In 2001, a new, electronic driver aid, Porsche Stability Management (PSM), was introduced as an option. The old-style optional traction-control system was intrusive and restrictive where, “PSM is barely noticeable, intervening very quickly,” we noted in our new-car review. Noting mid-engined cars’ tendency to “snap-spin when provoked, PSM makes a lot of sense. Especially in the rain.” It can be turned off at any time, except under braking (it turns back off when you’re off the brakes).
Mid-engined handling made easy
The Boxster is known for its predictable, capable handling. “It may not yet have the refinement or the power of the 911,” we said in 1996, but, “in other ways the 986 even now far outpaces the (993-generation) 911.” With the majority of its mass centrally located, the Boxster has balanced handling with sharp reflexes. Some clever engineering makes driving the Boxster fast feel like second nature.
When the car is pushed too far, we found that the non-PSM traction control can safely stop “a tire-squealing fit of oversteer.” As a last line of protection, the Boxster has standard, dual front airbags and, starting in 1998, door-mounted side airbags.
A convertible for every day
The Boxster’s interior is weather-proof with the roof closed, satisfying a key requirement for a daily driver. The canvas top never leaked in our test of a 2000 model during a week of bad weather ranging from torrential storms to the lightest sprinkles. It can be raised or stowed in 12 seconds with a pull of a lever and a push of a button. It received one notable upgrade in 2001, a headliner, which better insulates the interior.
All 1997–2002 Boxster canvas tops have plastic rear windows that can become hazy from exposure to the elements and crack from use. Some owners seem to have some luck clearing the haze with polishing or cleaning products, but the window should be replaced if it cracks. We’ve been quoted as little as $375 for the job at an automotive upholstery shop, though the top otherwise must be in good condition. Avoid cars with a broken top, as they’re expensive to replace. Upgrading to a later-style glass window requires the whole top to be replaced, which is a several thousand-dollar proposition.
2.5 liters vs. 2.7 liters
Early 2.5-liter Boxsters are good cars, but we’d go with the newest car you can afford — we recommend a later 2.7-liter car. The newer models might push above our price target, but the extra expenditure is worthwhile. They were extensively updated each year for better reliability and safety, as well as more comfort and convenience. 2001 and 2002 models are particularly nice because they have ambient interior lighting, a higher-quality interior, and sometimes the optional PSM system. Our top choice would be a 2002 model, however, because 2002 engines feature the latest reliability updates.