The turbocharged Porsche 718 Boxster is better than its predecessor in every way, except one...
On merit alone the new 2017 Porsche Boxster S is perhaps the best two-seater sports convertible for around $150,000, but for those that consider themselves in the know, its new four-cylinder turbocharged heart has raised some concerns. That's despite the fact the Boxster is superior in every performance measure than the outgoing model. Regardless, the addition of turbocharging has been a topic of conversation.
There’s good reason for that, because turbochargers in Boxsters is a new concept, one that has developed out of the necessity to meet new and much stricter emissions requirements that are now more than ever at the forefront of manufacturer concerns.
The new Boxster, having picked up the 718 designation from the 1957 successor to the much-lauded Porsche 550 A Spyder, the 718 RSK, is a much cleaner and more sophisticated proposition than the car that it replaces. It’s not all that different at first glance, but the design updates across the whole car add a sense of visual appeal that is typical Porsche, making changes only where necessary and not for the sake of it.
The 718 badging on the rear of our car stood alone, giving it - in our opinion - a sportier appeal than its predecessor’s unjustly earned reputation of being a little too soft, over the years.
The base model is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 220kW and 380Nm of torque between 1950-4500 rpm. Noticeably more than the 195kW and 280Nm of its predecessor’s 2.7-litre six-cylinder naturally-aspirated unit.
Our 718 Boxster S tested here is powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 257kW and 420Nm of torque, as compared to the 232kW and 360Nm of the old model. In both cases, despite downsizing, the addition of turbochargers has seen notable increases in performance across all areas.
Fire up the new Boxster S and the first thing you’ll notice is that it sounds a little familiar… but not familiar to another Porsche. Turn on the sports exhaust and engage Sport mode (from the new dial on the steering wheel, taken from the 991 series two 911) and the new 2.5-litre turbocharged boxer engine immediately rumbles like, well, a Subaru WRX STI, which coincidentally also has the same capacity and engine type.
Fortunately, that’s where the similarities end and it’s also important to note that the Germans had boxer engines before the Japanese. Once you get moving, the exhaust note changes noticeably and the new Boxster S becomes a wonderful machine to punt hard into and out of corners, with crackles on the up and downshift that – while not as heart-warming as the old six-cylinder units – are still loud and aggressive enough to warrant a smile.
With the sport chrono package optioned, the new S variant can now fire from 0-100km/h in just 4.2 seconds, 0.6 of a second faster than its predecessor (with sport chrono). You certainly feel it too with acceleration in second gear pulling very hard on full boost.
Unlike the new turbocharged 911 Carrera and Carrera S, which use a 3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-turbocharged unit, the signs of turbo lag are more evident in the smaller capacity engine powering the 718. It’s not that there is an overwhelming delay when you suddenly ask for torque, it’s just that it’s not the same as the larger capacity engine of old, or that of the new 911. In that sense then, you do lose a bit of character with the new car.
Open the roof (just 9 seconds, and capable up to speeds of 50km/h), engage Sport mode and that’s when the new Boxster really starts to shine. But keep it in Comfort mode and this is definitely a car you can use everyday without feeling as though you’ve given up something more important. The seats and the seating position felt perfectly suited to this 179cm tester with enough knee and shoulder room. There’s also enough small storage pockets scattered around the cabin to keep your belongings from flying away.
Open the front bonnet and you’ll be surprised by the relatively reasonable amount of storage space that can swallow small bags or the groceries while the cabin is comfortable and doesn’t feel claustrophobic.
Porsche continues to persist with the use of too many buttons that tend to clutter the otherwise very upmarket instrument and central cluster. In saying that, we do prefer the Sport and Sport+ buttons where they used to be, rather than in the new dial on the steering wheel.
Apple CarPlay was the highlight of the new infotainment system, allowing easy and simple connectivity that uses all the best features of your iPhone displayed through the car.
Once everything is plugged in and the mood is right, the baby Porsche loves to be driven fast and presents all the hallmarks that are typical of Porsche dynamics, with a well balanced chassis (reengineered from the previous-gen) that is somehow capable of being both comfortable for use as a daily, yet very dynamically-blessed, so that it feels purpose built around a twisty mountainous road.
Speaking of which, that’s exactly where we brought the 718 for testing. Brisbane’s Mt Glorious and Nebo roads, where it performed duties chasing a Ferrari 488 as the camera car and didn’t even bat an eyelid.
Pushed hard into a corner the Boxster is balanced and neutral in how it manages over and understeer – helped by the larger rear tyres, strengthened rear subframe and the optional PASM sport suspension system and its 20mm lower ride height.
It does tend to lean in to tight corners a bit more than we’d probably expect it to, but that engenders a certain level of predictability that makes driving at the limit more enjoyable.
There’s also no fear of sudden boost from the turbo causing oversteer, its power delivery is linear enough that the accelerator can be treated almost the same way as a naturally-aspirated engine.
Overall, it’s hard to fault the new Boxster as a package. It looks good, it drives extremely well both around suburbia and windy roads.
In all reality, it’s faster, better equipped and more balanced. It does everything the old car did, but better, except that it just doesn’t sound as good.