In over 4 decades of testing cars, we’ve seen plenty of models come and go-- and even some back again-- but few were actually the salvation of a brand like the Boxster was for Porsche. And this week Greg Carloss is behind the wheel of that iconic roadster and the new special edition that celebrates 25 years of Boxster.

GREG CARLOSS: When the Boxster first came to the U.S. in 1997 as the basis for the eventual 996 911, it had to live up to the prestige of its classic sibling without taking away too many sales; A tall order, even for a Porsche.

JOHN DAVIS (RETRO): But there’s never been a Porsche quite like this one. Combining today’s technology with a heavy dose of tradition, the Boxster has grabbed the public’s attention like no Porsche before it.

GREG CARLOSS: Now, 25 years later, I’m given the keys to the car that saved Porsche and the modern model made in its honor. Known internally as the 986, the original Boxster was not Porsche’s first mid-engine car and its designer Grant Larson used that to his advantage.

GRANT LARSON: The 550, of course, is one of the most famous mid-engine sports cars that Porsche has done and its successor, also, the 718. One of my favorite details is something that I wanted to do back then with the show car. Very typical Porsche, but something that nobody else thought of; and that was a central exhaust pipe. It’s something different. It has a historical reference and it just looked cool. 

GREG CARLOSS: When it came to market as a water-cooled, mid-engine roadster, the 986 Boxster was no ordinary Porsche. And as the first to set tires in the United States, this is no ordinary Boxster. 

Originally owned by comedian and Porsche-phile Jerry Seinfeld, this car sports the standard powertrain setup: a 201-horsepower 2.5-liter 6-cylinder boxer engine with 5-speed manual. That is one magic setup. 

I know it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but I have to draw some comparisons to an NA Miata, which I have owned. You know, they’re two different leagues of cars, but the same idea is still there, you know. You hear everything with the top down. You smell everything. You can feel everything and you’re so low to the ground, and that’s where Porsche was coming from with this car.

There’s no doubt this first gen Boxster provides the kinds of sounds and sensations that withstand the test of time, but when it comes to speed, a lot has changed in 25 years. 

This 2021 718 Boxster 25 Years also uses a naturally aspirated flat-6 engine. It’s the 4-liter from the 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 and nearly doubles the first gen’s output with 394 horsepower. Visually, it pays homage to the original concept car with GT Silver Metallic paint, Bordeaux Red interior and two-tone 5-spoke wheels.

When it comes to classic cars, I feel like there’s this pressure to always like the original more than anything that came after it, but I’ll be honest, I like this 25th Anniversary Boxster better. I don’t really buy into the argument that just because it’s newer and more technologically advanced that it’s less of a soulful car.

So as it turns out, the Boxster was up to that tall order it was tasked with at the beginning, firmly cementing its place in Porsche history right next to the 911.

GRANT LARSON: A lot of models have come and gone, but I think the Boxster that is here to stay is a really good feeling for me. I couldn’t imagine sitting here and saying this 25 years ago.