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Old 04-07-2013, 07:46 PM   #1
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My story with the 986 Boxster

I think many of us on here are car enthusiasts, and I define that simply as one who pays extra attention to cars and enjoys driving - sometimes for no particular reason but just to drive.

I've always liked trying different cars. I think perhaps this passion started accidentally - my first car years ago was an older, used Mercedes C280 W202 - but it was the "sport" model, with a few extra things here and there. That made me start to love driving. At first, I followed the path of wanting more power - got a used S55 AMG, which had plenty.

Then, as it got to 180k miles (I drive a lot!) I decided to turn it in on a MK6 GTI. It was DSG, and this car was a revelation to me - not particularly fast, but it was the best handling car I had owned up to date and was very nimble, plus it was the first time I was interactive with a car's transmission. As much as I enjoyed the car, a few shortcomings like poor build quality, front wheel drive constant wheel spin, and being 2 doors made me want to change it fairly quickly.

Next came my BMW 335i sedan, which I still own. To me, this car is the perfect combination of the GTI and S55 that I had; nimble, handles well, but still powerful and comfortable. The torque on the highway and elsewhere is amazing. Note that this car is also, like my previous cars, an automatic - it has paddles and a pretty fast transmission.

Just a preface - I really don't care what brand a car is. I get cars based on their performance, appeal to me, and things of that nature. It just so happens that the best cars in the world are also from the more exclusive brands, like BMW, Porsche, etc.

I always had a desire to own a manual car, and obviously if it was a Porsche that made it even better. So, in I went with a 2001 base in great condition. It was sort of a test, a gamble if you will. I just wanted to try it, and I figure I could just turn around and sell it as it's not that expensive if I did not like it. A temporary idea, if you will.

At first, it was awkward mainly due to the reason that I had only sporadically driven manual cars - so this was really my first. Not much pleasure in the first month here; just constant practice to get better.

Many stalls in traffic, sweaty hands and fogging up the windows as a line of cars honked behind me whilst I stalled 2-3 times. This happened too many times in my first month, but I kept at it - driving it on every occasion. Oh, not to mention the rattles and noises that would come out too. Certainly not refined compared to the BMW - which by this time, felt like a Rolls Royce compared to the Boxster in all regards.

But, I kept on, because I knew the process was rewarding and eventually I would need to first master my own skill before I could start to really enjoy the car. I started with trying not to stall going to 1st from a stop, that was my first priority. Next, came smooth shifts throughout the gears. 3rd, came learning how to downshift and rev match. Lastly, heel -toe which I can do by rolling my foot to the gas, and it seems to work pretty well.

As I learned these - I got to be more comfortable driving the manual aspect of the car, and started to pay more attention to how the car actually felt. Over 5k the engine is glorious, and while no where near as fast as the BMW - it is somehow more exciting. So much more visceral.

How can I best describe it? All of the controls in the car feel amazing while driving. The steering is great, shifting from one gear to the other feels great to the touch, and the progressive way the engine makes power just feels so natural. The BMW, while still great and better in some respects - starts to feel a bit artificial compared to the purer driving experience in the Boxster.

I had my eyes on an M3 in the future - but now I have shifted my attention towards these cars. My 01 base is so satisfying that I am even afraid of getting a newer Boxster - even an S - and not having the same purity. My fear is compounded by the thought of a 911 Carrera - as much as I like it, will it really be as fun to drive as this base, no frills Boxster?

To sum it up, this is where I am at in my journey. I feel the Boxster has made me a better driver, more skilled, and more aware. Now I view cars differently. A performance car for me is no longer one with just power (Like my S55 was), but it is one that communicates every aspect of driving to you in a lively manner.

This little car caught me by surprise. I think it is pretty much how people love the Subaru BRZ that came out recently - cheap, but offers that old school driving experience.

I used to read about it - but now I am experiencing it and am starting to know what it feels like.

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Old 04-07-2013, 08:44 PM   #2
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That's a pretty solid progression of skill Rondo.

I understand where you're coming from.
Some years back, I had a s/c'd CL55 that I put a pulley, flash and headers on.
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Old 04-07-2013, 09:30 PM   #3
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I've come to the same conclusion - the 986 might just be the best drivers car - ever. The newer models are faster and more luxurious but don't offer the same intimate feel.
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Old 04-08-2013, 12:30 PM   #4
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Old 04-08-2013, 12:46 PM   #5
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That's a pretty solid progression of skill Rondo.

I understand where you're coming from.
Some years back, I had a s/c'd CL55 that I put a pulley, flash and headers on.
I've got some seat time in CL55 & CL600, loved them both! If the economy was normal I might own a CL for the wife's car. CL with a S/C would be awesome!
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Old 04-08-2013, 01:29 PM   #6
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I'm kinda amazed that anyone learns to drive a stick in a Porsche. I learned in a friends crappy old truck in High School, and perfected my skills tearing up a Toyota Celica clutch. It seems to be quite common on this board though.
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Old 04-08-2013, 02:18 PM   #7
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Great story, rondocap.

As far as I'm concerned, you get it. I'm really impressed. Not many people make the progression you've made the way you've made it. It must have been a hell of a lot of fun.

A base 986 Boxster is one of the few cars you can buy for reasonable money that gives you that purity you speak of and combines it with such a sophisticated - you might say aristocratic - powertrain.

BRZ is indeed in the same ballpark, but in the end isn't nearly as nice as a sorted 986. The Boxster's engine is miles nicer. It has a nicer, firmer and less over-servoed brake pedal. The gearchange is nicer.

The 986 isn't perfect. The steering is a bit over assisted, the gearchange could be more mechanical. And it would have been nice if they're done a 986 coupe of some kind. But for the money, they are pretty damn lovely.
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Old 04-09-2013, 12:39 PM   #8
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Nice write up. I love my S for the mix of power and raw handling. Having owned both Cayman and 997 I can safely say the boxster has a raw edge that the other two lack - don't get me wrong they'd both lap a track faster but I think I'd be having more fun - especially at lower speeds which is why I prefer it on the road. I honestly think that the Boxster is criminally undervalued at its current price in the UK. All the better for us owners that are in the know I suppose
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Old 04-09-2013, 12:42 PM   #9
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I have driven stick cars all my life and I have to say that there is definitely a learning curve even for experienced shifters.

I still have the occasional stall if the music is too loud and I can't hear the engine.

I use the tack a bit more at stops when the music is up, but it turns out that the better music is the sound of the engine most of the time.

I'd say it took me 6 months to become silky smooth with the shifting, even under hard acceleration.

Just a note, absolutely do not fear the quality of the S model. I test drove a base 2000 at the dealership but ended up buying an 2001 S from a private seller.

As much as you love the base, just add 25% more love for the S with the same handling, but even more responsive acceleration.
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Old 04-09-2013, 08:07 PM   #10
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Pothole, it definitely has been fun - it is always a process of learning, and I think if you look for the right clues, you will be steered in the proper direction. The forums are a great example of this. You hear about people driving these cars and how balanced they are, and that piques your interest to actually feel it!
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Old 04-09-2013, 09:24 PM   #11
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I've come to the same conclusion - the 986 might just be the best drivers car - ever. The newer models are faster and more luxurious but don't offer the same intimate feel.

Couldn't agree more. Drove a 500 horse Mercedes e63 AMG. It felt like a fast aircraft carrier.
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Old 04-10-2013, 01:36 AM   #12
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Couldn't agree more. Drove a 500 horse Mercedes e63 AMG. It felt like a fast aircraft carrier.
We have an SL600 Renntech in our family stable.
V12 bi turbo 700+ hp
Crazy fast and yes it feels like an airplane.
Doesn't handle nearly as we'll as the Boxster but 10 times faster in a straight line.
Trying to sell it, any takers?
We have 3 two seaters in the family.
A Boxster
Honda CRZ
And SL600 Renntech
Lolz family outings we need to take at least 3 cars haha
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Old 04-10-2013, 05:18 AM   #13
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Couldn't agree more. Drove a 500 horse Mercedes e63 AMG. It felt like a fast aircraft carrier.
To be fair, that's a completely different class of vehicle. Not really a relevant comparison.
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Old 04-10-2013, 06:10 PM   #14
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Old 04-14-2013, 10:55 PM   #15
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Nice write up rondocap, and I concur with what your heart and gut are feeling.

IMO, the 986 base has the perfect aura with what it feels like to be one with the car. Many people just don't understand the symphony that is being played when the base is driven. Like u said, something like the 335i will already be faster than a boxster base, but that isn't the gist as u pointed out.

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