Ten Best, Ten Worst


This started out as my list of the 10 things about a 986 Boxster  (1997-2004) that could have been done better. Others added to it.

Could have been better.


  1. The cost of repair parts from Porsche when compared to exactly the same part from the real maker of the part is absurd.  Always ask (or look online and see) if there is an exact but OEM replacement that can be substituted. There often is (and, when known, it will be listed on my web site).  At least ask about a PCA (Porsche Club of America) discount at the dealer if you want to or you have to buy there.
  2. Given that the analog speedometer has to show 175MPH in a half circle of space, the small and infrequent markings and placement to the left don’t allow me to figure out at a quick glance how fast I’m going. The digital readout gets washed out to the point where it is not readable when the top is down at many sun angles. And the digital speedometer, which was in the center of the 3 ring cluster  in ’97-’00 cars, got moved to the left around ‘01 making it less readable at a glance. I care about the speed much more often than my odometer reading!
  3. The seats don’t have room for the seat to be all the way back and the back to recline.  I like to drive this way and with the front of the seat angled up.  The firewall behind the seats is not angled to allow me to sit this way with my arms stuck out in front (and I’m only 6’ with short legs) on long trips.  And the seats could use some more lateral support, after all this is a sports car.  OTOH, they are easy to get into and out of.
  4. The roll-bar is not high enough to allow the seatback in the farthest rearward position to protect me without my head hitting the roll-bar in a rear end collision.  So I have to drive in town (where such an accident is most probable) with the seat not in its rearmost position.  Nor is the roll-bar high enough that all race tracks allow Boxsters to use the track without some additional add-on roll-bar extensions.  Which makes you wonder why it is so low and how effective it might be in protecting a medium to tallish driver in a roll over.
  5. The AM reception on the radio is horrible.  The speakers are mediocre at best and should be the first thing replaced.  The radio controls on the most common radio/CD-player, the Becker CD-220, are poorly labeled, small and fail to hold up.  There is no Bluetooth or iPod integration or MP3 capability except through expensive 3rd party replacements.
  6. The size of the rear window in both plastic (’97-’02) and glass window (’03-’04) tops restricts rear visibility. The plastic window model tops crack if not maintained or if opened/closed in cold weather. If not adjusted perfectly when installed, the top requires you to get out and help the plastic window fold flat lest the window crease and ultimately crack (especially in temps under 80F). This is called "the chop".
  7. The height of the arm rest on the center console is too low for cruising.
  8. Only cars after ‘03 have “glove compartments”. Inside the cabin, storage is very limited. At a rest stop, its hard to hide a GPS or radar detector when you get out…or the camera or radar detector you’ve been using.
  9. Cars before ‘01 had no cup holders and even the cars after ‘01 had cup holders that were poorly placed and ill sized (cups wobble and the hole is too shallow) for the varying mugs and cups I want to put in them.
  10. Porsche North America no longer offers map or software updates for the too expensive PCM GPS system.
  11. The stock shifter throw is too long and loose. After market replacements cure that.
  12. Many of the side door pocket coverings have deteriorated when they came in contact with cosmetics, sun screen or other chemicals. They can be recovered with vinyl.
  13. The turn signal indicators don’t make enough noise so that you can hear them above the sound of the wind and tires on the road.  Leads to running down the road for miles with the signals flashing.
  14. The early '97 thru '00 Boxsters don't have intermittent wipers. There are cheap hacks for that though.

The 10 things that work really well on a 986 Boxster: 

  1. The steering, brakes, engine, etc. All the parts that make it go, turn and stop are great for spirited driving and can be further improved with the application of a lot of money. This might be summarized as the car is optimized for spirited driving.
  2. The cabin room is not huge like in a Corvette or squeezed like in a Mazda Miata or Honda S2000 and every control is reachable.
  3. The heating and air-conditioning are excellent. Controls seem logical to me. You don’t often expect an automatic temperature keeping mode in an open sports car.
  4. The automatic transmission (Tiptronic) has varying modes that adjust the speed and harshness of shifts according to how it senses you are driving. This is even more true after model year 2000.
  5. The stick shift transmissions are very reliable and can handle more horsepower than the stock cars provide. I never see posting about problems with either the 5 speed or 6 speed manual transmissions from any year.
  6. The space provided by the two trunks is enough for a couple to go on a long weekend, carry golf clubs or bring lots of groceries home and the storage space isn’t diminished a bit when the top is down.
  7. The overall reliability compared to other roadsters I’ve owned (’60 Alfa 1300 Giulietta Spyder Veloce, ’66 Alfa 1600 Gulia Spyder, ’70 914 Porsche) has been excellent based on owning a ’99 for a year and an ’01 for 4+ years.  However, internal engine failures do occur and the only fix is a very expensive ($11k for the engine, $2-5k for labor) engine replacement.
  8. The online Boxster owning community is a wonderful asset, enormously knowledgeable with many who do all their maintenance and they are quick to help with questions and how-to articles or even lets-do-it-together get-togethers. (See www.pedrosboard.com) There is a great deal of web support with at least a dozen web sites that are active. There is a semi- active wiki.
  9. There are many regional get-togethers, and some more structured meetings that have been going on for years. People come from all over the world to attend. There are driver training, autocross, and racing dates where you can explore the limits of your driving ability (for most of us, the car’s limits are well beyond our own as drivers).
  10. The prices of used 986 Boxsters are affordable compared to current 987 models and parts are very available, if sometimes pricey.
  11. Mileage is very good for a performance oriented sports car. Country road driving gets you from around 24 to 31 depending on the engine, transmission. I just got back from a trip in a 3.2 (S model) with Tiptronic (each contributing to lesser MPG) and got 25.2MPG despite 3600 feet of elevation changes and more than a few pedal to the floor bursts.


PS The good far far outweigh the bad. We don’t call it permagrin for nothing.


See you in the twisties.