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The Porsche Boxster turns 20

By raccars Published

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2016 marks 20 years of one of the world's favourite affordable sports cars. How has it evolved?

Purists were not entirely enamoured with the idea of an entry-level Porsche, preferring to retain the exclusivity of luxury brand status. However the Porsche Boxster was released in 1996 to almost universal acclaim and proved a commercial success for the German brand, the finances of which had been in a slightly precarious position in the previous years.

The Boxster was something of a make or break effort. Fortunately it was a very well planned and executed project, a two seater, mid-engined roadster using a flat six cylinder, 2.5 litre engine. It wouldn't be overstating the case to say that the Boxster saved Porsche from financial ruin.

Boxster?

The idea of the Boxster was originally mooted in 1993, when Porsche displayed a concept roadster at the Detroit Motor Show. Reminiscent of the past glories of the 550 Spyder, it made a huge impact with the crowds. The Boxster name was a mash-up of the boxer engine format and its roadster layout. Seeing public response to the concept, Porsche was convinced to put the car into production.

To save on the cost of development, Porsche created the Boxster alongside the new 911 and, with drastic measures necessary to disentangle the financial nightmare it was facing, took inspiration from Toyota's lean and mean way of organising its business and producing its cars. The Boxster hit forecourts in 1996, but it's fair to say that the production model lacked the flair of the earlier concept.

Nonetheless the idea of an affordable sports car would be key to Porsche's survival in a world where not everyone can buy a 911. The Boxster gave Porsche a rival to the likes of the BMW Z3 and the Mercedes-Benz SLK. Despite carping from 911 purists, the Boxster out-played its rivals with a huge amount of style and substance, forcing Porsche to open another assembly line to cope with demand.

Remaining fresh and modern

The Boxster was updated in 2000 with a larger, punchier engine and the launch of the first Boxster S. Another facelift in 2003 was followed by a proper second generation Boxster in 2005 and a coupe spin-off called the Cayman. In its first decade on sale, the Boxster notched up 200,000 unit sales. There was another update in 2008 and in 2009 Porsche introduced a spectacular Boxster Spyder, lightweight, low and very athletic.

Porsche experimented with an electric Boxster E in 2011 but never put it into production, then introduced the third generation model in 2012 at the Geneva Motor Show; larger than its predecessor but lighter and more efficient. The first GTS variant arrived in 2014 and the range-topping Spyder was also updated.

Porsche Boxster is renamed for 20th anniversary

After 20 years on the market, and for its fourth generation version, the Boxster is to be updated not only mechanically and cosmetically, but is also to be renamed. From 2017 the Boxster will be the 718 Boxster, reviving a historic racing name from the brand. It will also lose the naturally aspirated flat six in favour of smaller turbocharged four cylinder engines.

Despite the smaller displacement, the new units are more powerful, with the base model 2.0 litre Boxster equipped with 300bhp. The Boxster S will contain a 2.5 litre unit with 350bhp, meaning that both models are 35bhp up on the third generation Boxster.

A hot new GTS is planned for later release. The standard gearbox will be a six speed manual, while a dual clutch seven speed PDK transmission will be available as an option, using the efficient 'virtual gear' system already seen in the 911. A 20 second extra power boost can be extracted by pressing the 'Sport Response' button found on the steering wheel.

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