It’s easy to pick your favorite sports car in a fantasy-baseball-league kind of way, where money is no object and maintenance is handled by an invisible squadron of highly trained and competent engineering munchkins who work unseen at night, presenting your car each morning ready to drive. In such a scenario you might pick something from Ferrari, Aston Martin, or Pagani.
But if you throw in just a little bit of cost consideration—say, less than six figures—your perfect world is re-ordered. Sure, the Mazda Miata is everyone’s favorite sports car when money is one of the objects, and the Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 are in there, too. But when money is only part of the object, or when you’re buying used, then you can easily step up to a Porsche Boxster.
Last week at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, they held a gathering of Boxsters the world may never match. Organizers said there were over 250 Boxsters gathered on the third and fourth levels of the museum’s parking garage, a world-record assembly, they said. Whatever the number, it was the biggest-single-model gathering in the museum’s nearly 30-year history, and certainly since it started its regular last-Sunday-of-the-month Cruise-Ins.
The gathering was part of a year-long Porschepalooza celebrating Porsche’s 75th anniversary and the Boxster’s 30th. On August 27, they’ll celebrate 60 years of the 911.
“The logic here was to celebrate Boxster because we feel like it’s not done enough,” said the Petersen’s director of marketing Luna Bondesan. “The Boxster is the entrance vehicle to the Porsche world and to Porsche appreciation—a lot of people start with that. And then they grow into the model range with 911s, and others. So we wanted to dedicate special attention to the model and to the owners because the Boxster gives so much driving pleasure.”
Indeed it does. I myself recently spent a week in a screaming yellow zonker of a 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 (the hardtop version of the Boxster) and started plotting how I could raid the kid’s college fund to buy one (state schools are just as good). The 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six made 394 hp (44 more than a Boxster S) and 317 lb-ft of torque. All of that output was easily accessible across a wide and very pleasing power band. Zero-to-60 mph comes up in a quick 4.3 seconds, and top speed is 182 mph.
I drove it up and down Angeles Crest Highway far more than I should have (stories were due, editors were screaming) and enjoyed every shift of the zonker’s six-speed manual transmission. The 20-inch wheels and matching Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires stuck like Crazy Glue. Porsche lists the price of this car starting at $95,200 before destination (and the inevitable add-ons dealers slather all over the build sheet whether you want them or not). The least-expensive Boxster lists for $68,300 before you do anything.
I’m not the only one who appreciates the Boxster/Cayman.
“The chassis is wonderfully rigid, the suspension is suitably stiff without ever becoming jarring. The throttle is neck-snapping responsive, and the PDK is fairly fun to play with on twisty roads and expressways alike (though I’m dying to try the manual),” Autoweek’s Graham Kozak wrote on a Boxster experience 10 years ago.
The sound is nice, too.
“I can best describe the fantastic sound by saying it was a mix of medium-tone trumpet and motorcycle engine,” Autoweek staffer Jake Lingeman wrote five years ago. “I wish I would have recorded it. There’s nothing like a flat-six at speed.”
Almost any model year or generation is pleasing to drive.
“The base 987 Boxster is undeniably attractive, and a stellar handler with truly wonderful, almost synaptic hydraulic power steering,” wrote sometime Autoweek contributor and current editor-in-chief of Porsche Panorama Rob Sass in his publication. “It also has a wonderful reputation for durability/reliability (particularly the manual-transmission cars), with a simpler, port-injection system. Dot-two 987s are also rather scarce, particularly with the aforementioned six-speed manual. The first-gen PDK was such a great gearbox that the manual take-rate began to plummet, and it also bears mentioning that the car came out during the sharpest global recession since WWII. Sales of luxury brands suffered across the board.”
And you can get a Boxster used for less than half the cost of a new Camry.
“As Porsches go, they’re cheap,” said another Vaughn, Tom Vaughn (related), who bought a 2006 Boxster in 2020 for $11,900. “What I wanted was, you remember the MG? (a 1957 MGA he had in high school). I really enjoyed the MG when it was running. For a while I thought of buying one of those. I wanted a roadster. And I thought a lot about the Miata. I was really thinking about that. Until you asked me if I’d lost my mind. So I didn't get an MG. The Mazda was new and reliable, but not as fast as a Boxster.”
Lingeman had a similar thought.
“When we talk about pure roadster driving experiences, the Mazda Miata MX-5 comes to mind first, but the Porsche 718 Boxster is the next thought. The driving experience is almost as pure, but it’s far faster, and the steering is better, tighter, and the sound is way more intoxicating.”
Just ask any of the 250+ attendees at the Cruise-In, or at The Porsche Parade, or at Rennsport, or anywhere fine Porsches gather.
“I love it. I really enjoy driving it,” said the other Vaughn. “I’ve owned it for three and a half years and, and I’m still very happy with it. It’s just fun to drive. People talk about the ‘driving experience.’ That’s what I wanted. You know, I wanted the driving experience in a roadster convertible with a top down, and it does the same thing the MG used to do when it was running well, but a lot better.”