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If you’re OK with buying used, getting behind the wheel of a Porsche doesn’t necessarily cost a fortune. That’s especially true if you skip over the 911 for one of Porsche’s mid-engine models, which are often just as fun to drive. Used Caymans, for example, often pop up for under $20K. And if you’re after the open-roof experience, there’s one up for sale on Bring a Trailer: a 2002 Porsche Boxster S.

A 986 Boxster S is the sportier version of the mid-engine sports car that saved Porsche

A silver 2001 Porsche Boxster S driving down a road ringed by hills
2001 Porsche Boxster S side 3/4 | Porsche

It’s not an overstatement to say that the Boxster saved the Porsche brand, Hagerty muses. Introduced 25 years ago as the ‘986’ Boxster, the two-seater convertible shared parts with the contemporary 996-gen 911. That made it affordable, giving Porsche a desperately-needed entry-level car. And its mid-engine layout helped it deliver “plenty of smiles,” Road & Track says.

Initially, though, some thought that the 986 Boxster was a bit underpowered, despite its 2800-lb curb weight. So, for the 2000 model year, the base Boxster swapped out its 201-hp 2.5-liter flat-six for a 217-hp 2.7-liter flat-six. And that same year, Porsche also introduced the 986 Boxster S.

The 986 Porsche Boxster S has several notable performance upgrades over the base model. Firstly, it has a 3.2-liter flat-six rated at 250 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque that revs to 7200 RPM rather than 6700 RPM. And instead of a standard five-speed manual, the 986 Boxster S has a six-speed manual. With more gears, more power, and more torque, the Boxster S goes 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds, roughly a second faster than the base car.

In addition, the 986 Porsche Boxster S has the contemporary 911’s wheels and larger cross-drilled brake rotors. Also, compared to the base Boxster, it has stiffer springs, retuned shocks, and different suspension geometry for improved high-speed stability, Autotrader notes. Plus, an extra radiator and a dual-exit exhaust. And in 2003, the Boxster S received stiffer sway bars as well as slightly more power and torque, R&T reports.

Given that the 550 Spyder racer was one of the 986 Boxster’s inspirations, early models were somewhat basic. A glovebox and a glass rear window weren’t available until the 2003 MY update, PCA says. However, for a mid-engine convertible, the 986 Porsche Boxster S has a surprisingly spacious cabin, Car and Driver reports, not to mention two usable trunks. And it offers “sublime handling,” Classic & Sports Car says, with solid, easy-to-modulate brakes, solid steering with plenty of feedback, and a well-damped ride.

In short, it’s a fun, exotic roadster that you could drive every day.

There’s a 2002 example for sale on Bring a Trailer

A tan-silver 2002 Porsche Boxster S on a road
2002 Porsche Boxster S | Bring a Trailer

Being a 2002 model, the Porsche Boxster S currently listed on Bring a Trailer doesn’t have the later model year upgrades. However, it’s still a well-equipped example.

Besides the S model-specific features, this 2002 986 Boxster has a wind deflector, speed-activated spoiler, heated mirrors, and heated seats. It also has cruise control, automatic climate control, partial leather upholstery, and a Blaupunkt CD stereo with Bluetooth. And it has a replacement soft top. Plus, Porsche offers upgraded infotainment systems for its older cars.

The side view of a tan-silver 2002 Porsche Boxster S's partial-black-leather interior
2002 Porsche Boxster S interior side | Bring a Trailer

Given its age, this 2002 Porsche Boxster S is in excellent condition and has less than 60,000 miles on the clock. It also has a zero-accident history, extensive service records, and a factory tool kit. In addition, the seller notes that the engine rear main seal, IMS seal, shaft housing, and shaft sealing ring were replaced in 2010.

Will this 2002 986 Porsche Boxster S be a reliable sports car bargain?

As of this writing, this 2002 Porsche Boxster S is listed at $10,250 with three days left in the auction. A good-to-excellent condition 986 Boxster S is easily a $15,000-$20,000 car, Hagerty says, making this roadster a bargain. And these days, $10,000 is essentially the bare minimum price for a 986 Boxster on Bring a Trailer.

Those schooled in Porsche lore might be worried about this car’s engine. The Boxster’s parts-sharing with the 996-gen 911 also extends to the engine, including the dreaded IMS bearing. Fortunately, it appears that a previous owner seemingly addressed that issue with this Boxster S. To be on the safe side, a pre-purchase inspection is recommended; an engine oil analysis also wouldn’t hurt.

However, it’s worth noting that permanent solutions to the IMS issue exist from companies like LN Engineering. And IMS bearing failure occurs in less than 10% of Boxsters from this generation. Furthermore, being a later 3.2-liter car, this Boxster S avoids the cylinder-scoring and liner failures that plagued the early 2.5-liter Porsche engines. The rear main seal replacement resolves another potential failure point.

In short, if you’re looking for the Porsche sports car experience at a bargain price, this 2002 Boxster S should be worth considering.  

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