Boxster & Cayman: Mid-engine Modern

While not as powerful as their 911 siblings, the Boxster and Cayman offer better balance and more user-friendly handling.

1997 Boxster (986)

After the wildly-enthusiastic reception for the Boxster concept car at the Detroit Auto Show in 1993, it didn’t take long for Porsche to announce plans to build a production version. This would be the younger brother to the 911, but dramatically different, with its mid-engine design. Porsche enthusiasts waited anxiously for their first look at the production model, since the concept car was something of a designer’s fantasy, not needing to accommodate an engine, a top, and other mechanical apparatus. And when the Boxster — so-named for its boxer engine and roadster layout — debuted in late 1996 for the 1997 model year, waiting buyers were pleased to see that Porsche had made a concerted effort to replicate the show car, even if many thought the production car didn’t quite live up to the concept’s promise.

Known internally as the 986, the new Boxster was developed alongside the 996-based 911, and shared many components with its more expensive sibling. Indeed, the cars were practically identical forward of the A-pillars, and both utilized all-new, water-cooled flat-six engines. Thanks in part to this parts sharing, the Boxster originally sold for just $39,980. Fred Schwab, then president of Porsche Cars NA, probably had some influence on establishing this price point just below $40,000; he had asserted for some time that Porsches, expensive as they are, are still price-sensitive.

Originally scheduled for delivery in the U.S. market in mid-1996, the first cars didn’t arrive here until early 1997. At that point, the chance to buy one in ’97 was quite limited, as dealers were reported to have accepted more than 6,000 advance orders, which accounted for the first year of production destined for the U.S. In other words, the Boxster was a smash hit, one which led to the development of a second-generation model, the 987, in 2005, and the creation of a coupe version, the Cayman, in 2006. By mid-2011, Boxster and Cayman combined production had surpassed 300,000 cars.

Today, used Boxsters are both plentiful and inexpensive — early 986s can be had for as little as $10,000. For the money, there are few more-enjoyable sports cars available.

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