The Porsche Boxster celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2021, which marks a quarter of a century since it helped pull the German carmaker out of a bit of a financial pickle.
There’ll even be an official, limited-edition Boxster 25 Years model available later this year featuring nods to the 1993 concept that previewed the roadster. It will be based on the model tested here but available now – the GTS 4.0.
The 2021 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS continues the sports convertible’s return to six-cylinder power, and using a detuned version of the 4.0-litre flat six-cylinder featured in the 2020 Boxster Spyder and Cayman GT4 twins.
Priced from $174,800, the GTS sits below the Spyder and above the entry Boxster and Boxster S variants that feature the turbocharged four-cylinder engines introduced along with the ‘718’ badging in 2016.
The GTS saves 11 per cent over the $196,800 Spyder, though – with a $41,000 premium over a Boxster S – that 4.0-litre flat-six is crucial for the GTS, as it features neither the Spyder’s bespoke roof and rear bodywork nor its 911 GT3 componentry.
Essentially a 911 3.0-litre with its dual turbos removed and its six cylinders increased in both bore and stroke, the GTS’s engine produces 294kW and 420Nm/430Nm (manual/PDK). Or the same torque and down just 15kW from the Spyder.
Porsche says the Boxster GTS 4.0 accelerates from a standing start to 100km/h in 4.0 seconds when equipped with the optional PDK dual-clutch auto. Or 4.5 seconds if it’s a human rather than computer changing gears with the six-speed manual.
That gives the GTS a two-tenths advantage over the Boxster S that produces 257kW but also 420Nm from its 2.5-litre flat-four, though it needs the optional Sport Chrono package with launch control for that time, whereas it's standard on the GTS.
Cynics could easily suggest that’s essentially paying $20,000 for each tenth of a second shaved off the sprint, but that would be ignoring the full, holistic experience of the six-cylinder.
|2021 Porsche Boxster GTS 4.0|
|Engine||4.0-litre flat six-cylinder|
|Power and torque||294kW @ 7000rpm, 420Nm @ 5000-6500rpm|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||11.0L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||12.5L/100km|
|Boot volume||150L + 120L|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||Untested|
|Warranty||3 years/unlimited kilometres|
|Main competitors||Audi TTRS Roadster, BMW Z4, Jaguar F-Type|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$174,800|
While the four-cylinder turbos impress with their performance, they have lacked a crucial element: character. In contrast, the GTS’s six-cylinder sounds motorsport-inspired even at low revs, with its mechanical processes highly prominent from right behind the driver’s head.
It’s a wonderfully tractable and gutsy engine – capable of cruising at low speeds or pulling strongly from medium speeds in sixth gear. And with its natural aspiration, there’s an incredibly direct and intimate relationship between throttle pressure and engine response.
Appropriately for a sports car, hard acceleration brings the best out of the flat-six, bringing delightful intake and exhaust sounds before the GTS 4.0 reaches a howling crescendo as its tachometer closes in on the 7800rpm redline. Just the surge of strong acceleration after a fast shift from second to third gear is immensely satisfying.
You’ll go faster with the PDK transmission, of course, though the six-speed manual is fantastic to use – both in the way the gear lever sucks naturally into each gate, and in the way the gear lever feels with its metal/suede combination.
The Boxster’s gearing is long, though. Second gear, for example, will take you beyond 130km/h. On a challenging winding road, second and third gears are pretty much all you need, when a keen driver would actually prefer to be rowing through the gears more regularly.
And winding roads are the Boxster’s raison d’etre.
Just the deftest of movements of its steering wheel transition into immediate but commensurate responses from the front end. The pointy and light front end provides the driver with initial confidence in the Boxster’s handling. This then becomes rock-solid trust with the steering precision and mid-corner adjustment at their disposal.
If a corner tightens unexpectedly, either a lift of the throttle will rotate the Porsche securely or some extra steering lock takes advantage of excellent front-end grip.
This is all possible on a wet day, too, with the GTS’s Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S rubber adding impressive reassurance when looking to enjoy the Boxster’s fabulous chassis. The brakes, too, are superb.
As ever with the Boxster, it’s the compliance over bumps that is equally remarkable. This allows the Porsche to be unfazed by roughly surfaced country roads or mid-corner bumps, while importantly allowing this to be a very friendly sports car to drive every day.
Opening and closing the Boxster’s fabric roof – in about 11.5 seconds, simply by the hold of a centre console switch – is also a cinch compared with the palaver that is the Spyder’s manually removable hood.
The interior is heavy on Alcantara, which in addition to the gear lever is layered onto the door armrests, console cubby, steering wheel, glovebox, and central sections of the sports seats. There’s also carbon-fibre trim on the doors, dash and centre console to complete the sports-car cockpit look.
The absence of an on-trend digital driver display is almost to be celebrated – the traditional (triple) dials feeling particularly apt for a racy convertible powered by an old-school engine.
There’s a cosy feel to the two-seater cockpit exaggerated by the super-snug seats, though there’s plenty of head room when the roof is in place. The driving position feels perfect, with the ability to be fine-tuned by plentiful electric adjustment.
Also in two-seater sports car tradition is limited cabin storage, though the Boxster’s boot and ‘frunk’ make it one of the world’s more practical roadsters.
It’s also the world’s most dynamically accomplished roadster regardless of variant – one that has remained above the best efforts from Audi (TT), BMW (Z4), Mercedes (SLK/SLC) and even Jaguar (F-Type).