It's hard to improve on perfection, yet Porsche continuously manages it. But, is the improvement on the Boxster GTS pushing it too close to 911 territory?
Buying a Porsche Boxster is like buying a cheap house in a nice suburb – kind of pointless really. Well, that's what I thought... Until the 718 Boxster was released. It then took an unexpected turn when Porsche dropped the 718 Boxster GTS – a car that blurs the line between Porsche's entry-level and the iconic 911.
It's a looker now too without the rounded, bubbly edges of its predecessor. It looks properly mean and goes on to deliver a performance punch yet unseen in this segment.
Porsche Boxster pricing kicks off at $117,700 (plus on-road costs), stepping up to $147,900 for the Boxster S, and finally capping off at $172,700 for the Boxster GTS tested here. It doesn't stop there, though. Like all Porsches, you won't be leaving the dealership without forking out more money, with our test vehicle landing at an eye-watering $209,300 (plus on-road costs) after the handful of options fitted to it.
Under the mid-engine covers is a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 269kW of power and 430Nm of torque (when mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and 420Nm when paired with a six-speed manual), with a combined average fuel consumption of 8.2 litres per 100km (for the PDK and 9.0L/100km for the manual). The engine caters for a 0–100km/h sprint of just 4.1 seconds for the PDK (Sport Chrono) and 4.6 seconds for the six-speed manual.
Added performance (over the Boxster S) comes in the form of a higher-volume intake duct, an optimised turbocharger with variable turbine geometry and extra boost pressure (from 16psi to 19psi). This allows peak torque to hit from 1900rpm and remain through to 5500rpm.
It's a stunner of a car, with a number of colours and roof colour options to choose from. The interior has also been given a kick in the right direction with a new 7.0-inch colour infotainment touchscreen fitted to the centre of the car.
It can be optioned with Apple CarPlay, which increases functionality. It's not quite as elegant as the widescreen set-up in the new Cayenne and updated Macan, but it's a step in the right direction. Fitted to the driver cluster is a colour LCD screen that offers screens for navigation, trip computer and vehicle characteristics, while the steering wheel now features drive-mode selection via a rotary dial.
Surprisingly, storage throughout the cabin is great with cubbies to put your odds and ends, along with a clever cupholder system built into the dashboard. There's 275 litres of storage available in the boot and front boot, which makes it a practical vehicle for that weekend away. A personal highlight of mine is the key – it's in the shape of a Porsche and is the perfect object to throw down on the table at your local cafe, should you be as materialistic as I am!
We were left a little disappointed with the sound system. Our test car had the optional Bose surround-sound system ($2650). It lacked clarity and had way, way too much bass, even with it turned down. It's pretty clear it was just whacked into the cabin without any real effort put into fine-tuning high fidelity. Thankfully, there's enough aural drama from the engine and exhaust to compensate.
If you prefer getting about with the roof down, it takes just 16 seconds to open or close and can be operated at up to 50km/h, which makes it practical to deploy or close when moving in slow traffic.
Fire the engine and it idles with an optimistic burble while it waits for your input. The Porsche dual-clutch gearbox, dubbed PDK, offers seven gears and is one of the best incarnations of a dual-clutch gearbox on the market. It doesn't have the elastic funniness of Volkswagen/Mercedes-Benz dual-clutch gearboxes at low speeds, while still offering lightning-fast gear shifts at higher speeds.
While there are paddle shifters on the steering wheel, we reckon they're entirely pointless. In Sport and Sport Plus modes, the Boxster GTS is so intuitive with shifts that there's nothing to gain from trying to control shift points and speed yourself – leave it up to the German gearbox engineers.
What surprises me most with the Boxster is how well it rides. If you take into consideration that it sits on 20-inch alloy wheels, it tackles even the worst of roads with ease. It makes the commute to and from work an easy task, and doesn't leave you exhausted like some overly firm sports cars.
That's thanks to adaptive damping and a MacPherson strut suspension set-up at the front and rear. Traditionally, a MacPherson strut suspension set-up doesn't work well for cars that need extra camber or to accommodate for body roll – the Boxster GTS has been set up with limited camber adjustment and an obvious lack of need for body roll, so this set-up works perfectly.
How about the steering? It's excellent. And that's despite the fact Porsche now exclusively uses electrically assisted steering racks, which some believe may not offer enough steering feel. But Porsche has bucked that trend with excellent steering feel both in comfort and sport modes. The wheel offers communicative feedback from the road and never feels disconnected from what the car is doing on the road surface.
The same goes for brake pedal feel. It's remarkable how many manufacturers simply can't master brake pedal feel. The Boxster GTS delivers excellent pedal feel with consistency and communication right through the pedal's travel. There's also adequate spacing between the pedals and they're not offset to one side, which is often a consequence of a right-hand-drive version of a predominantly left-hand-drive model.
Find yourself a set of corners and the Boxster GTS really comes to life. It sounds so cliché, but it really doesn't put a foot wrong. It tucks in beautifully through corners and you can confidently lean on the throttle at any point to get the most out of it – it never feels like it's going to chew you up and spit you out. That's partly thanks to the sticky rubber that measures 265mm wide at the rear and 235mm wide at the front, but mainly due to the short and wide body that sits confidently on the road.
Unless it's wet, you can just get stuck into the throttle at any point through the corner and it will reward with unrelenting traction and a belting exhaust note. It's also incredibly sharp and responsive – gone are the days of turbocharger lag in a Porsche; they have managed to completely eliminate it when you're going hell for leather.
Sport Chrono adds with it a number of drive modes that are selected using a somewhat cheap-feeling rotary knob on the steering wheel. It moves between Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual, with the latter configurable by the driver. In addition to the drive modes, Sport Chrono adds launch control and dynamic engine mounts that take performance to the next level.
You would have heard about dynamic engine mounts in Porsches previously, but what do they actually do? The points where the engine mounts to the body are suspended in an electronically controlled magnetic fluid that's reactive to an electrically generated magnetic field that constantly adapts to changes in road and engine characteristics. It results in less vibration through the driveline, increased performance and acceleration, and a more uniform drive force at the rear axle.
In comparison, fixed engine mounts that are damped with a spring or rubber mount offer a lesser breadth of movement and vibration isolation, which results in a harsher driving experience.
When you really want to kick things along, a button in the centre of the drive-mode knob offers up 20 seconds of 'overboost'. It's not actually a traditional overboost function, it's the sharpening of all the engine's systems and a readiness for full turbocharger pressure for up to 20 seconds.
Around town it's hard to fault the Boxster GTS. With the optional front and rear parking sensors and camera (that'll be $1690, thanks) it's a piece of cake to park. The only catch is the low front end, which can occasionally catch on steep driveway entrances.
We can't get through this review without mentioning the sound. It's not great, but that's just my opinion, as some of you love it. It has moments when it shines, but it constantly reminds me of a Subaru WRX, and at this price bracket I don't want to be reminded of a WRX. If you put the overall negative overtone of Subaru-esque noise to one side, it does the other bits right with awesome induction noise and a throaty exhaust note.
With the roof down, you can hear air rushing around the car's body to the engine's intakes. There's turbocharger induction noise, and most importantly it becomes properly noisy when you hit the exhaust button and more so when you move into Sport Plus.
The asking price affords you with a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and 12-month, 15,000km service intervals. Servicing over a three-year period is much more reasonable than you'd expect, coming in at $2385 over three years (with Melbourne used as a sample for pricing).
While this is the best Boxster yet, at a little over $200,000 before on-road costs, it's dangerously close to an entry-level 911 Carrera. You'd have to really be wedded to a Boxster to justify that kind of investment. But, putting price to one side, it's an incredible engineering feat and an example of a pursuit of excellence. We always say it's hard to improve on perfection, but Porsche continues to do it with each new iteration.