Its proportions have me nodding in approval. The stance is suitably sporty and the rear haunches, meaty. The ignition is on the right side, too — the left — and so far, all’s good about the 718 Boxster, but then my ears are met with a tinny thrum following a twist of the key. That doesn’t sound good. It’s coming from a turbocharged four-cylinder, the six-pot — for a variety of reasons (emissions mostly) — is no more. What does this mean for the Boxster?
The downsized engine had enthusiasts crying sacrilege but if they thought the Boxster had lost its soul or wasn’t engaging to drive now, they needn’t have worried. On the contrary, I’ll stick my neck out and say this is even more focused than the 911 Turbo that I tested recently. It’s always been great to drive and that’s still the case. Turn in is still wickedly sharp, and the chassis balance is still exquisite. What’s more, this version has more power and better fuel efficiency, too. And the trade in is really just the soundtrack. Sure, it doesn’t have the deep growl of the sixer but after a couple of days of driving it, I have come to like the uneven flat-four clatter coming from the 718’s middle.
It’s always been great to drive and that’s still the case. Turn in is still wickedly sharp, and the chassis balance is still exquisite.
Apart for the windshield, convertible top and luggage compartment lids, every body panel has been redesigned says Porsche. A mere facelift this is not but the overall look of the car is very similar to last year’s, even if the front end has a new bumper section and is wider than before. Also wider are the air intakes while the LED daytime running lights are thinner and not integrated into the vents anymore, mounted instead as separate pieces. A glance under the licence plate reveals a reshaped grille while the addition of Porsche’s new bi-Xenon headlights with four-point DRLs help give the 718 even more presence. The profile appears the same as before, however, a closer inspection does reveal a few changes; the wings that define the side intakes are now more pronounced and it has beefier side skirts. The intakes have grown, too, while the doors don’t have handle recess covers. Our tester came with optional 20in Carrera S wheels (19in are standard) but the biggest differences are around the back. It has a new decklid and the taillights have been redone; they look far better now with Porsche’s 3D LED technology — however it’s the new black strip in between them with the ‘Porsche’ script that really stands out, more than the new apron with a revised diffuser does. And just as before, it retains the mid-mounted, rectangular exhaust outlet, while the spoiler integrated into the bodywork rises into position at 120kph. Overall, the differences are small but subtle — and it looks far more sturdily built now, too. Having it all made in-house at Zuffenhausen rather than outsourcing it to Valmet in Finland, like they used to do, has helped. An aluminium and steel composite is used throughout, and this lightweight construction was needed to keep the weight down; the smaller, but heavier turbocharged engine results in the car tipping the scales at 1,365kg — that’s 25kg more than the old car.
The interior has been upgraded, too, and packs the same steering wheel design as the 918 Spyder, plus some reshaped air vents and a gently angled centre stack, while five new interior colours are now available. The seats are comfortable and do a sterling job of holding you in place when you drive this car hard, which will be all the time because that’s what it does best. A central element of the new interior layout is the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) with mobile phone preparation, audio interfaces and the Sound Package Plus with 110 watts of audio power. The navigation module has an improved map display and can show maps two-dimensionally or in perspective. Everything else is carried over pretty much unchanged — but a quick word on boot space; it has two (one at the front and one at the back) and with a combined storage of 275 litres, there’s plenty of room for your grocery bags.
The entry-level was the 2.7-litre, now it’s the 2.0 and that’s the one our Lava Orange tester is packing. The new powerplant produces 300 horsepower and 380Nm of torque. That’s 35 horses and a staggering 100Nm more torques than the previous model (the Boxster S gets a 2.5-litre 350bhp engine with 420Nm from 1,900rpm). Turbocharging clearly has its merits. You can’t argue against the improvement in performance that the blown motor gives you, but throw in the fact that it is also a very precise 14 per cent more efficient, too, and you’ll soon stop moaning about the lack of two-cylinders.
This model, equipped with the PDK and Sport Chrono Package, can hit 100kph from a standstill in just 4.7 seconds, 0.7 quicker than the predecessor.
This model, equipped with the PDK and Sport Chrono Package, can hit 100kph from a standstill in just 4.7 seconds, 0.8 quicker than the predecessor. Put it on road long enough, and it will top out at 275kph. Its Nürburgring time is 7 minutes and 42 seconds — that’s 16 seconds faster than before, and 2.0 seconds adrift of the Bugatti Veyron. So, still concerned that a four-pot Porsche just won’t cut it? Don’t be. The flat-four responds instantly to your big toe’s inputs; there’s very little lag — the power is instantaneous and the delivery is linear, especially from 2,000rpm onwards. It sure is an enthusiastic motor (in the old Boxster S, you wouldn’t feel peak twist until 4,500rpm) and it has a burly feel about it. And it packs the ‘Sport Response’ button, which when pressed primes the engine and gearbox for 20 seconds of bliss. This isn’t the first time Porsche has had a four-cylinder in its ranks, there have been others before; the ‘718’ tag comes from the four-pot car of the Fifties and Sixties that won the Targa Florio, European Hill Climb championship, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Exploiting its motorsport heritage isn’t a bad thing. Mating the little motor to a seven-speed PDK with revised software for quicker and smoother shifts sure gets the best out of it.
But the Boxster’s party trick isn’t the engine, the gearbox, or even the removable top — it’s its ability to devour corners. It was the case 20 years ago when the model launched and it’s still that way now. The retuned chassis is sublime and it truly defines the car. It is so involving and rewarding, and I’ve not driven anything that inspires more confidence to tackle the bends with your foot floored than this. The suspension is stiffer, too, while the electro-mechanical power steering system has been configured to be 10 per cent more direct (it’s been borrowed from the 911 Turbo) and offers terrific feedback; it’s so precise and sharp that you couldn’t care less about the post-hydraulic era.
Stopping power is provided by the standard steel brakes (330mm discs in front and 299mm discs at the rear also borrowed from, yep, the 911; carbon ceramics are an option) and they too breed confidence as you can press on harder knowing the anchors will bring proceedings to a rapid halt.
So, was this the way to go? Many didn’t think it was, and I was in that camp. You have to stick with tradition, right? The flat-six was the be all and end all. Not anymore. You might think Porsche is in the process of losing its way in the automotive world (first with the introduction of SUVs then the whole Panamera thing and now this turbocharged four-pot) but it’s always proved us wrong. Very wrong.
I’ve forgiven Stuttgart for ditching the mid-mounted, naturally aspirated six-cylinder for the smaller engine because when all is said and done, Porsche knows how to build a brilliant sportscar. And, this 718 is proof of that.