In 1996, the Porsche Boxster changed the face of the brand. Beloved for its youthful exuberance, the Boxster is simultaneously a nod to legendary mid-engine sports cars of yore. With the limited production Boxster 25 Years, the successful sports-car concept celebrates a milestone. Former head of development Horst Marchart looks back at the start.
986 generation: model years 1997–2005. The resemblance to the study presented three and a half years earlier is unmistakable when the Boxster 986 goes into series production in August 1996. Technically, the Boxster is particularly impressive because of its new high-tech boxer engine.
986 generation: model years 1997–2005. A total of 164,874 units of the first Boxster generation – 986 – were built.
986 generation: 50 years of the 550 Spyder special edition (2004). In 2004 – the last model year of the first generation – the special edition “50 Years of the 550 Spyder” is launched, limited to 1,953 units.
986 generation: 50 years of the 550 Spyder special edition (2004). The Boxster S special edition evokes its kinship to the 550 Spyder. Its body lines and timeless elegance are reminiscent of the first thoroughbred Porsche race car.
987 generation: model years 2005–2011. With the launch of the second generation in 2005, the design language of the roadster was refined. The goal: an even more dynamic appearance.
987 generation: model years 2005–2011. Over the years, the technology is fine-tuned again and again. For example, the engine output of the 987 generation Boxster increases to 188 kW (255 hp) by the end of the production period in 2011 and to 228 kW (310 hp) for the Boxster S.
987 generation: Boxster RS 60 Spyder special edition (2007). With another exclusive special series of the Boxster S, Porsche commemorates Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien’s historic triumph in 1960 at the twelve-hour race in Sebring, Florida. The Boxster RS 60 Spyder makes its début in March 2008, shortly after Hans Herrmann's eightieth birthday.
987 generation: Boxster Spyder special edition (2010). The Boxster Spyder becomes known as Porsche's lightest street-legal sports car when it is presented in 2009. It weighs eighty kilograms less than the Boxster S and produces over 10 PS more power.
981 generation: model years 2011–2016. The transition to the third generation brings extensive changes. Not only has the lightweight body of the Boxster been completely overhauled, but the chassis as well. Despite increased driving performance, the new Boxster is up to 15 per cent more economical.
981 generation: model years 2011–2016. The design has been changed from the ground up, too. The Boxster of the 981 generation impresses with a flatter silhouette and more striking contours. The new concept offers more space for the vehicle occupants.
981 generation: Boxster Spyder special edition (2015). A classic driving experience and sporty performance: the 2015 Boxster Spyder special edition is available exclusively with a manual gearbox. The powerful Boxster sprints from zero to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds.
982 generation: model years 2016–today. Twenty years after the first Boxster’s début, Porsche is relaunching the roadster: the new model generation is called the 718 and is a nod to the 718 mid-engine sports cars from the 1950s and 1960s. The centrepiece is the newly developed four-cylinder boxer engine with turbocharging. 718 Boxster: Fuel consumption combined 8.7 – 8.1 l/100 km, CO2 emissions combined 199 – 185 g/km
982 generation: model years 2016–today. The Boxster 982 exterior breaks new ground as well. The vehicle has been completely reworked, with the exception of the boot lid, windscreen and soft top.
718 Boxster: Fuel consumption combined 8.7 – 8.1 l/100 km, CO2 emissions combined 199 – 185 g/km
718 Boxster S: Fuel consumption combined 9.6 – 8.8 l/100 km, CO2 emissions combined 218 – 200 g/km
By the late 1980s, everyone at Porsche knew it: something had to be done. The economic situation was tense. When it was launched in 1996, the Porsche Boxster model line was something of a liberation. The agile roadster with the first water-cooled, six-cylinder series boxer engine mounted in front of the rear axle conquered the hearts of a new and younger clientele in record time. One of its fathers in a time of major restructuring was Horst Marchart, who at the time headed the Complete Vehicle Development Department.
When Marchart appeared in the office of the Porsche Executive Board in early 1991, he was asked what he would recommend. “I said, stop everything and then chart a new course—new model planning, development, and production,” recalls Marchart, who was born in Vienna in 1939. He was following his gut instinct; the idea was by no means a finished concept. It was necessary, he reasoned, to bring a rejuvenating second sports-car model line to the market. One that would have the strength of character to stand on its own, yet also clearly bear the genes of its brand heritage. It should exude a vivacious spirit and come in well below the 911 in its price segment. Interest had been piqued. “They wanted to know how long I would need to investigate the topic exhaustively. I asked for four months.”
Marchart would be a central figure in charting a new course for the future of Porsche. The status quo at the time: “We had a magnificent Porsche 911 of the 993 generation on the cusp of being launched. And the Porsche 928, 944, and 968 models were very distinct, having few technical similarities with the 911 or with each other.”
The technical and strategic challenge lay in developing the new sports car in a way that would be in technological lockstep with future generations of the 911. And the car had to share a kinship with the legendary Spyder models. The plans for an exquisite two-seater roadster with a mid-engine convinced the Executive Board. The new car was to be called the Boxster—a nod to the open roadster and the six-cylinder boxer engines emblematic of the brand. It had already been decided that the boxer in the 996 generation of the 911 would be water-cooled. The Boxster would beat it to the punch.
Grant Larson created the first study. His design explicitly drew on the Porsche 550 Spyder of the 1950s and the Porsche 718 RS 60 Spyder from 1960. Noteworthy references included the mid-engine concept, a front extended well beyond the front axle, short body overhand in the rear, and a centered tailpipe. Striking air intakes and air outlet openings were important design features. The silver paint job and the red color of the finely crafted interior paid tribute to Porsche history, yet now were also harbingers of a reinvigorated future.
“After the overwhelming public response in Detroit in 1993, we were absolutely sure.” Horst Marchart
Marchart, named Board Member for Research and Development in the fall of 1991, had no doubt that this new model would be a great success alongside the new generation of the 911 without endangering the brand icon: “It was clear to me that the 993 was so good that it would complete its planned model cycle through 1998 with aplomb even with competition from the Boxster. And after the overwhelming public response to the Boxster study at the presentation in Detroit in January 1993, we were absolutely sure that we had made the right decision.” After the tumult of the show died down, the message was clear: shut down the design development and build the concept just like that.
And indeed, when the series model was launched in August 1996, the similarities with the Detroit showstopper were unmistakable. Sharing a front end with the 996 generation of the 911, which made its debut the following year, left no doubt about the family relationship. Technologically, the Boxster offered groundbreaking innovations. In addition to the water cooling, they included alloy four-piston monobloc brake calipers, four-valve technology, and VarioCam technology. Its six-cylinder boxer would become the nucleus of a completely new engine family, which would later be deployed in the 911 as well. As an alternative to the standard five-speed manual transmission, the Boxster could also be ordered with the automatic Tiptronic S, which featured five gears for the first time.
By now, entire books have been written about the evolutionary stages of the Boxster. Major development steps followed in 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2012. In 2016, the complete relaunch with the 718 model series introduced four-cylinder turbocharged engines and a sharpened design.
The roadster matured from a sportsman to an elite athlete. A power comparison alone speaks volumes: while the original Boxster put out 150 kW (204 PS), the special twenty-fifth anniversary model musters a stately 294 kW (400 PS, Boxster 25 Years: Fuel consumption combined 10.8 - 9.6 l/100 km, CO2 emissions combined 246 - 219 g/km (as of 03/2021)).
The limited anniversary model edition of just 1,250 units worldwide is an homage to the first concept car. Among its most compelling features is the reinterpreted color Neodyme: this coppery, shimmering brown shade had set a dramatic contrast to the base color GT Silver Metallic in the exhibition car as well. As in its historic forerunner, the leather of the interior and top are red. The heady spirit of the early years is in the air when Marchart recounts the creation story of the Boxster, which was so important for the company at the time. And the passion and bold spirit of those beginnings still infuses the entire 718 family today. Only the matter-of-fact tone of the pragmatic considerations that took place at the time seems not to fit the exhilarating character of the cars. Horst Marchart smiles as he dips back into his memories: “Dr. Wolfgang Porsche asked me what we would do if, ten years down the road, the Boxster were a success. I said: ‘Then you’ll get your four-seater.’” But that’s a story for another day.
9.6 – 8.8 l/100 km
218 – 200 g/km
10.8 – 9.6 l/100 km
246 – 219 g/km
10.8 - 9.6 l/100 km
246 - 219 g/km
8.7 – 8.1 l/100 km
199 – 185 g/km