1997-2004 Boxster & Boxster S
price range: $12,000-19,999
Astute readers will notice the Boxster and Boxster S fall in the same price range as the 911 SC. Odd, isn’t it? But the choice is yours: Do you want to drive a modern mid-engine platform that provides superior handling, incredible balance and niceties like ABS and even PSM, all in a package that will give you a top-down street car, or do you crave the near primitive-by-comparison feel of an early 911? Add a set of performance brake pads and some sticky tires to the Boxster S, and you have a car that is amazingly capable and affordable for your local HPDE.
Obviously, the cheapest cars are the earliest ones, but time has proven the 1997-99 2.5 motor to be less reliable than the later 2.7-liter motor. This is the new family of watercooled boxer motors, and the mid-engine six-cylinder provides surprising performance. Finding a good 2000-01 Boxster should be fairly easy, and higher mileage cars have either passed or cured the typical RMS and IMS problems. By moving into the current century, you should also be able to find a Boxster with the optional Porsche Stability Manage-ment system. If you can afford it, the 2002 and later 2.7-liter Boxsters have most of the engine reliability updates installed at the factory. While the base Boxster is a great car with its 217-hp engine, there is more to be had from the S.
Well within our price range is the 2000-04 Boxster S, and the S package brings everything a track junky could want in a car. The 2.7 liter S-motor produces 250 hp, and the big red brakes are matched to the increased demands. Find a 2003-04 Boxster S, and the Variocam provides an additional eight horsepower. Finding a Boxster S with the desirable Sport Chrono package, sport seats and sport suspension is not a major chore; all of these things are well worth searching for during your hunt for a Boxster.
The driving experience is going to be totally different than our first two choices. The electronic wizardry will help you produce respectable lap times quicker, and driving this perfectly balanced car at speed comes almost naturally. The modern package tends to inspire confidence, and when that inspiration turns to over-confidence, the PSM (Please Save Me) helps you through the course. If you are a novice driver, you may notice your instructor is speaking in calmer tones, using terms like “nicely done.” It’s up to you to discover if he is talking to the car or the driver.
Making a 986 Boxster S your weekend track car and daily driver is barely a challenge; these cars are that refined in stock form. Even with performance upgrades the Boxster S will handle street driving without being harsh, and you have room for golf clubs if you need to calm down after a weekend at the track.
So what’s the downside to going modern versus vintage? Changing brake pads and servicing or modifying the suspension is still within reach of a good home mechanic, but working on the Boxster engine is much more difficult than either the 911SC or the 944 S2. So if working on your own car is part of the fun, this may limit you a bit or at least present a new learning curve. This downside hardly outweighs the pleasures of a totally modern sports car that behaves up to your expectations on the street or on track days, and you won’t be the only guy towing a tire trailer on weekends.