Used car buying guide: Porsche Boxster (987)
29 March 2021 - autocar
A surprisingly high number of 987 Boxsters have been doted on and then dumped, but clean ones remain a catch worthy of long-term commitment
What is it about the 987 Porsche Boxster of 2004-2012? Most examples have had multiple former keepers, often into double figures. An example is the privately advertised 2.7-litre 2005- reg car we found with a reasonable 72,000 miles but no fewer than 11 of them. Add the current owner and that’s a change of driving style and maintenance budget every 6000 miles. Should the next owner worry?
Naturally, one dealer we spoke to put a positive spin on it, saying that each change of keeper is a like a honeymoon all over again. “The car is spoiled rotten until either the owner’s interest cools or their circumstances change,” he said. For our part, we suspect that each change of owner brings shallower pockets. Boxster owner Colin Patterson (see panel on right) had to spend a few grand refurbishing his multi-owner 987 when he bought it but reckons it was a price worth paying for a car so good.
Having trouble telling the 987 and its predecessor, the 986, apart? Look at their headlights. The latter’s appear to melt into the bonnet like a runny egg. Fortunately, the real differences go deeper. According to Porsche, 80% of the 987 was all new. Crucially, it has a wider track, a sharper chassis, a new variable-ratio power steering system, uprated electronics and a classier cabin.
“The quicker you go, the better this car becomes,” was former Autocar European editor Peter Robinson’s verdict. No wonder 987s change hands so many times.
Standard and S versions were carried over from the 986 and powered by the same 2.7-litre and 3.2-litre flat-sixes, albeit uprated to 237bhp and 276bhp respectively. In 2007, the standard 2.7-litre gained Porsche’s Variocam valve-timing system and an increase in output to 241bhp. Not to be outdone, the S went from 3.2 to 3.4 litres and 291bhp.
Regarding gearboxes, a manual (five speeds on the standard car, six on the S) was offered from launch, with the five-speed Tiptronic automatic following later. This too was improved in 2007. Not that buyers cared: today, manual 987s easily outnumber autos.
The model’s mid-life refresh could more accurately be called a mid-life rewrite. The 2.7-litre motor went to 2.9 litres and 252bhp while the 3.4 S, now with direct fuel injection, soared to 306bhp. Both got a new six-speed manual gearbox or a new seven-speed PDK auto in place of the Tiptronic. At the same time, the steering and suspension were improved. The main styling tweaks were confined to the lights, with the fronts becoming bi-xenons and the rears LEDs.
From launch, a must-have option to look out for on an S fitted with 19in alloys is Porsche Active Suspension Management, which softens some of the ride’s harshness. Special 987s included the Boxster S Design Edition 2, launched in 2008 before the Gen 2 models arrived, and the lightened 321bhp Boxster Spyder 3.4 of 2010 (used prices from £40,000).
Today, many 987s may have multiple previous keepers, but find a cherished one and we reckon you will want to be the last.
An owner’s view
Colin Patterson: “I’m the sixth owner of a 2006-reg Boxster 2.7 I bought three years ago. I had an Audi TT Roadster, which the Boxster beats hands down. Although it has done 135,000 miles, it still feels even better screwed together. It does around 25mpg and costs £560 per year to tax. I have it serviced every two years by a local Porsche specialist whose prices are reasonable.”
Servicing: For peace of mind, quality of work and better future resale, favour a car with official or reputable independent service history. Intervals are every two years or 20,000 miles. Rough running may be due to the mass airflow sensor.
Engine: Cylinder scoring is rare but worth checking for on pre-DFI 3.4 S cars; signs include an oily tailpipe and high oil consumption. On early 987s, check if the IMS bearing has been uprated.
Transmission: On early cars, check for an oil leak from the rear main oil seal. It’s not urgent and can be attended to at clutch replacement time. Long service intervals mean you should listen out for odd noises from auto and manual ’boxes. Stiff changes and a heavy pedal suggest clutch failure is imminent.
Brakes and suspension: Check the life of the brakes, because genuine replacement parts are pricey. They need a hefty shove to give their best, but during an emergency stop, the car shouldn’t pull to one side. Lower arm bushes tend to go at around 40,000 miles. Knocking may be due to the rose joints on the trailing arms. Broken suspension springs aren’t rare, so check how the car is sitting and for unusual noises over rough roads.
Bodywork: Check the hood pushrods work, that the rear drain holes empty freely and that the hood tension straps are taut.
Interior: Check all the features work, since the electrical Canbus system can play up, leading to a duff battery or wayward lights and indicators.
Also worth knowing
Consider a Porsche-approved warranty. It covers cars no older than 15 years and with no more than 125,000 miles. To qualify, the car must undergo a 111-point inspection. It’s not cheap, but you stand to get a good proportion of the price back should you sell the car to a Porsche centre or privately.
How much to spend
£6000-£8999: Early 237bhp standard cars with up to 100,000 miles on the clock.
£9000-£11,999: Lower-mileage, post-2007 241bhp cars and early 276bhp S models.
£12,000-£14,499: Early post-2009 Gen 2 252bhp cars and post-2007 291bhp S mid-milers.
£14,500-£17,999: Late-plate 252bhp Boxsters and low-mileage 291bhp S cars.
£18,000-£20,999: The best 252bhp standard cars and Gen 2 306bhp S mid-milers.
£21,000-£24,999: The best late, 306bhp S low-milers.
One we found
Porsche Boxster 3.4 S, 2007/57-reg, 65k miles, £14,495: Being sold by a reputable independent Porsche specialist, this early 3.4-litre manual has a full service history, has had a borescope check of its cylinders (all okay) and has been fitted with new Pirelli N-rated tyres and coil packs. Extras include extended leather.