2022 Subaru BRZ vs. Used Porsche Boxster: Is the New Sports Car Better?

New Subaru BRZ vs. used 986/987 Porsche Boxster article highlights:

  • For the same price—or less—as a fully-loaded 2022 Subaru BRZ, you can get a used 2000-2012 Porsche Boxster from the 986 and 987 gens
  • The Boxster offers mid-engine thrills, Porsche status, and in 987 form, more performance than the BRZ
  • A new BRZ is just as or even sharper than the Boxster and comes with more standard features and a factory warranty

New, affordable sports cars are a rare breed these days, but the Subaru BRZ is one of the segment’s best champions. And the 2022 Subaru BRZ amplifies all the previous-gen car’s strengths while removing most of its noticeable weaknesses. But the BRZ doesn’t just compete with other new sports cars in cash-strapped enthusiasts’ minds: it has used rivals, too. And used Porsche Boxsters are some of its strongest competitors. So, which one should you get?

Which used Porsche Boxster models can you get for new 2022 Subaru BRZ prices?

Fully loaded, the 2022 Subaru BRZ Limited costs roughly $38,000 before delivery and other fees. In the interest of fairness, that’s our budget limit for used Porsche Boxster models. So, what’s available for that much?

Based on the current crop of Autotrader listings, that $38K cap eliminates all 982-gen four-cylinder 718 Boxsters. You also can’t get a used Boxster GTS or Spyder for that little. However, it does leave all first-gen 986 Boxster and Boxster S models and virtually all equivalent second-gen 987 Boxsters. In other words, for the price of a new 2022 Subaru BRZ, you can get a 1996-2012 used Porsche Boxster or Boxster S.

Admittedly, because the earliest 986s are roughly 25 years old, they’re now considered classics. Hence why Porsche just released a 718 Boxster 25 Years Edition. And since Porsche didn’t introduce a Boxster S until the 2000 model year, we’ll limit this comparison to 2000-2012 Boxsters.

2022 Subaru BRZ vs. used Porsche Boxster: performance

A blue 2022 Subaru BRZ Limited at the 2022 Chicago Auto Show
A 2022 Subaru BRZ Limited | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit
2022 Subaru BRZ2000-2004 986 Porsche Boxster, Boxster S2005-2012 987 Porsche Boxster, Boxster S
Engines2.4-liter boxer-fourBoxster: 2.7-liter flat-six
Boxster S: 3.2-liter flat-six
2005-2008 Boxster: 2.7-liter flat-six
2005-2008 Boxster S: 3.2-liter flat-six
2009-2012 Boxster: 2.9-liter flat-six
2009-2012 Boxster: 3.4-liter flat-six
Horsepower228 hpBoxster: 217 hp (2000-2002), 228 hp (2003-2004)
Boxster S: 250 hp (2000-2002), 258 hp (2003-2004)
Boxster: 240 hp (2005-2006), 245 hp (2007-2008), 255 hp (2009-2012)
Boxster S: 280 hp (2005-2006), 295 hp (2007-2008), 310 hp (2009-2012)
Torque184 lb-ftBoxster: 192 lb-ft
Boxster S: 225 lb-ft (2000-2002), 229 lb-ft (2003-2004)
Boxster: 199 lb-ft (2005-2006), 201 lb-ft (2007-2008), 214 lb-ft (2009-2012)
Boxster S: 236 lb-ft (2005-2006), 251 lb-ft (2007-2008), 265 lb-ft (2009-2012)
TransmissionsSix-speed manual
Six-speed automatic
Five-speed manual
Six-speed manual
Five-speed automatic
Five-speed manual
Six-speed manual
Five-speed automatic
Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (PDK)
Curb weight2815-2881 lbs2778-2855 lbs2855-2987 lbs
0-60 mph time5.9 seconds (manual, MotorTrend)6.0 seconds (2000 Boxster manual, MotorTrend)
5.2 seconds (2000 Boxster S manual)
5.6 seconds (2009 Boxster, claimed)
4.3 seconds (2009 Boxster S PDK)

Redesigned for 2022, the Subaru BRZ packs a bigger, more powerful, and torquier boxer engine. It also has a stiffer chassis and, thanks to more aluminum body panels, an even lower center of gravity. It’s now lower than the current-gen 718 Boxster’s center of gravity, Subaru claims. Also, the 2022 BRZ has reworked steering and optional grippier tires. And it’s still one of the few cars that’s faster with a stick than an automatic.

Speaking of speed, the 2022 Subaru BRZ is roughly as quick as a base used 986 and 987 Porsche Boxster with a manual. But thanks to its bigger engine, the Boxster S is noticeably faster. And the gap only grows if you drive a PDK-equipped 987, especially one with launch control from the Sports Chrono Package. Plus,

2022 Subaru BRZ vs. used Porsche Boxster: performance features

The black-leather interior of a red 2010 987 Porsche Boxster S
2010 987 Porsche Boxster S interior | Porsche

A used Porsche Boxster S offers more than just more gears and horsepower, though. The 986 Boxster S has stiffer springs, upgraded shocks, and different geometry than the base roadster. Plus, it has a larger radiator as well as the 996 911’s wheels and larger cross-drilled brake rotors. And while the base 986 got the S’s shocks and springs in 2003, the S got bigger sway bars.

These upgrades carried over into the 987-gen Boxsters. In addition, the 987-gen Boxster S offered optional carbon-ceramic brakes, which weren’t available on the base Boxster. But both models offered optional adaptive shocks.

While Subaru doesn’t make adaptive shocks or carbon-ceramic brakes for the 2022 BRZ, the Japanese sports car does come standard with a Torsen limited-slip differential. That wasn’t available on the 986, and it was optional on the 987. But otherwise, the BRZ is similarly-specced to the roadster: fully-independent suspension, ventilated four-wheel discs, adjustable stability control, RWD.

2022 Subaru BRZ vs. used Porsche Boxster: luxury and tech features

The black interior of a 2022 Subaru BRZ Premium at a racetrack
2022 Subaru BRZ Premium interior | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

As for luxury features, the BRZ doesn’t have full-leather upholstery like the Boxster. However, it does have a glass rear window—the 986 had a plastic one until 2003. That was also when it got a glove box. But on the other hand, you can’t get the BRZ as a convertible. And though its boxer engine sounds better than before, it can’t match Porsche’s six-cylinder for sound quality.

In addition, because it’s a front-engine car, the BRZ has actual rear seats, unlike the Boxster, though the latter has two trunks. Also, while the 987 Boxster has LED taillights and bi-xenon headlights, the new BRZ has LED headlights that are steering-responsive on Limited models. And yes, you can get a 2022 BRZ and a used Porsche Boxster with heated seats.

Where the 2022 Subaru BRZ really steps ahead of a used Porsche Boxster is its infotainment and tech features. Bluetooth and navigation were optional in the 987; they’re standard in the BRZ. The Subaru also has Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a wider array of safety features. Though if you want the full Subaru EyeSight driver-assistance suite, you’ll need to get the automatic. And while Porsche does offer a plug-and-play infotainment upgrade for used Boxsters, it doesn’t offer an ADAS upgrade.

Is the 2022 BRZ as sharp of a sports car as a 986/987 Boxster?

Thanks to its mid-engine layout, the Boxster has a near 50:50 weight distribution. But the 2022 BRZ does, too. And because both sports cars have flat engines, they have low centers of gravity. So, what happens when we get off the paper and start hitting the road?

In a head-to-head with a 986 Boxster, the 2022 Subaru BRZ is the clear victor, CarBuzz reports. Yes, the original Boxster has hydraulic power steering and a mid-engine layout. But the BRZ feels even better-balanced and its electric steering is far more precise. So is its shifter, though that may have as much to do with age as engineering. The 986 is still an enjoyable convertible sports car, but it requires a few modifications to keep up with the Subaru.

With a used 987 Porsche Boxster, though, things are slightly different. Particularly in 2009-and-later ‘987.2’ form, these roadsters still hold up dynamically. It helps that Porsche tweaked the Boxster’s steering and suspension for 2009. Plus, 987-gen Boxsters are appreciably faster in a straight line than a new 2022 BRZ. And their interiors are a noticeably step up from 986-gen cabins.

However, although updated, the 987 still uses a 986 platform. As a result, the BRZ’s stiffer chassis, modern steering setup, and lower center of gravity make it the 987’s equal. And when it named the 2022 BRZ as its top-rated sports car, Edmunds placed it in the same league as the new 718 Cayman GT4.

In short, at minimum, a new 2022 Subaru BRZ is as good a sports car as a used Porsche Boxster. And depending on which Boxster you mean, it may even be better.

Will a used Boxster be as reliable as a new BRZ?

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Used 986 Porsche Boxsters have a bit of a reputation because, like the 996 911, their intermediate shaft (IMS) bearings can fail spectacularly. And if the IMS goes, you’re out an engine. The 987.1 Boxster’s IMS can also fail, which is why the later 987.2 Boxsters are more desirable (and valuable). These later cars also don’t suffer from the cylinder bore-scoring that 987.1 models occasionally display. But it’s worth noting that, like IMS failure, this potential flaw is frequently overblown.

Nevertheless, if they’re well-maintained, used Boxsters can be reliable. They have timing chains, not belts, and rear main seal leaks aren’t as common as many think. However, as with many high-end sports cars, parts and labor can get expensive. And keep in mind, if you buy a used Porsche Boxster, you may have to eventually replace its soft top. Also, while the 987 has a higher-quality interior than the 986, its electronics are more complicated.

Finally, unlike a brand-new 2022 Subaru BRZ, used 986 and 987 Boxsters don’t have factory warranties. So, if something goes wrong, it’s coming out of your pocket. Hence why a pre-purchase inspection is recommended.

Should you get the used sports car or the new one?

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Earlier, we limited this comparison to used Porsche Boxsters that cost less than a fully-loaded 2022 Subaru BRZ. But it’s worth noting that most 986s and more than a few 987s cost less than $38,000. You can find a solid-condition 987 for less than $30K, making it cheaper than a base 2022 BRZ Premium. And some 986s cost half as much or less.

However, does that mean you should reject modernity and go used for your next sports car? Not necessarily. Besides the comfort of modern tech and a warranty, the 2022 BRZ is just as sharp and fun to drive as the mid-engine Boxster. And with fold-down rear seats, it can match the Boxster’s dual-trunk cargo capacity. Or, you know, carry more than one passenger.

On the other hand, a used Boxster offers even more steering feedback, the thrill of a roadster, and Porsche badge recognition. It’s also one of the few ways you can get behind the wheel of a mid-engine car for a reasonable price. And not only are the later 987s faster than the BRZ, but they offer a sweet six-cylinder song.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference: do you want the secondhand spectacle or state-of-the-art scalpel?

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