The original Boxster gets a lot of undeserved flak. We're all subject to the psychology of the hierarchy when we begin to inspect the Porsche lineup more closely, and as the Boxster sits at the bottom of the totem pole, it's going to get pelted by the droppings of the big eagles perched above.
Though any honest petrolhead and track rat will admit to the absurdity behind this abuse. The 986, like the contemporary 996, is not seen as a great car for unjust reasons. It was popular in its day, as it was the new and exciting thing, but that excitement waned as time went on and there wasn't much love for its broken-egg headlights, either. With prices coming down in recent years, some are willing to look past the looks, and they should. Besides, you can't see the headlights from the driver's seat.
Underneath the polarizing exterior, drivers are greeted with a light, agile, well balanced, communicative, analog driver's car. With the Boxster S variant, the sonorous 3.2-liter provides 250 horsepower—plenty to propel the 2,855-pound body. With a 0-60 time of 5.6 seconds and a top speed of 161 miles per hour, it wasn't exactly lacking in straightline performance for the time, though it may be a bit slow by today's standards.
However, that isn't what makes it a true drivers' car. Heavily weighted controls, a firm brake pedal—the kind you want in a racing car—a slick six-speed gearbox, that raspy bark, and small dimensions. The modest size of the car makes it that much easier to place on a backroad. That yesteryear sense of proportions, easy placement, and tactile feel give it a real zest that some newer cars are sorely lacking.
Proof of that? The burgeoning Spec Boxster class is starting to be seen as an alternative to some of the mainstays in American club racing. The power, poise, reliability, and mid-engine dynamics make this a very engaging club racer, and only slightly more expensive to run than a BMW E30 or a Mazda Miata. Perhaps, like the Miata, the Boxster has endured unfair criticism for much of its life, but its on-track performance will change some of the minds of people more concerned with perceived pecking order than performance.