The luxury German car maker was beginning to flag financially, until the Boxster was unveiled to a flurry of awards and plaudits. The preceding years in the doldrums, with only the 911 to show for all that heritage, were turned around almost in an instant.
The Boxster boasts classic Porsche design and engineering in a (relatively) budget package. All manufacturers need an entry-level model, but the Boxster was almost in danger of outclassing the brand's flagship 911. Porche's M96 water-cooled, horizontal six-cylinder engine is placed in the middle of the Boxster for superior weight-distribution and handling. 1996's original Boxsters came with a 2.5 litre powerplant, expanded to 2.7 litres in 1999 and joined by a 252bhp 3.2 litre Boxster S variant. Gearboxes available were a six-speed manual or Porsche's Tiptronic semi-automatic design.
For the next few years the used Porsche Boxster swept away all competition, but Porsche were under no illusions. To stay at the front of the pack you have to evolve, so 2004 saw the arrival of the next generation Boxster. Porsche were wary of alienating loyal fans and it's hard anyway to improve upon perfection, but the new Boxster featured some sharper styling details and slightly higher power outputs. More significant changes came in 2006, when the approved used Porsche Boxster received engine revisions to bring it in line with the brand's Cayman model. The standard, 2.7 litre Boxster now developed 245bhp, while the S was boosted from 3.2 to 3.4 litres to return 295bhp.
Apparently this wasn't good enough, because in 2009 the Boxster became more powerful still. The 2.7 litre unit grew to a 2.9, while the S received Porsche's Direct Fuel Injection system to bring horsepower up to 310. At the same time Porsche's PDK dual-clutch gearbox was made available as an option and DRLs were added to the front.
Special editions included 2010's 320bhp Boxster Spyder, using the same 3.4 litre engine as the S but with fewer convenience features to reduce kerb weight and stiffer suspension for better handling, hence improved performance.
A brand new Porsche Boxster arrived on the scene in 2012.
Bang for your buck
The Boxster was created using Porsche's traditional design language. Interior quality went from good to luxury with the 1999 upgrades, but whichever model you go for, this is still a Porsche with all the attendant majesty that word conveys.
The hood is state of the art, taking 12 seconds to convert with single button operation and a simple head latch and the boot is surprisingly roomy. With its supermodel looks, the Boxster is the ideal car for urban posing but is capable of so much more.
Second generation used Boxster models benefited from a glass rear windscreen panel over the original's plastic version, plus a new glove compartment and slicker front end, while in 2009 the dashboard was tidied up by the advent of a touchscreen interface replacing the buttons controlling most functions.
What you'll pay
It might be Porsche's entry-level model but even a second-hand Boxster doesn't come cheap. The first, 1996 Boxsters can be found for under £15,000, going up to over £16,000 for a 1998. 1999 models start at around £18,000, while 2004's second generation are still well over £20,000.
What to check
The second hand Porsche Boxster boasts reliable engines and mechanicals, it's the owner damage you need to look out for. Kerbing, parking knocks and damaged trim are undesirable but common problems, while paint colours other than black or silver may be hard to shift later on. A full service history is essential, of course.
Not as wince-inducing as some supercars, the Boxster will cost you about £175 for a new clutch, £60 for front and £75 for rear brake pads, £110 for each of its twin radiators and £350 for an alternator.
How it drives
The used Porsche Boxster for sale shines in every criteria by which you might judge – it sells heaps, looks stunning, is reliable and relatively practical and, most of all, it's a demon on the road. Controls are comfortable and rewarding, it handles like a dream and the purr of that exhaust could melt the stoniest heart.
Even the entry-level model gives a rewarding performance, at 6.6 seconds from 0-60mph and a 155mph top speed in the post-1999 models, while the S will take you to 60mph in a licence endangering sub-6 seconds. There's none of the shake, rattle and roll you might expect from a convertible and the whole thing is beautifully controlled no matter what you throw it at, thanks to a comprehensive stability control management system. No rivals even come close.