1998 Porsche Boxster Reviews and Ratings

Roadster 2D

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1998 Porsche Boxster
Tony Swan

Introduction
If you think ordinary Porschephiles are

fanatics, consider the Porsche sub-cult that regarded the old 914/6 as

the best of this distinguished breed--better, at least in terms of handling,

than the immortal 911.

Although it was re-lentlessly rectilinear and singularly unlovely, the

914 also had superb handling for its day, thanks to the balance that goes

with a mid-engine design.

Porsche faithful love to debate arcane issues such as this, like the

guys in medieval monasteries trying to figure out how many angels could

dance on the head of a pin. But we think the new Porsche Boxster effectively

consigns the 914 to history. This dramatically all-new mid-engined roadster

opens a new chapter for the world's premier sports car company. Walkaround
Although it's not quite as drop-dead gorgeous as the Boxster show car

of 1993, the production version is clean, purposeful and distinctively

Porsche.

From the front, the Boxster design is reminiscent of the evergreen 911,

particularly some of the 911 special appearance packages. But from the

rear, it suggests a blend of a couple of '50s ancestors, specifically Porsche's

356 Speedster and the 550 Spyder.

Naturally, the proportions are a little different. This is a mid-engine

car, as distinct from the rear-engined 356 and the 911, which means the

engine is mounted ahead of the rear axle rather than over or behind it.

This configuration yields excellent weight distribution, and just as

significant, puts most of the car's mass between the front and rear axles,

a big asset in the department of rapid maneuvers. Which, of course, is

what cars like this are all about.

Riding a 95.1-inch wheelbase and almost 170 inches long, the Boxster

is about 10 inches longer than the BMW Z3 and Mercedes-Benz SLK, its Teutonic

rivals. It's also a tad wider, with a wider rear track. However, the extra

dimensions don't translate as a weight penalty. The basic Boxster scales

in a tad over 2800 pounds, which is a little lighter than its competitors.

Propelling this tidy package is an update on a classic Porsche design--the

opposed or "boxter" six. With their cylinders opposed 180 degrees

to one another, boxter designs offer packaging advantages, because they

lie flat. And because they lie flat, they also help designers keep the

car's center of gravity low.

At a glance, the new engine is classic Porsche, with roots that date

to Ferdinand Porsche's early work in the 1930s. But there's a key contemporary

difference. The Boxster's flat-six is liquid-cooled, eliminating the old

911 cooling fans and lending a distinctly new sound to its power delivery.

As you'd expect of a Porsche, the new engine is mechanically au courant,

with twin overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and variable cam timing.

And as you'd also expect, peak power--201 horsepower from 2.5 liters--is

plentiful, though both the Z3 2.8 and supercharged SLK are a little more

robust in the torque department.

Two transmissions are offered--the standard five-speed manual and Porsche's

Tiptronic automatic, also with five speeds. The Tiptronic offers its operator

the choice of full automatic operation or fingertip pushbutton self-shifting,

similar in concept to a Formula One racing car. It's the best compromise

between stick and automatic on the market, but at $3150 it's also the most

expensive and the manual gearbox provides better performance.

Braking, with oversize vented discs on all four wheels plus Porsche's

latest antilock system, is superb.

Our basic Boxster was equipped with the standard wheel/tire package--P205/55ZR

front, P225/50ZR rear, on handsome 16-inch aluminum wheels. Optional 17-inch

wheels add a bit more grip at the rear of the car, but also add $1450 to

the bottom line.

Other chassis/performance related goodies on the option list include

a $3235 Sport package (17-inch wheel/tire combination, wind deflector,

cruise control, alarm system and in-dash CD player) and a Technic Sport

package (stiffer suspension components, 17-inch wheels and tires, automatic

brake differential and traction control) for $1901.

The traction control system, which includes the automatic brake proportioning

system, is also available as a separate option for $847. Interior
Consistent with virtually every Porsche ever made, the Boxster is all

business inside, with plenty of room for two (we don't have specific measurements)

highly supportive leather-surfaced bucket seats, contemporary amenities

and excellent control placement.

However, the instruments do represent something of a departure from

Porsche tradition. Three round pods are siamesed together, with the speedo

on the left, coolant temp and fuel on the right and a big tachometer dominating

in the center.

The speedo and tach are analog, of course, but there are smaller digital

readouts at the bottom of each pod--odometer incoporated in the speedo,

clock in the secondary readouts and a digital speedo at the bottom of the

big tach. It's an attractive and effective blend of classic with contemporary.

A pair of steel tube hoops, mounted behind the seats and extending above

the seatbacks, provide extra protection for drivers unlucky enough to find

themselves upside-down, and of course there are the usual passive safety

features--twin airbags, three-point seatbelts and side impact protection.

Unlike the BMW Z3, the Boxster's standard convertible top is power-operated.

When the top is down, you can stretch a wind deflector between the upper

seatbacks to minimize interior buffeting. It's a $360 option that we recommend.

Porsche also offers a removable hardtop option, which includes a rear window

defogger, for $2249.

Other optional amenities: a trip computer ($440), alarm system ($600),

upgrades sound package (six speakers, four-channel amp, $590), headlight

washers ($224), metallic paint ($789) and cruise control ($550). Although

the seats in the basic car have leather inserts, you can spread more cowhide

around the interior with the leather interior package for $1951.

All of the foregoing makes it clear to us that option shopping is something

to approach carefully with this new car.

Luggage space is apportioned between fore and aft compartments, and

is surprisingly good for a small two-seater. Getting at the engine, however,

is another story. Although you can get to fluid reservoirs readily enough,

all access to the engine itself comes from below. Unless you have your

own hydraulic hoist, getting to the engine means a visit to your Porsche

dealer, which is rarely cheap. Driving Impressions
Although the BMW Z3 2.8, with its torquey inline-six, may be just a

little quicker out of the blocks, the Boxster is definitely brisk. It'll

dash to 60 mph in well under seven seconds, and top speed--something we

hope to explore someday--is pegged at 149 mph.

But the real fun here is this car's unerringly precise response to driver

commands. Mid-engine balance, an excellent chassis and firm suspension

tuning add up to a level of agility and stability that seems a cut above

the Boxster's key competitors. There's not a hint of wrestling to guide

this aggressive newcomer down to the apex of a fast turn; it seems almost

to anticipate its orders, and there's not a hint of hesitation or uncertainty.

The old British definition of a sports car was something that could,

in a pinch, be raced. That's a key part of Porsche's heritage, and it certainly

applies to the Boxster. The ride quality that goes with these gunfighter

reflexes is distinctly firm, but somehow we don't think anyone will mind. Summary
The sudden revival of the roadster is a gratifying phenomenon in an

age of sport-utility vehicles. Besides the Boxster, the SLK and BMW Z3

offer tempting packages to consider, each with its own appeal.

Of this trio, the Boxster is the most expensive, but it's also arguably

the best at pure sports car duties. It's a genuine Porsche. To some, that

alone will be worth the price of admission.

Model as tested
Base Boxster
Basic Warranty
2 years/unlimited
Assembled in
Stuttgart, Germany
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
40745
Price as tested
42095
Options as tested
Trip computer, wind deflector, cruise control

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Safety equipment (standard)
ABS, rollover bars, dual airbags
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
2.5-liter dohc 24v opposed 6
Transmissions
5-speed manual

Specifications as Tested
Automatic climate control a/c, AM/FM/cassette audio, leather seats, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, anti-theft power soft top, 16 in. aluminum alloy wheels, power lumbar adjustment

Engine & Transmission
Engine
2.5-liter dohc 24v opposed 6
Drivetrain type
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
201 @ 6000
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
19/27
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc
Suspension, front
Independent
Tires
P205/55ZR-16; 225/50ZR-16
Suspension, rear
Independent

Accomodations
Seating capacity
2
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, rear
N/A

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
9.1
Wheelbase
95.2
Length/width/height
171.0/70.1/50.8
Turning circle
35.8
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
N/A
Track, front/rear
57.7/60.2
Ground clearance
N/A
Curb weight
2822


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