For those who keep up with my youtube journey (click here), you will know that I have driven the 986 Porsche Boxster S a fair bit and shared what I think on camera.
But I always enjoy taking some time away after driving a car to really think about the experience and how best to convey that into to words.
It can be quite easy to get lost when you are filming in a car, particularly if it’s your only 15 minutes in the car and you also have to produce something watchable… anyway I digress.
So yes it’s been a while now since I drove the Boxster but last night I was sat there thinking how great that car is, the driving experience it offers and the feeling you get when driving it.
Even to date I still don’t think there is anything I have driven that is quite as much of an experience. With prices basically bottomed out, meaning you can pick one up for £5k upwards. They really have become an absolute bargain.
What’s it like to drive?
Honestly, if you like driving and haven’t driven one yet please go and do it.
In a world of ePAS and numb steering, it is a revelation to drive and steer the Boxster. With its well weighted hydraulic steering, it constantly communicates with you what is happening over the front axle.
You know exactly where you stand, at all times. It is a joy to steer.
It is very direct and really allows you to place the car, exactly where you want.
Turn in is fantastic, I think a combination of a relatively short wheel base and a very light car means it will turn in beautifully.
This is where a mid-engined car really comes in to its own.
For those who don’t know the Boxster and the later introduced Cayman are both mid engined, meaning the engine sits in the middle of the car, AKA right behind your seat. Whereas, for example, a 911 is rear engined and has its engine over the rear axle.
By putting the engine in the centre, it means the car is wonderfully balanced and very, very controllable.
Our car doesn’t have ESP or ABS or in fact any real kind of safety net, but you know what it makes it all the more fun to drive. You know the car is only doing what it’s doing, because of the inputs your giving. If you want to make the back end step out, you can do so, or alternatively if you just want to be neat, tidy and fast you can also easily do that.
The Boxster S is a light car which also helps with its handling, allowing it to easily make direction changes without upsetting the balance of the car.
The actual ride is stiff, as to be expected. But how else would you feel everything through your bum to know exactly what is going on.
Upon launch the Boxster was give a 2.5 litre flat six which had 205PS.
In 1999 Porsche introduced two new engines a 2.7 litre with 216bhp and the Boxster S variant with a 3.2 litre lump pushing out 252bhp.
This lineup was revised in 2002 with the 3.2 raising its output to 260bhp with 229lb ft torque and the 2.7 raising its output to 228bhp with 192 lb ft torque.
Our car has the facelifted 3.2 with 260bhp. The engine feels torquey almost anywhere in the rev range, even lower down, which is a bonus over the 2.7. It means it’s quick enough without have to rev it out, which helps if you plan to use daily.
The real power delivery however, is all at the top end. Meaning when you really want to shift you need to keep the car above 4500rpm and be utilising the 7000rpm redline. There is a real step shit in performance with a shove back in your seat at around 4500/5000rpm.
Well as you can see from above, the power figures aren’t massive in this day and age when we have hot hatches producing 400PS…
However in a car that weighs so little, there is more than enough power in the S. To be honest on the road, the 2.7 probably allows you to have a little more fun as the top end of 2nd in the Boxster S leaves you at around 65/70mph.
The performance this car offers for the money is truly brilliant. It’s not about chasing 0-62mph times in this car, It’s about the driving experience and the performance this car has on tap is a essential part of that winning formula.
A naturally aspirated flat 6.
Need I say any more? (to hear It In action – click here)
We have a manual version, although you can also get it in a Tip Auto.
However for me, it would have to be a manual, the added involvement of changing gears yourself and being able to nail a heel and toe downshift, is there a better feeling?
The manual box itself can be a little stiff when cold, making it a pain to get in to reverse, 1st or 2nd. But once it’s warm it is a joy to use. The close pedals makes heel and toeing a real joy.
The brakes on the Boxster 986 are bloody excellent, although I will say, if you haven’t driven a Porsche before you may find they take a bit of getting used to.
They are not as heavily servo assisted as those used by most car manufacturers, meaning you have to actually use the brake pedal as it was designed. They come in to their own once they have some heat through them.
If you have any doubts about how well the brakes respond, head somewhere quiet and try an emergency stop – honestly you will be surprised by just how effective they are once you really stamp the pedal.
The added element of being able to put the roof down, just adds to the experience of the car.
On a summers day, attacking some lovely B roads with the roof down is bloody brilliant.
What issues should you look out for
This is just based on my ownership experience of the car, there are going to be more out there and are plenty of buying guides about. Just have a read of one before you go to buy.
General running costs
I would typically recommend budgeting around £1000 per year for maintenance. Some years it may be less, some more.
Servicing costs vary up and down the country but typically range from £300-600 + VAT depending on whether it is a major or minor service. Other serviceable items like brake fluid, spark plugs etc will also need to be budgeted for.
On a manual a typical clutch replacement is going to cost around £1k.
Another one to consider is an air conditioning rebuild (the condensers are in the front bumper and have a life of around 6-8 years) will cost around £1.2k.
Brake wear depends on driving style, but typically you should get 20-25k miles out of pads and disks. To replace the front discs, pads and pad wear sensors is going to cost around £600 with a similar amount for the rear axle.
This is one of the most expensive problems you could encounter if you buy a Porsche Boxster 986. The intermediate shaft (IMS) bearing is prone to failure.
This problem is not as widespread as the horror stories on internet forums would have you believe, but that will be of little consolation if you suffer with it and are left with a bill to rebuild the engine that is higher than the value of the car. Trust me, we’ve been there.
The rear main oil seal (RMS) is also prone to failure on 986 Boxsters, which results in oil leaks. Although a new seal costs just a few pounds, the labour charge to replace it is high because the gearbox has to be removed to access it.
Luckily for us we got this done when we had the IMS bearing changed and the gearbox rebuilt.
We suffered with gearbox issues where it really didn’t like 1st or 2nd, sometimes refusing to go in.
So we sent it in for a new clutch, new suspension all round, IMS and RMS seals changed and a gearbox rebuild – yes that was one expensive trip to the garage!
As with any car, suspension components will need to be replaced from time to time.
It’s not something that can be avoided, however if you notice anything or there is little or no history of a suspension refresh, I would re-consider your offer as this could quite easily set you back £1-2k.
Overall I think the Porsche Boxster S 986 deserves its status as a second-hand hero in my eyes.
Yes they can be costly to run and maintenance certainly isn’t cheap.
But the combination of noise, feel and involvement, especially when the roof is down is unrivalled.
There are cheaper alternatives, such as the BMW Z4 in 3.0 6 cylinder form or more expensive to purchase but cheaper to run in the form of Honda S2000 ( really want to drive one of these again).
But for me the mid-engined 6 cylinder Porsche, wins.
If you’re in the market, get out there and give one a drive. I wouldn’t even ignore the 2.5/2.7 either as more of the power can be utilised on the road.
Check out our videos with the Boxster 986 below:
Part 1 – https://youtu.be/84AbK_JKzwU
Part 2 – https://youtu.be/SQdhd-DdLC4