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Old 02-07-2008, 05:28 PM   #1
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how does boxster S compare to bmw m3 in the real world

I am thinking of buying a 2002-2005 boxster S. I currently have a 99 Dinan BMW M3 (dinan is to bmw what ruf is to porsche). I was wondering if anyone has switched to a porsche from a bmw m and what their thoughts were about the change. pro's/con's/regretting the change/ etc.

interior space is not an issue for me and this will only be a 3 season car.

cheers and thanks in advance.
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Old 02-07-2008, 05:38 PM   #2
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Interesting question. My dad has a '97 E36 M3/4door. As good as my boxster was, the steering in the M3 felt more precise. While both cars have great balance, the BMW is a bit more "tossable" than the boxster is, imho. You can look up the roadtest numbers if you are looking for absolutes here (0-60, braking etc). It could just come down to you wanting a change of pace and a roof that opens up (assuming your M3 isn't a converible ; ) ) Both cars are great and they both have their mechanical/maintenance issues.
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Old 02-07-2008, 06:03 PM   #3
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It's all a matter of perspective. Everyone will weigh different characteristics in different ways. I've driven both (minus the Dinan part) on the street and at autocrosses. It's still a toss up other than the fact that I wanted a convertible and a Porsche.

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Old 02-07-2008, 07:41 PM   #4
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Ha, I have a Boxster and my room mate has an M3 (E46 though). Welcome to the forum.

Just to clarify, the years you specified on the Boxster spans 2 generations. 2005 is the 987 and 2004 and before are 986s.

I can't speak directly to the question at hand seeing as how I haven't owned a BMW, but I have driven both E36 & E46 M3s. From my observations, Porsches are just tighter cars. Your car is a Dinan, so I'm thinking you may presently have more power. But to me, the biggest difference between these 2 cars is finesse. Porsche has that mastered in my opinion and finesse never gets old.

I know it's not an issue for you, but I think space is something you would miss the most. On a recent trip I had to put a towel in the trunk because there wasn't enough room in the car for it in addition to another passenger. A TOWEL!

Based on my room mate's experience, you'll spend less on maintenance with the Porsche.

Are you considering other cars as well?
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Old 02-07-2008, 07:59 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by racer_d
Interesting question. My dad has a '97 E36 M3/4door. As good as my boxster was, the steering in the M3 felt more precise. While both cars have great balance, the BMW is a bit more "tossable" than the boxster is, imho. You can look up the roadtest numbers if you are looking for absolutes here (0-60, braking etc). It could just come down to you wanting a change of pace and a roof that opens up (assuming your M3 isn't a converible ; ) ) Both cars are great and they both have their mechanical/maintenance issues.

That's funny I have the exact opposite thinking:

I drove LOTS of E36 M3s and even had a 2001 BMW M Coupe and I feel the steering in the Boxster is MUCH tighter, MUCH more precise and has a lot better feel to it.

The E36 M3 has great steering feel, but my Boxster S has it even a notch above.

The Boxster also feels much lighter, much more tossable than the E36 M3 which seemed quite heavy to me for a sports car, but very good for a sports coupe-sedan.

The only area where the E36 M3 has a slight advantage over a 986 Boxster S is low end torque. (it's faster than a base Boxster though)
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Old 02-07-2008, 09:16 PM   #6
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well its like this, the m3 makes a terrible roadster and the Boxster makes a terrible coupe. Get my meaning? You are giving up something to get the other.


They can never be compared as equals. A better comparison would be M3 vs. CaymanS. Although the new M3 is a substantially quicker car than previous M3's.

The Boxster is the only Porsche ever made to be a convertible from the begining, A 'real' roadster, not a coupe that had its roof hacked off. So when you are buying a Boxster you are buying a different sports car experience. It's like dating the girl next door vs. the Brazilian exchange student before she was discovered by Ford modeling. Coupes a great but a roadster is a whole new world.

So forget 0-60 times, long and lateral g's, HP's, gear ratios, etc.
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Old 02-08-2008, 04:22 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacques79
That's funny I have the exact opposite thinking:

I drove LOTS of E36 M3s and even had a 2001 BMW M Coupe and I feel the steering in the Boxster is MUCH tighter, MUCH more precise and has a lot better feel to it.

The E36 M3 has great steering feel, but my Boxster S has it even a notch above.

The Boxster also feels much lighter, much more tossable than the E36 M3 which seemed quite heavy to me for a sports car, but very good for a sports coupe-sedan.

The only area where the E36 M3 has a slight advantage over a 986 Boxster S is low end torque. (it's faster than a base Boxster though)
This mirrors my experience as well. Plus the super light flywheel of the M3 makes the engine quite fun to rev. The standard answer here is you've got to try the Boxster and see if you like it.
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Old 02-08-2008, 07:02 AM   #8
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As you can see from my sig, I have both a Boxster and a E36 M3. In the "real world" (a.k.a. driving on the street), the two cars are difficult to compare. The M3 is a more practical car, with more interior and trunk space. Within the confines of reasonable street driving, both cars have way more performance than is needed to have fun. M3 steering precision is renowned, though my Boxter's steering is excellent, too. Neither remotely compares to my 914's hyper-fast manual steering, however. The Boxster isn't as practical, but it's a convertible, looks great, and's more of a fun car.

The big difference for me is the motor. My old M3 hasn't got the ridiculous power levels of the E46 or the newest M3, but even with just 240 HP and more weight than my Boxster, the E36's motor is fantastic. Excellent low-end torque, smooth as slik, and a great sounding stock exhaust system. Yes, I have Tip on my Boxster, so it's not the same, but the BMW still gets the nod. The Boxster's motor is sweet, but lacks low-end punch. For most driving on the street, the low-end is more fun, IMO. I don't have an S, but I hear that it's not much better down low. A newer 3.4 would be much better, I'm sure, but you'd be comparing that to a newer M3, which has an insane motor (400 HP).

Where the two cars would really show a difference is on the track. I haven't tracked my Boxster, but I've driven the M3 and the 914 on the track quite a bit. The Boxster's handling is superior to the M3's (I'm talking stock cars here). Turn in is better, limits are higher, and most importantly, in right/left combos, the Boxster doesn't require the delicacy that the M3 does when shifting the loading. I'm also blown away by the Boxster's brakes. The M3 has really excellent brakes - the Boxter's brakes are incredible. Much more initial grab, less tendency to lock the rears on bumpy roads at the limit, better modulation and feel. I suspect my stock Boxster with Tip would be faster than my M3 on the main circuit at my home track, Firebird.

Once sorted out, gearshift in the M3 is excellent. I have no idea of what a manual Boxster would be like, I suspect it would be great. I have Tip mostly because the car was a good deal and my wife likes it. The M3 suffers from a number of chronic problems with shifting and the clutch, however. Clutch pedal squeek and groan is a common problem with the E36, and while improved pedal bushings are cheap, they're a PITA to install. A UUC clutch pedal stop greatly improves clutch travel issues, and removing the delay valve from the clutch reduces slippage and improves take-up. E36 M3's in '97 and '98 also have issues with a sticky 5th gear problem (lever doesn't spring back to neutral), a cheap part that required removing the tranny to replace ($$$). Another issue is the "money shift" problem on the track, where soft tranny mounts can result in missing 5th and jamming it into 3rd.

I haven't had my Boxster long enough to compare on maintenance, though I've already had to deal with the RMS. My M3 has 75K on it, and I've kept at every issue on the car and had it repaired. If you do it yourself, yes, it's going to be a lot cheaper, but it requires a LOT of maintenance and parts aren't cheap. SRS sensors fail regularly, door locks fail regularly, some minor interior trim problems. The motor itself is rock-solid on the E36, but the E46 had major issues with spun bearings that killed the motors. Like all BMW's, the cooling system is junk and prone to failures at around 75K miles. Most shops recommend preventative replacement of the radiator, hoses, and pump at around this mileage, about $2K. Rear shock mount rubber fails regularly, and usually all the rear bushings are shot by 70K. Rotor warpage is also common, though that's one problem I haven't had. At least they don't eat tires quite as fast as a Boxster. I've also had issues with some of the emission stuff on the M3, too: secondary air pump, evaporative fuel system, etc.
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Old 02-08-2008, 07:18 AM   #9
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I have not driven any boxsters yet. I am planning on 2003+ (but would consider a great deal on an '02) S for certian.

I am interested because I have heard that a porsche is a "natural progression" , if you will, from BMW's. Similar in feel, but more precision all around.

I have looked at other cars, but have not been impressed. clk amg, g35, 350z, E46 M3 just don't do it for me.

My M, though older, has great, predictable road manners, but can go all out when it is opened up. It has an awesome ability to put its power on the pavement really efficently. I only have about 280hp, 250? torque, but have ran with almost every car out there without a problem. It handles awesome as well. Refined, but raw as well when modded.

If the porsche has some rawness to it (or can be modified to be so), it seems I would really like it. I naturally assume its handeling characterics are excellent from every review I have read. I'm not looking for all out straight line speed, but do want it to be pretty quick. From the numbers, I'm assuming the S is no slouch, but have no idea of real world day to day life in one.

As owners, what do you guys think? What, if any mods, have you done and their outcomes?

also, interesting to note one of you guys could not fit a passenger and a towel in the pass compartment!

Thanks in advance
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Old 02-08-2008, 07:30 AM   #10
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PBanders, (and everyone else )

just read your posts and quite enlightening. Thanks for the input. Though I am planning on an S, I am going to try to test many different boxsters before I decide just for comparison.

PBanders, I see the same issues, all corrected, on my m3 as well. Minor stuff to say the least. with 97,000 hard-driven miles on the M, reliability has been excellent. Although I go above and beyond regular maintanance as I do most of it myself.


Is there much DIY on a boxster for maintanance?

Last edited by yjm3; 02-08-2008 at 07:36 AM.
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Old 02-08-2008, 08:13 AM   #11
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The Boxster is not really a car you should be buying if you like to performance mod. That was the whole point of my buying a Porsche, it would be set up from day one. All my mods have for the most part been visual. The way the BoxsterS motor is designed you will have to spend an oscene amount of money to get anything near 50 horses added on. imho a 300hp car is not ALL THAT quicker than a 250-260 HP car. In my local autocross chapter I have matched or beaten cars with 50HP advantages, M3's, Mustangs, Standard Carreras, STI's, etc. And I'm not even that great a driver.

And again, its a roadster. These cars are meant to be light, responsive and sharp in steering and handling, all while getting a tan.... they aren't inteded to be one dimensional horse power beasts. And With Boxster you get the best braking of any convertible in this price range. Maintenance has been far below what I was afraid of. I've put 35K miles on my BoxsterS and unexpected repairs have been limited to one throttle body replacement for less than $300.

here's a good link by a forum member on Boxster maintenance and stuff.
I used it to do my 15K and 30K mile servicing.

http://mike.focke.googlepages.com/mikesporscheboxsterwebpages
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Old 02-08-2008, 09:12 AM   #12
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I drove my best friend's E46 convertible for about three months while he was processing a divorce. About six months after that I bought a 2005 987S. He and I have since compared these two cars. Both cars have 18" wheels and the 6-speed, so this is a fairly apples-to-apples comparison.

Consensus is that the M3 wins the engine comparison and the 987S wins everything else. Keep in mind we have not once gone out and looked up the auto mag test results side by side. Real world is the only thing that matters to us, and the M3 only wins for the feeling of straight ahead pull/acceleration across the powerband.

The four areas where I felt the 987S won by the clearest margin were 1) braking feel and performance (I scared my friend's pants off with a late brake the first time he was in the 987S), 2) precision of turn-in (tighter, more controlled), 3) ride comfort (the M3 feels stiffer, like it could knock your fillings out on the worst road around here, but you do not get better handling in exchange), and 4) sound - the M3 sounds high performance to be sure, but the 987S sounds like a well-tuned orchestra of intake/engine/exhaust.

Bottom line here is that both cars are fabulous and criticizing either is just being picky. If I needed a back seat, an M3 would be a great choice. Since I don't need a back seat (I have a WRX wagon for hauling kids and stuff) and I find the Boxster S to have more than ample power for street driving, its many strengths overwhelm the M3's advantage in power. The other truly subjective factor for me is that the M3 doesn't feel all that different from other sedans I've own when cruising down a highway, while the Boxster always feels like a Boxster.

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Old 02-08-2008, 11:15 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yjm3
(dinan is to bmw what ruf is to porsche).
Not really... traditional ruf cars have their own VIN number... dinan is like an expensive tuner whose products can sometime be warranted by a BMW dealer.


back on subject... my good friend has a E46 M# cab... Its faster than my S, but there is no way it can keep up when the roads get twisty. Both car are great... each have their pluses... The M does have more practicality.
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Old 02-08-2008, 11:58 AM   #14
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I own a e46 eurospec M3 (343bhp) and a 986 BoxsterS. Previously I've owned an e30 M3 and have driven e36 M3 (EVO) en Z3M coupe's.

e46 m3 / e36 m3 EVO compares very well. E46 M3 being more modern and a bit faster/sharper but they are both fast sport-sedan's / GT's. I don't qualify them as sportcars. They are too comfortable, too soft and especially too heavy. My opinion is that BMW ///M cars are great at everything but outstanding in nothing.

Porsche Boxster (986)S is a totally different car. Lighter, sharper, much more agile. A true sportcar. Furthermore the soft-top adds to the experience if topless driving is your thing. However less practical, less comfortable, and in a straight line slower, etc. compared to an M3

I own a 360bhp Mitsubishi EVO 8 MR RS and a Peugeot 206gti as well. To give you an idea of my preferences:
- If I had to pick one car only -> M3, it's great at everything.
- If I have normal daily transportation available the order of picking my second car would be BoxsterS (great overall package), EVO (just brutal), M3 (great but boring).


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Old 02-08-2008, 02:07 PM   #15
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Not much to add beyond what has been posted other than to say the M3 (e46) I drove felt much quicker (acceleration wise) especially in sport mode. The Cayman S didn't feel nearly as powerful but felt more precise. Both are great but as most have said, they are different cars. I've owned many BMWs and love their handling - Porsches feel more connected and mechanical.
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Old 02-08-2008, 02:52 PM   #16
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I'm sure the BMW is nice..... Tough to argue with the racing successes of Porsche, especially true in this years LMP2. I like the Porsche philosophy and heritage as much as the car.
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Old 02-08-2008, 04:48 PM   #17
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A few thoughts:

1) The Boxster doesn't have alot of torque and the power is high in the RPM range so it doesn't 'feel' fast but it is. For guys looking to get pushed back in the seat by a sports car this can be disappointing.

2) Handling is unreal.

3) Buying a Porsche is more than just the car, the community is wonderful. PCA, forums etc.. It's almost a lifestyle/hobby.

4) You need to do some test driving, there is a significant difference between the 2005+ model year versus earlier. They are all great but you may have a preference. The newer you can afford the more HP you will get.

5) Boxster is not a good car for power mods, expensive with not much return

6) If you don't care about the drop top, look at a used Cayman, there are some really good deals out there for a Cayman S (I personally prefer the look too)

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Old 02-08-2008, 09:12 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yjm3
If the porsche has some rawness to it (or can be modified to be so), it seems I would really like it...

As owners, what do you guys think? What, if any mods, have you done and their outcomes?

also, interesting to note one of you guys could not fit a passenger and a towel in the pass compartment!
When I think of Boxsters, rarely does the term "raw" come to mind. Think "finesse, agile, precise." It's not slow, but not the choice for a stoplight race. It shines on the track and it shines in the mid-range RPMs (highway drag races).

As you've read already, engine mods are not worth it. Again, we stress expensive with little gain (although I've begged others to go the nitrous route... no one ever obliges).

That was me that made the towel comment. It would have had room had we placed the towel on the floor. (But then where would I put my floor mats? Ha!)

GO for the S. I think you may miss the low end grunt of your E36, but you would not regret the decision to get the Porsche.

I wanted a BMW for the longest time, but I got the Boxster instead. When I recently went to test drive a new 3 Series coupe (w/sport package), I was so pleased to drive off in my little Foxy Boxy.
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Old 02-08-2008, 11:41 PM   #19
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Add me to those who own both an M3 and a Boxster S. Agree with most comments so far. Both are exceptional cars, well built and refined. I haven't raced either, so my experience is based on enthusiastic daily driving.

M3: As you probably know, incredible combination of performance, luxury, practicality. Gives up very little in each area. Surprisingly high limits. Amazing brakes. Great engine and steering.

Boxster S: More of a single-purpose machine. Steering is more direct and immediate. Engine sounds fantastic, brakes are also amazing. Surprisingly practical all things considered with two trunks, space behind seats, etc. Still has the little luxuries, and as a bonus, it's a convertible. That's a big bonus in my view.

Basically, for me, I can drive the M3 in any situation, including passable in winter with good snow tires. The Boxster S will only be used for 2 people max (of course) and for me only in temps above of 8 degrees celcius. Pretty much whenever those conditions are met, I take the Boxster, just because it's more raw fun. As for speed and torque, I find it hard to pick a winner between M3 and Boxster S.

So there you have it. They each offer different things, but both are very good at what they do, and both provide great performance.
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Old 02-09-2008, 04:37 AM   #20
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Its so rare to get insightful advice from a car forum. That's why I like this place. Not the usual fanboy "BMW's SUCK" crap. I agree with most of what's in this thread so far.

I've driven both and currently own a Boxster S. I almost bought an M3 (vert.) prior to buying the Box. Yes, I know thats not the same thing as an actual M3.

The biggest difference? The Boxster is a convertible that you can still compare to one of the best Coupe's ever made.

The Boxster is loud. All convertibles are. Make sure you can deal with that.

The Boxster's suspension is surprisingly compliant on the highway. Its actually much smoother and softer highway cruiser than you might expect...obviously, you can fix that easily enough with a mod.
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