Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Porsche Boxster, part 2

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The styling of the Boxster is owed to former "Style Porsche" department head Harm Lagaay. His Boxster design study and the production Boxster stimulated a commercial turnaround for Porsche after several difficult years of falling sales.

The first generation of the Boxster whose visual appearance was heavily inspired by the Porsche Spyder and Speedster as well as the Porsche 550 Spyder. The Boxster was released ahead of the release of its big brother, the 996 model 911. Through consultation with Toyota, Porsche greatly decreased the cost of manufacture, and introduced large scale sharing of components between its models. The 986 Boxster had the same bonnet (hood), front wings (fenders), and distinctive 'fried-egg' headlight units as the 996. Its original 2.5L M96 engine shared its architecture with the 3.4L M96 engine used in the original 996, and was the first application of a completely water-cooled engine in a series production, non-front-engined Porsche. The combination of the new Boxster / 911 styling and the reduced build costs through component sharing are widely believed to have saved Porsche from being acquired by another car company, although it is argued that the strong front-end resemblance between the 911 and the less expensive Boxster may have deterred potential buyers of the 996.

The M96 is used in all 986/987 Boxsters, and most of the 996/997 range (except the GT3/GT2 and Turbo, which are based on the GT1 racing engine). The M96 is a horizontally opposed ("flat") six-cylinder layout. This layout is one of only four common engine layouts that have a natural engine balance, the others being the straight six (as used in many of BMW's engines); the flat 12; and the V12. This gives the engine a characteristic smoothness throughout the rev range. The flat six is also an inherently low engine. Its placement immediately ahead of the rear axle offers the Boxster excellent balance, a low center of gravity, and renowned neutral handling characteristics. Early production M96 engines had a small but significant number of engine failures due to cracked cylinder liners, but since a minor redesign in 2000 these problems have been resolved.

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