precise the Boxster feels compared to its more famous 911 sibling. It’s not the speed, it’s the experience — which only improves once you lower the roof.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Walter Rohrl Is Not Impressed

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Over the next two generations, the Boxster stayed true to its original recipe while improving in both performance and looks. It had been joined by a hardtop coupe version, the Cayman, in 2006. Further, the arrival of Porsche’s vaunted PDK double-clutch gearbox made both cars even better all-rounders.

However, in its fourth and current generation, Porsche decided to tweak the Boxster’s name and layout. It would now instead be called the 718 Boxster, a nod to a racing car from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The original 718 was a resounding success, chalking up the wins with a 1500 cc flat-four engine and a feathery curb weight. The 718 Boxster, on the other hand, was less charming with its new 2.0L and 2.5L (S models) turbocharged engines. People complained that the flat-six growl had been replaced by something that sounded more like a Subaru.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Noted rally winner and Porsche test driver Walter Rohrl came out in his usual blunt way during engine development, saying, “Sounds like a Volkswagen Beetle, I’m not kidding you! I tell the guys, ‘You’re joking with this sound, right?’ But they just say they are working on it. I’m sure they will get it right.”

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Complaints aside, the turbocharged Boxster and Cayman had more flexible torque curves, and were certainly not lacking in power — even the base car came with 300 hp. Moreover, if you were a diehard fan who had to have a flat-six in your open-topped roadster, Porsche was not about to let you down — you just had to pay for the privilege.

For the lofty price of $112,900 (plus options), the Boxster Spyder brought the snarl of a 4.0L flat-six engine making a heady 414 hp. Best of all, this was Porsche’s GT program let loose on the Boxster chassis, which meant it didn’t have buttons to let you fiddle with the drive modes: your right foot did all the decision making.

But again, the recipe here was close to that of the 914-6, butting right up against the cost of an entry-level Porsche 911. The difference is that the argument could easily be made that the Boxster Spyder was the superior enthusiasts’ sports car choice, and the 911 was just for if you really needed rear seats.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

From Water-cooled To Electric

The 2022 Porsche Taycan GTS at Willow Springs International Raceway Photo by Porsche

Porsche chose the Boxster platform to launch its first water-cooled flat-six engine because the company knew the 911 purists wanted to cling to air cooling as long as possible. That’s probably the way the 911 story will play itself out over the next decade or so, being among the last vehicles in the Porsche range to pivot to hybridization and pure battery power.

Now that Porsche has the all-electric Taycan in the fold, in several variants, it’s beginning the process of electrifying the rest of the fleet. The Macan will likely be next, but there are already electric prototypes of the current Boxster running around, and a concept model is rumoured to be on the way.

In this way, the Boxster positioning as an entry level model slotting in under the 911 might just shed that last vestige of little brother syndrome. It’s precisely because it is not a 911 that the Boxster is able to change more quickly. The established icon has an inertia to it. The Taycan is the first modern electric Porsche, but the odds are that the Boxster will be Porsche’s first all-electric sportscar.

When that arrives — preferably in blue — it will form a new bookend to the Boxster breed. It’s a breed that’s free to reinvent itself when the future beckons.

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Source: https://driving.ca/features/feature-story/evolutionary-where-the-porsche-boxster-came-from-and-where-its-going

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous post Shooting outside southwest Houston club kills 1, injures others – Houston Chronicle
Next post Ford Electric F-150 Lightning Pickup Is New EV Contender – The New York Times