Birthday party: 25 years of the Porsche Boxster

First: Flowers for the birthday boy. Happy Birthday, very rightly dear Boxster. Long live your cheerful-to-sporty spirit. And hey, just stay the way you are: preferably naturally aspirated, if necessary also turbocharged, but please, please beware of the future planners who have a lot up their sleeves with you. It's unimaginable when you're suddenly stuck on the socket at the age of 30!

But now let me take a look at you. You stand there neatly with your special costume: red fabric cap, matching inner leather, bronze, oh sorry, neodymium-colored 20-inch model - yes, a very coherent reminiscence of the original study from 1993. Especially because underneath - who would have that recently still thought - actually again a real engine is stuck. THE right engine. The six-cylinder sucker. The Boxster story began with him 25 years ago, although the first episode was actually written in the 1960s.

"History Repeating" sings Shirley Bassey. And if you look back in Porsche history, past all the Le Mans victories, then the dammderämmdääämm is just the right serenade for the anniversary. Or better: the perfect accompaniment. My point is? To the Porsche 914, which may not be a real chapter in the now three-part Boxster story, but is woven from the same fabric.

He, too, slipped into the niche below the 911 as an entry-level model, he too threatened to outgrow his superiors, and he too struggled with identity problems in between. And even then, VW was in the boat. At the end of the 1960s, the Wolfsburg-based company was looking for a worthy successor to the outgoing Karmann models, while Porsche was looking for a connection to young customers.

The designated win-win situation presented itself in 1969 at the IAA, met the style of the time with pop-up headlights, Targa roof and Bauhaus styling or even rushed ahead of it conceptually: Mid-engine - well, gosh, that's only been the case up to now in super sports cars à la Lamborghini Miura or in racing.

Nevertheless: The enthusiasm was manageable, the ridicule for it was great. Problem: The 914 was marketed as a VW-Porsche, earning it the nickname Vo-Po. Mean? verily! Only the base model, a sparse 1.7 four-cylinder with 80 hp, had nothing to oppose the rubbish: built by VW, type code number from VW, engine from VW.

However, the dash six was more than it was said to be. Was and is. Okay, the coat of arms on the hood was never granted to him in this country for reasons of sales law, but it was built in Stuttgart, had fender flares in the range of accessories, five instead of just four wheel nuts, he was allowed to carry the big name in the papers, and it was also under the hood what the golden letters on the ventilation grille promise. A Porsche.

Specifically: the six-cylinder from the 911 T.He crammed 110 hp into the back of the 914/6, which was a bit flippant at first, but then set off in a very racy manner. With high revs, bite and the characteristic chatter of an air-cooled boxer engine, of course.

It may be that the shift paths of the five-speed gearbox lead straight through the cockpit, and because of the strange ergonomics when steering, you keep getting caught with your arms on your legs. But in the end, the little sports car only weighs 980 kilos. And nowadays, at a time when Porsche is building cars that weigh almost three times as much, they probably feel a lot lighter than they used to: A nudge on the huge steering wheel, but much smaller compared to the four-cylinder 914, and the light one shuffles Front axle in the corner, clings diligently, but not only depends on the tires in lateral acceleration, but also indirectly on the engine. Due to its installation position, the two-liter carburettor serves both as a pivot and as an anchor point, is the spine of the driving dynamics and ultimately the breaking point for the 914/6.

Thanks to the ability to squeeze around corners from its center of gravity, the complement to the 911 threatened to become an alternative: cheaper, more agile, faster. A no go! So the revolutionary was called back by stable order even before sales started: the price difference to the 911 was massively reduced, so that the 914/6 was born to be a slow seller. The result: the quick end in 1972.

The Boxster as a trend reversal

But without a second mainstay, things don't work at Porsche either. And because the transaxle connection never really gained a foothold on its long journey from the 924 to the 968, the concept of an open entry-level model with a mid-engine is back on the conference table 20 years later. As the only trump card in hard times. As a last chance.

In any case, the gloomy weather mood suits our birthday group better than you might think. Because the prospects are bleak in the mid-90s in Zuffenhausen. The sports car market is in crisis and Porsche caught up with it. Sales and earnings have collapsed, especially in the USA there is little going on.

What would have happened if the Boxster hadn't hit the ground running? Nobody wants or has to imagine that anymore. Because? Because this time the relations are right.

The look alone. All the housewife associations of the previous models were blown away, instead of Mutti Beimer, James Dean was sitting in the associations - freshly coiffed, with a fag in the corner of his mouth and his arm on the window sill. As fantastic as it sounds - but the worst times brought back the glorious ones: 356 Speedster, 550 Spyder - their spirit was revived with the Boxster. And best of all, it was on the shelves at affordable prices. It didn't even matter that the engines were water-cooled and the headlights were fried eggs.

The rampant roadster boom also boosted sales, and even the complicated relationship with the 911 seemed to have been resolved. Principle: proximity where possible, distance where necessary. On the one hand, the 986 picks up on the iconic facial features and even uses parts from its big brother for the front end, on the other hand, the price-engine-performance structure is adjusted in such a way that the two don't get in each other's way.

Pleasure pump with a ball and chain

As with the 914, there is plenty of driving dynamics potential in the mid-engine concept, which the 204 hp initially scratch at best. Especially when they are set up like this one. The slight winter wheels can be excused with the weather report: bitterly cold, isolated snow showers, April, April!

However, our original Boxster also has an automatic transmission on the hook, which at least delays the flow of power. Especially since the engine, how should I put it, is not one that could compensate for anything. Angry tongues claim that the 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine drives like an old-school turbocharged engine. Except that after the hole there is no boom.

Well, in manual mode you can still feel the driving force of the sales success, whereby the toggle switch on the steering wheel feels less like changing gears and more like changing radio stations. The basic rule is: keep going. So when braking, first zapping down from SWR4, over three to two, then into the amazingly tough but binding steering and immediately hard again, so that the Porsche feeling that is just simmering up does not collapse together with the speed.

In other words: The sportiness is noticeable, but unstable, lives above 5,000 rpm, but there in the lap of luxury. On the other hand, 25 years is also a stupid age for a sports car. The driving feeling is too modern to be glorified, but at the same time it is quite far off the mark.

After all, the Boxster has also developed extremely quickly. Conceptually as well as driving dynamics. First came the S version, which gave the intentions significantly more emphasis with its 252 hp. After that, over the course of the generations, things went uphill at first, then more and more steeply. In 2005 the Cayman encapsulated itself as a coupe alternative, nine years later the 981 generation fanned the mid-engine theme even further with a fiery GTS variant before the current 718 series, the 982, suddenly reopened the old wounds seemed.

Viewed soberly, the third Boxster was just as consistent as it was logical, with its turbo engines starting exactly where all its predecessors were sagging: in the lower speed range. However, the two and 2.5 liter boxers had four cylinders and sounded suspiciously like Beetles, so that the prejudices from back then flared up again: the Vo-Po, the housewives, they were all back.

And even the three additional digits, with which the realignment was quickly linked to motorsport history, could not prevent the 718 from being perceived as a bit 08/15. As I said: The driving dynamics benefited from the fuller torque curve. But in the entertainment business, factual arguments alone won't get you very far.

Haven of the Porsche feeling

And with sales figures reflecting this wisdom, Porsche was finally backwards to the role in 2019. Or should I say: necessary? Who cares, because the six-cylinder was back. And how! Four liters in size and freely aspirated, he bred the 718 Boxster up to the 420 hp Spyder, followed a little later by the new GTS called four point zero, which after all drew 400 horses from the 3,995 cubic centimeters. Either way, it was enough to drive away the evil spirits.

But with the quality of the basis - the old story - the pressure on the core model, on the 911, also increased, especially since the six-cylinder is borrowed from it, as it was 50 years ago. The basic engine comes from the 992 Carrera, got the charging peeled off, but more bore and stroke. So there is already a distance. Also nominal. The suction device in the Jubi Boxster only manages 20 Nm less than the sloppily related 911, but of course the torque is later and, above all, not as widespread. And then the rear engine concept is now so sophisticated that the balance advantages of the mid-engine are no longer as effective as they used to be in the 914/6.

On the other hand, the Boxster weighs 70 kilos less, is slimmer and drives more naturally, which – if you ask me – makes it a haven for the archetypal, true Porsche feeling. On the country road, the more compact format acts like an afterburner on the entertainment value. How the 718 pant after the side streets, how it throws itself out of its stable center into curves, how it absorbs straight lines and roars down inclines - sorry, dear 911, but next to so much lust and mood you almost stand as a philistine with your strict focus on performance there.

Or without adding fuel to the fire: The four-liter special model, which costs almost 100,000 euros, is a pretty perfect celebration of the anniversary. Not so much because of the whole retrospective chic, but simply because it contains the motor that has made the concept big, bigger and finally really great again.

If we have our way, this part of history can be repeated in 25 years, dammdaämdädääääääm. Because how does Shirley Bassey sing in wise anticipation of our tricky mobility situation: "Why ask your head, it's your hips that are swinging. Life's for us to enjoy." Freely translated: in the future, always breathe easy through your hips, dear Boxsterle!


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