Boxing clever: how the idea for the Porsche Boxster was born

Loved for its youthful exuberance, while being a nod to legendary mid-engine sports cars of years gone by, when it launched in 1996 the Boxster changed the face of the Porsche brand. With the limited-production Boxster 25 Years, the successful sports-car concept celebrates a milestone. Former head of development Horst Marchart looks back.

By the late 1980s, everyone at Porsche knew it: something had to be done. The economic situation was tense. When it was launched in 1996, the Porsche Boxster model line was something of a liberation. The agile roadster, with the first water-cooled, six-cylinder series boxer engine mounted in front of the rear axle, conquered the hearts of a new and younger clientele in record time. One of the key people involved in its creation, during a time of major restructuring, was Horst Marchart. At the time, he headed the Complete Vehicle Development Department.

986 generation: model years 1997–2005, 2021, Porsche AG
986 generation: model years 1997–2005. The resemblance to the study presented three and a half years earlier is unmistakable when the Boxster 986 goes into series production in August 1996. Technically, the Boxster is particularly impressive because of its new high-tech boxer engine.
986 generation: model years 1997–2005, 2021, Porsche AG
986 generation: model years 1997–2005. A total of 164,874 examples of the first Boxster generation – the 986 – were built.
986 generation: 50 years of the 550 Spyder special edition (2004), 2021, Porsche AG
986 generation: 50 years of the 550 Spyder special edition (2004). In 2004 – the final model year of the first generation – the 50 Years of the 550 Spyder special edition is launched, limited to 1,953 examples.
986 generation: 50 years of the 550 Spyder special edition (2004), 2021, Porsche AG
986 generation: 50 years of the 550 Spyder special edition (2004). The Boxster S special edition evokes its kinship to the 550 Spyder. Its body lines and timeless elegance are reminiscent of the first thoroughbred Porsche racing car.
987 generation: model years 2005–2011, 2021, Porsche AG
987 generation: model years 2005–2011. With the launch of the second generation in 2005, the design language of the roadster was refined. The goal: an even more dynamic appearance.
987 generation: model years 2005–2011, 2021, Porsche AG
987 generation: model years 2005–2011. Over the years, the technology is fine-tuned again and again. For example, the engine output of the 987 generation Boxster increases to 188 kW (255 hp) by the end of the production period in 2011 and to 228 kW (310 hp) for the Boxster S.
987 generation: Boxster RS 60 Spyder special edition (2007), 2021, Porsche AG
987 generation: Boxster RS 60 Spyder special edition (2007). With another exclusive special series of the Boxster S, Porsche commemorates Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien’s historic triumph at the 12-hour race in Sebring, Florida, in 1960. The Boxster RS 60 Spyder makes its debut in March 2008, shortly after Herrmann's 80th birthday.
987 generation: Boxster Spyder special edition (2010), 2021, Porsche AG
987 generation: Boxster Spyder special edition (2010). The Boxster Spyder becomes known as Porsche's lightest road-legal sports car when it is presented in 2009. It weighs 80 kilograms less than the Boxster S and produces more than 10 PS more power.
981 generation: model years 2011–2016, 2021, Porsche AG
981 generation: model years 2011–2016. The transition to the third generation brings extensive changes. Not only has the lightweight body of the Boxster been completely overhauled, but the chassis too. Despite increased driving performance, the new Boxster is up to 15 per cent more economical.
981 generation: model years 2011–2016, 2021, Porsche AG
981 generation: model years 2011–2016. The design has been changed from the ground up, too. The Boxster of the 981 generation impresses with a flatter silhouette and more striking contours. The new concept offers more space for the vehicle occupants.
981 generation: Boxster Spyder special edition (2015), 2021, Porsche AG
981 generation: Boxster Spyder special edition (2015). A classic driving experience and sporty performance: the 2015 Boxster Spyder special edition is available with a manual gearbox only. The powerful Boxster sprints from zero to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds.
982 generation: model years 2016–today, 2021, Porsche AG
982 generation: model years 2016–today. Twenty years after the first Boxster’s debut, Porsche is relaunching the roadster: the new model generation is called the 718 and is a nod to the 718 mid-engine sports cars from the 1950s and 1960s. The centrepiece is the newly developed four-cylinder boxer engine with turbocharging.
982 generation: model years 2016–today, 2021, Porsche AG
982 generation: model years 2016–today. The Boxster 982 exterior breaks new ground as well. The vehicle has been completely reworked, with the exception of the boot lid, windscreen and soft top.
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When Marchart appeared in the office of the Porsche Executive Board in early 1991, he was asked what he would recommend. “I said stop everything and then chart a new course – new model planning, development and production,” recalls Marchart, who was born in Vienna in 1939. He was following his gut instinct; the idea was by no means a finished concept. It was necessary, he reasoned, to bring a rejuvenating second sports-car model line to the market. One that would have the strength of character to stand on its own, yet also clearly bear the genes of its brand heritage. It should exude a vivacious spirit and come in well below the 911 in its price segment. Interest had been piqued. “They wanted to know how long I would need to investigate the topic exhaustively. I asked for four months.”

Responsable du développement :
Central figure: Horst Marchart in 1993 with Ferdinand Alexander Porsche (left) and Helmuth Bott (right), who served as the Porsche Board Member for Research and Development in Weissach until 1988.

Marchart would be a central figure in charting a new course for the future of Porsche. The status quo at the time: “We had a magnificent Porsche 911 of the 993 generation on the cusp of being launched. And the Porsche 928, 944, and 968 models were very distinct, having few technical similarities with the 911 or with each other.” 

The technical and strategic challenge lay in developing the new sports car in a way that would be in technological lockstep with future generations of the 911. And the car had to share a kinship with the legendary Spyder models. The plans for an exquisite two-seater roadster with a mid-engine convinced the Executive Board. The new car was to be called the Boxster – a nod to the open roadster and the six-cylinder boxer engines emblematic of the brand. It had already been decided that the boxer in the 996 generation of the 911 would be water-cooled. The Boxster would beat it to the punch.

Noteworthy references included the mid-engine concept

Grant Larson created the first study. His design explicitly drew on the Porsche 550 Spyder of the 1950s and the Porsche 718 RS 60 Spyder from 1960. Noteworthy references included the mid-engine concept, a front extended well beyond the front axle, short body overhang in the rear, and a centred tailpipe. Striking air intakes and air outlet openings were important design features. The silver paint job and the red colour of the finely crafted interior paid tribute to Porsche history, yet now were also harbingers of a reinvigorated future.

Marchart, named Board Member for Research and Development in the autumn of 1991, had no doubt that this new model would be a great success alongside the new generation of the 911, without endangering the brand icon: “It was clear to me that the 993 was so good that it would complete its planned model cycle through 1998 with aplomb even with competition from the Boxster. And after the overwhelming public response to the Boxster study at the presentation in Detroit in January 1993, we were absolutely sure that we had made the right decision.” After the tumult of the show died down, the message was clear: shut down the design development and build the concept just like that.

The Boxster offered groundbreaking innovations

Indeed, when the series model was launched in August 1996, the similarities with the Detroit showstopper were unmistakable. Sharing a front end with the 996 generation of the 911, which made its debut the following year, left no doubt about the family relationship. Technologically, the Boxster offered groundbreaking innovations. In addition to the water cooling, they included alloy four-piston monobloc brake calipers, four-valve technology, and VarioCam technology. Its six-cylinder boxer would become the nucleus of a completely new engine family, which would later be deployed in the 911 as well. As an alternative to the standard five-speed manual transmission, the Boxster could also be ordered with the automatic Tiptronic S, which featured five gears for the first time.

Édition spéciale :
Limité à 1 250 exemplaires, le Boxster Édition 25 ans est basé sur le 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 (consommation de carburant en cycle mixte : 10,9–10,1 l/100 km, émissions de CO₂ en cycle mixte : 247–230 g/km (actualisation 03/2021)). Son moteur boxer six cylindres de 4,0 l offre deux fois plus de puissance que le tout premier Boxster de 1996. Le choix des couleurs du roadster s’inspire du prototype de 1993 : une livrée Argent GT métallisé associée à des éléments en cuir en Rouge Bordeaux dans l’habitacle. Les teintes Noir intense métallisé et Blanc Carrara métallisé sont également disponibles, ainsi qu’une finition en Noir pour la capote et l’intérieur. La couleur Néodyme aux reflets cuivrés chatoyants qui caractériserait le concept initial est réinterprétée avec des accents visuels saisissants sur le bouclier avant, les entrées d’air latérales et les jantes bicolores en alliage léger de 20 pouces.
Tout compris :
La dotation de série de l’édition limitée comprend notamment le pack intérieur Aluminium, les sièges Sport à réglage électrique 14 positions et le volant sport GT multifonction chauffant.
Maîtrise et plaisir de conduire :
Dans le Boxster Édition 25 ans, le système Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) fourni de série ajuste la force d’amortissement sur chaque roue dans les modes de conduite Normal ou Sport. L’édition spéciale peut également être équipée en option de la boîte de vitesses à double embrayage Porsche (PDK).
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By now, entire books have been written about the evolutionary stages of the Boxster. Major development steps followed in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2012. In 2016, the complete relaunch with the 718 model series introduced four-cylinder turbocharged engines and a sharpened design. The roadster matured from a sportsman to an elite athlete. A power comparison alone speaks volumes: while the original Boxster put out 150 kW (204 PS), the special 25th anniversary model musters a stately 294 kW (400 PS, Boxster Édition 25 ans: consommation de carburant en cycle mixte (WLTP) 10,9 – 10,1 l/100 km, émissions de CO₂ en cycle mixte (WLTP) 247 – 230 g/km).

Paying homage to the first concept car

The anniversary model – limited to just 1,250 examples worldwide – pays homage to the first concept car. Among its most compelling features is the reinterpreted Neodyme colour: this coppery, shimmering brown shade had also set a dramatic contrast to the GT Silver Metallic base colour in the exhibition car. As in its historic forerunner, the leather of the interior and top are red. The heady spirit of the early years is in the air when Marchart recounts the creation of the Boxster, which was so important for the company at the time. And the passion and bold spirit of those beginnings still infuses the entire 718 family today. Only the matter-of-fact tone of the pragmatic considerations that took place at the time seems not to fit the exhilarating character of the cars. Marchart smiles as he dips back into his memories: “Dr. Wolfgang Porsche asked me what we would do if, ten years down the road, the Boxster were a success. I said: ‘Then you’ll get your four-seater.’” But that’s a story for another day. 

Info

Text first published in the Porsche magazine Christophorus, No. 398

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Consommation et émissions

Boxster Édition 25 ans

WLTP*
  • 10,9 – 10,1 l/100 km
  • 247 – 230 g/km

Boxster Édition 25 ans

Consommation de combustible / Émissions
consommation de carburant en cycle mixte (WLTP) 10,9 – 10,1 l/100 km
émissions de CO₂ en cycle mixte (WLTP) 247 – 230 g/km
Classe d'efficacité: G

718 Boxster GTS 4.0

WLTP*
  • 10,9 – 10,1 l/100 km
  • 247 – 230 g/km

718 Boxster GTS 4.0

Consommation de combustible / Émissions
consommation de carburant en cycle mixte (WLTP) 10,9 – 10,1 l/100 km
émissions de CO₂ en cycle mixte (WLTP) 247 – 230 g/km
Classe d'efficacité: G

718 Cayman GTS 4.0

WLTP*
  • 10,9 – 10,1 l/100 km
  • 247 – 230 g/km

718 Cayman GTS 4.0

Consommation de combustible / Émissions
consommation de carburant en cycle mixte (WLTP) 10,9 – 10,1 l/100 km
émissions de CO₂ en cycle mixte (WLTP) 247 – 230 g/km
Classe d'efficacité: G

718 Boxster T

WLTP*
  • 9,7 – 8,9 l/100 km
  • 219 – 202 g/km
  • km

718 Boxster T

Consommation de combustible / Émissions
consommation de carburant en cycle mixte (WLTP) 9,7 – 8,9 l/100 km
émissions de CO₂ en cycle mixte (WLTP) 219 – 202 g/km
Autonomie électrique combinée (WLTP) km
Classe d'efficacité: G

718 Cayman T

WLTP*
  • 9,6 – 8,9 l/100 km
  • 218 – 202 g/km

718 Cayman T

Consommation de combustible / Émissions
consommation de carburant en cycle mixte (WLTP) 9,6 – 8,9 l/100 km
émissions de CO₂ en cycle mixte (WLTP) 218 – 202 g/km
Classe d'efficacité: G