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Is the 981 GTS Peak Modern Porsche?

Turbocharging did not gain the Boxster and Cayman any fans. The models kindly picked up 911 fans’ spare derision when the transaxle cars left production in the mid-1990s, and have carried the torch of poor public perception from their predecessors. Real enthusiasts should only be buying 911s after all, or so the line goes. Despite having something of an optics problem right from the outset the cars have always been built upon an excellent foundation, with enviable driving dynamics and a sonorous, if not always powerful, flat-six.

JayEmm likes to couple clickbait with calm reasoning, which gives him a leg up on most Youtubers. To be clear he is saying the 981 GTS is the only modern Porsche he would buy, not the only one you should buy, and that mostly comes down to Jay not being the biggest 911 fan. The man daily drove an Exige for quite some time, which makes me think he’s made an honest assessment of himself as someone who does not need a back seat.

He rather rightly points out the existence of the 718 Boxster and Cayman’s flat-four gave their six-cylinder immediate predecessors something of a boost on the secondhand market. Buyers who were in for the noise and the character of a Boxster were not easily wowed by the new car, despite it improving on paper in virtually every metric. The sound of the flat-four was too Subaru-like, and the whole package lacked the effortless smoothness of the old mill. The GT3-mimicking GT4 and Spyder seek to change that.

But does that make the 981 the pick of Porsche’s recent past? At present 981 Boxster and Cayman GTS models on classifieds sites are sitting in the high $50k range and even into the low $70k range with modest miles. That sort of pricetag knocks on the door of cars like the 997 Turbo or any number of 991.1 911s. Indeed, that sort of pricetag will by very nice 996 GT3 with some money left over.

That said, where do you stand on JayEmm’s assessment? Is the 981 Boxster GTS the modern Porsche to own?

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Porsche Boxster 1 occasion

1996 à 2004, à partir de 11 000 €

Né en 1996, puis restylé en 2002, ce Boxster première génération réussit l’exploit de sortir Porsche de la « monoculture » 911. Son moteur en position centrale arrière (et non pas en porte-à-faux…) lui confère un remarquable équilibre routier, qui n’a d’égale que son agrément de conduite. Le tout complété par un freinage aussi efficace qu’endurant. Véritable roadster, strict deux places, il jouit d’une qualité de fabrication typiquement Porsche, même si la qualité de certains plastiques est loin d’être exceptionnelle. La cote de cette première génération est devenue particulièrement raisonnable. Juste milieu entre le « petit » 2.5 litres de 204 ch et le plus onéreux 3.2 litres S de 250/280 ch, son « flat 6 » 2.7 litres de 220/228 ch associe tempérament (jusqu’à plus de 7 000 tr/mn), performances et musicalité. Reste à composer avec un équipement de base très chiche, sans antidérapage ESC, ni autobloquant, et des phares peu efficaces. A noter que la capote n’est que partiellement électrique, le déverrouillage s’effectuant à la main.

FIABILITE 4/5
Ce 2.7 litres se révèle plus fiable que le 2.5 litres qui a essuyé la plupart des pannes.

    • Moteur : des bobines défaillantes ; 2.5 : des casses moteur, avant 1998 (défaut de carter), distribution parfois fragile (galet tendeur), joint spi ; 3.2 S : fuites d’huile.
    • Transmission : des boîtes Tiptronic remplacées sous garantie.
    • Amortisseurs : coupelles grinçantes (roulements).
    • Trains roulants : usure prématurée des pneus AV, des roulements AR et des silentblocs de suspension AR.
    • Freins : plaquettes bruyantes.

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This Porsche Boxster Track Car Is Ready For The Apocalypse

This car asks far more questions than it answers. Originally built to race in the 24 Hours of Lemons series by Vali Motorsports, it’s clear that this car’s theme is « Does that even run? » and holy hell does it run. In as-shown spec it is running a 300-horsepower 3.6-liter flat six [it’s certainly not a GT3-spec engine as is claimed in the video, though] while the stock 2.7-liter is swapped back in for Lemon-ing. This brass knuckle Boxster is a strange amalgam of steampunk, Mad Max, rust, and tack-welded aluminum. If you look at it for too long you might catch tetanus. I think I should probably hate it, but somehow I don’t.

A 3.6-powered Boxster is one of the more fun experiences I’ve ever had with plenty of power and torque. I imagine this one in its stripped-down configuration weighing a bit less than stock is probably even more fun. It looks to me like there is a good bit of stuff on this car that could still come out to lose even more weight, like the machine gun, for example.

You can watch Vali Predescu explain a bit more about this car, and shred its tires in the Hoonigan Burnyard by clicking play on the video above. It’s a weird little car, but it sure sounds good, in spite of how it looks.

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The Boxster Spyder Is The Roofless GT4 You Really Want

If you want the best Boxster money can buy, you get the new Spyder. With gorgeous and aggressive bodywork from Porsche’s GT division to match it’s newly found suspension tweaks and a new 4-liter engine, the new Boxster Spyder is a good bit more hardcore than the previous iteration. Whereas the old Boxster Spyder featured a more road-going compliant suspension setup and the GT4 was out-and-out track focused with suspension cribbed directly from the GT3, the new Boxster Spyder and GT4 are now sharing an identical suspension with GT3-derived components. Add that 415-horsepower 4-liter (no, it’s not the same 4-liter as the GT3) and a delightful manual folding roof and you’ve got a recipe for exciting drives.

Mr. Smoking Tire, Matt Farah, recently took the Boxster Spyder for a few hundred miles of California back road driving at high speeds. Below you’ll see a video in which he describes his time with the delightful Spyder. Keep in mind, however, that he was in a Euro-spec model with a slightly muted exhaust note thanks to new European restrictions requiring exhaust particulate filters. New Spyder deliveries here in the U.S. market will be a bit louder.

As with the old Spyder and GT4 the main complaint is again found in the transmission’s gearing being extremely tall. From Porsche’s perspective, this helps keep the lower-priced mid-engine cars a bit slower from 0-60 when compared directly to its 911 stablemates. From the driver’s perspective, however, it makes the Spyder and GT4 use all of its torque to keep trucking. Rather than rowing through gears to keep the revs up and power flowing, the new 4-liter’s massive wave of torque will help shove the Boxster along without frenetic shifting. Is that a good thing? As a manual transmission purist, I vastly prefer the feeling of dipping clutch and rowing my own.

Then again, the Spyder is just so damn good!

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Don’t Tell Anyone How Great The 986 Boxster Is

The 986 Boxster is a gem, but don’t tell anyone how great it is. For those of us who know, this is one of the greatest Porsches to drive, own, and enjoy. It’s truly a sports car you can drive everyday [I can confirm, I daily drove a 986 for several years!]. Right now the 986 is one of the best values in sports car ownership on the market today. Sure, there are a few things that can go wrong with them, but by this point most cars have either been upgraded or had these quibbles fixed. If you find the right one it could serve you very well for a very long time for not very much money. But, really, don’t tell anyone how great it is, or it won’t be a bargain anymore.

Here is a great story of a great owner doing the necessary fixes to a broken Boxster himself to get it back right again. In this case the cylinder head cracked, which can certainly happen, but isn’t a common complaint among M96 engine owners. Instead of dropping the $13,000 that the local Porsche dealer wanted for the repair, this Porsche fanatic decided to undertake the process himself. By this point if you’re interested in a twenty year old sports car, you either have lots of expendable cash, or you’re reasonably mechanically inclined. Personally, I’d have no qualms undertaking a cylinder head swap myself, as these cars are really not that difficult to work on. Of course, it would be an engine-out procedure, but that’s probably the most daunting part of it. If you take your time and make it work, it’s reasonably easy to make a big repair.

Anyway, repairs aside, the early Boxsters are so delightful to drive that they’re really worth any pain in the neck they might give you. I haven’t experienced any pains of ownership with the M96 engine, but if I had, I’d still probably repair it and keep on trucking for another several years of ownership. If they’re properly maintained and not overly stressed, these cars require little more than fuel, oil changes, and the occasional set of tires.

Don’t take my word for it, listen to this owner tell his tale on the newest episode of Hello Road. (If you’re not subscribed, I highly recommend it. Ethan is a master of the medium.)

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