Porsche 718 Boxster Review

Porsche 718 Boxster Review

It might not look it but this is the all-new Boxster, succeeding the 981-generation of Porsche’s mid-engined roadster. And it marks the most significant departure in tradition for the brand since, well, the 911 got water-cooling. To keep pace with the emissions and efficiency requirements of this day and age, the motor gets two turbos but what is even more significant is the six-cylinder Boxer motor has made way for a flat-four. And that’s why the 718 prefix.


Back in the fifties and sixties the 718 was Porsche’s most capable race car winning the Targa Florio and Le Mans races. The lithe little car, precursor to the 550 Spyder in which James Dean was killed, had a flat-four motor, mid-mounted like in the Boxster, and the 718 prefix is meant to hark back to those legendary race cars; to remind you that four-cylinder motors aren’t alien to Porsche – and four-cylinders can win races. By that yardstick, Porsche could have stuck on a 919 prefix, after all last year’s Le Mans winning car had a turbo-charged four-cylinder motor (albeit a V4, not a flat-four) and even displacing two litres like the entry Boxster.

This naming business is all a bit contrived to be honest, and unlike the 911 which is steeped in history (remember howls of protest when the 911 switched to electric power steering), I don’t think a Boxster customer is really that worried about history and departures from tradition.

The motor then

The base Boxster gets a two-litre turbo-charged flat-four mounted 30cm behind the driver’s ear, and not hanging off behind the rear axle like in the 911. It makes 295bhp and 380Nm while the Boxster S gets a 2.5-litre flat four with 345bhp and 420Nm. Compared to the earlier flat-six, this turbo-four makes 35 more horsepower and 100Nm more torque (torque in the S goes up by 60Nm). The bigger difference is in the way all that power and torque is delivered; the flat-six made its torque higher up the rev range and loved, absolutely loved to be screamed and pulled to its redline. Peak torque in the turbo-four arrives at 1950rpm and that means you have less work to do; there’s more grunt, more flexibility and there’s less work to do.

The S, complete with the PDK twin-clutch gearbox, has a claimed 0-100kmph time of 4.2seconds and a top speed of 285kmph. The 2-litre Boxster has a 0-100kmph time of 4.9 seconds (4.7 seconds with the Sport Chrono package and PDK gearbox) and a top speed of 275kmph.

Does it feel turbo-charged?

Yes. And that’s in marked contrast to the new 911 that is also turbo charged across the rev range. This turbo-charged character is more visible in the entry Boxster which does not get the VGT turbo where there is turbo lag and that spike when the boost comes on. The S with its VGT turbos – incidentally Porsche is the only manufacturer in the world to offer VGT on petrol engines – has a more linear power delivery that masks the fact that it is turbo charged.

Straight-line acceleration is stronger than ever and the motor gets properly fierce post 2800rpm. The mid-range torque affords longer ratios on the (fantastic) PDK ’box, you don’t have to chase the lowest gear and scream it to the redline. The motor runs out of puff by 6800rpm, though it will rev to over 7200rpm, but that intensity of the old flat-six, along with the sound, is missing.

The sound

The all important sound! And sorry to disappoint you but I wasn’t bowled over. The sweet, high, mechanical howl of the flat-six has been replaced by a boomy, gravelly, growl. It does not lack for volume, but it isn’t as tuneful as before, even with the optional sports exhaust. In fact the boom and drone of the sports exhaust can get tiresome on the motorway and this is the first Porshce where I actually turned off the sports exhaust.

The closest I can think of is the Subaru Impreza with its similarly turbo-charged flat-four. I like the Impreza’s note – its distinctive warble is what gives the Scooby its indelible character – but somehow a Porsche sounding like a Subaru doesn’t do it for me.

What else is new?

Everything really. Apart from the hood, boot lid, windscreen and roof everything else is new. The styling has evolved and it is stretched out horizontally to give it a more planted and wider stance. You’ll have to look closely to notice the changes to the nose but the more significant styling changes are on the rear with the three-dimensional taillamps and distinctive LED graphic. It is instantly desirable and banishes from memory the days when the Boxster was rather feminine in its styling. This is also one of the few cars that look better from the rear than the front.
Inside there’s a new touch screen from the new 911 with Apple CarPlay functionality. Option it with the Sport Chrono pack and you get a Ferrari Manetinno-like knob on the newly-designed steering wheel to select Sport, Sport + or Individual modes. Porsche doesn’t believe in grouping various functions into menu like iDrive or MMI so you have a plethora of buttons on the dash, each performing a specific task. At first glance it does look like way too much but it all comes together nicely and you can’t escape the overwhelming sense of quality and polish.

911 carry-overs

The electric steering has been carried over from the 911 and it is 10 per cent quicker than before. The brakes on the S are carried over from the 911, while the entry Boxster gets the bigger brakes from the old Boxster S. And the rear axle has been beefed up with a stronger subframe. Additionally there are stiffer springs and dampers, fatter anti-roll bars and the rear wheels are wider by half an inch.

As before the optional PASM active suspension drops the ride height by 10mm while there’s now PASM Sport that drops ride height by a further 10mm.

On the road

The roads in Abu Dhabi are baby-butt smooth and with the organisers of the drive being absolutely paranoid about speed cameras and overly eager to forward any speeding fines to us there really isn’t much to report from the road part of our drive other than the drone of the exhaust being not very tuneful.

On the Yas Marina track

Let loose on the track the 718 Boxster blows your socks off. With its mid-engined layout the Boxster was always a terrific car to drive and this one gets even better. The astonishing front-end grip is complimented by that quicker rack and allows the 718 to turn-in with more aggression, immediacy and eagerness. At the back the stiffer rear axle and wider wheels make it more stable and grippy. On the S it is now possible to kick the tail out when you get aggressive with the throttle on the slower corners, something you could rarely do with the flat-six’s more linear power delivery. That said you have to be very deliberate with  the throttle to get the tail unstuck, there are no spikes in the turbo charged motor to surprise you and break traction at the rear.

Dynamically the Boxster is a clear step up from anything in its segment. Not only is there poise, grip and enthusiasm in spades but the kind of feedback you get from the chassis, the way it changes direction, and how it loads itself on the outside wheels without any roll or movement is deeply satisfying. With the optional limited slip differential there’s enormous traction on the exit of corners under full power while, for a change, the added torque does allow you to play with the attitude of the rear axle (it was nearly impossible to break rear traction in the dry in the old Boxster).

The steering isn’t the most feelsome but you can place the 718 with uncanny precision and when you do provoke the rear into a slide winding on a touch of opposite lock becomes second nature. It’s like the car telling you what to do.

The chassis is so good, and can handle so much, that you’re left caning the entry Boxster and being troubled by its turbocharged nature. You feel the lag, you have to work the engine harder, and the sounds don’t get better when revved hard. The S is the pick of the range, of that there’s no question, and will prove to be as much of a hoot on a winding road as it is on the circuit.


Are my knickers in a knot over the shift to four-cylinders? No. When a two-litre four-cylinder motor can win Le Mans it will be crazy to moan about tradition and put a spoke into the wheel of progress. Turbos are going to be a way of life, the sooner we accept it the better off we will be.

What I do bemoan is the exhaust note. It lacks the character of the old Boxster and in that sense the shift to turbo-charging has robbed the Boxster of some of its emotional appeal, something that I would not accuse the similarly turbo-charged 911 of.

That aside the 718 Boxster continues to set the dynamic benchmark in its class. No other roadster turns as eagerly, grips as well, and has the delicate poise and balance of a Boxster; nothing can put a smile on your face as a 718 Boxster on the limit on a race track. But to harness the full capability of the exceptional chassis you do need the extra 50 horsepower of the Boxter S, and the added linearity afforded by the VGT turbos makes the experience that much richer.

Unfortunately I hear Porsche India is only going to homologate the entry Boxster. There is a reason for it, of course. The earlier Boxster S was priced out of its league; the new Boxster should bring prices back to sensible levels (under 80 lakh rupees?) and thus kick start sales that have lagged far behind expectations.

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