Porsche's Boxster gets three numbers added to its name and, more significantly, a more efficient four cylinder turbo engine. Has forced induction spoilt it? Car & Driving check out the performance 'S' version.
Every brand must, it seems, embrace turbocharging these days. Even Porsche, who used to be masters of the normally aspirated art. So it is that the brand's Boxster roadster has shed its old flat six powerplant and instead embraced a flat four unit for the first time since the old 914. How will it fare in the pokey 718 Boxster S?
Over the years, and despite its obvious talent, the Boxster has struggled to shake free from its 'poor man's Porsche' image. Slowly but surely though, that's happening as Porsche has increased the number of common parts its shares with its classic 911 stablemate. Can it take another step in the right direction with this turbocharged 718 Boxster S model?
Though the cylinder count is down over the previous flat six model, power is up and with this 'S' variant, you get 350bhp, 50bhp up on the standard version. In case you were wondering, the '718' reference in the name refers not to the engine but a series of classic Porsche mid-engined models that won numerous races in the 1950s and '60s. Enough with the briefing; what's this car like?
So to that engine, a 2.5-litre four cylinder turbo. Power is up by 35bhp over the previous six cylinder normally aspirated model - which is a good start. That's enough to see 62mph flash by in 4.4s en route to 177mph, which ought to be fast enough to make you question whether you really want that 911 after all. A six-speed manual is fitted as standard, although the optional seven-speed PDK double clutch gearbox is sure to be popular. This gets revised software for quicker and smoother shifts. With the optional PDK gearbox, this improved 718 Boxster S will hit 62mph in a claimed 4.2s (half a second quicker than the standard version).
Handling-wise, the re-tuned chassis enhances cornering performance and the electro-mechanical power steering system is configured to be 10% more direct. 'Porsche Active Suspension Management' is an option and 'S' buyers can specify an even more focused 'Sport Chassis'. Plus there's the usual 'Sport Chrono Package' option with its various selectable driving mode settings that now include a 'Sport Response' button for brief extra engine responsiveness when you need it.
The 718 Boxster has small but subtle differences over its predecessor, the front featuring a wider and more purposeful appearance, with larger cooling air intakes referencing the new turbocharged engine beating within. The nose is completed by restyled Bi-Xenon headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights. In profile, identifying features include independently-styled wheel arches and side sills. Larger air inlet panels with two fins further emphasise the car's dynamic look. The doors are now designed without door handle recess covers.
The rear of the 718 Boxster has been redesigned, characterized by a much wider appearance - emphasized by the accent strip with its integrated 'Porsche' badge between the tail lights. The tail lights have been restyled too and are distinguished by three-dimensional LED technology and four-point brake lights.
Build quality looks better than ever from this car, these days built entirely in-house at Zuffenhausen rather than being contracted out to Valmet in Finland as many early Boxsters were. The key interior styling feature is a gently angled centre stack that houses many of the minor controls and the gear shifter, reminiscent in design to that found on the iconic Carrera GT supercar. The lightweight fully electric hood dispenses with a compartment lid for the convertible top when stowed.
Where before you could buy a new Boxster S for significantly under £50,000, these days, that's no longer possible. This 2.5-litre 350bhp '718' model starts at around £51,000, so it's around £9,000 more than the 2.0-litre 300bhp entry-level version. Standard kit includes 19" alloy wheels, auto stop/start and a sports mode, plus remote control hood operation, audio CD with colour touch-screen control, a universal audio interface offering MP3 connectivity and a three year warranty.
A central feature of the new interior is Porsche Communication Management (PCM) with mobile phone preparation, audio interfaces and the Sound Package Plus with 110 watts of audio power. PCM can be extended with optional modules to thoroughly adapt it to personal requirements. For instance, the navigation module including voice control is available, which makes it easy to input driving destinations. In addition, the Connect Plus module is available as an extension of the navigation module; it provides online navigation services and enhanced online audio features. With Porsche Vehicle Tracking System Plus (PVTS+) as standard, the 718 Boxster offers the highest class of vehicle security.
All new Boxster customers also get the opportunity to explore the potential of their car by participating in a complimentary course at the Porsche Experience Centre, Silverstone. It's hard to imagine a more enjoyable day you could spend with your new toy.
This is where Porsche's decision to down-size this car's engine should pay off. The 718 Boxster S model's 2.5-litre turbo engine with PDK transmission returns 38.7mpg on the combined cycle (which is 4.3 mpg more than the previous model). CO2 emissions are 184g/km. For comparison, the base 2.0-litre model manages 40.9mpg and 158g/km.
Each 718 model is equipped with a six-speed manual transmission as standard. The Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) auto transmission, which now features fuel-saving 'virtual gears' previously introduced on the 911 model series, is available as an option. The PDK transmission features a 'sailing' mode whereby the engine is decoupled during periods of trailing throttle or on longer downhill sections, dropping the engine revs to a mere 700rpm, further saving fuel. Prod the throttle and it will instantly resume duty. Residual values have held up reasonably well on the last Boxster and there's no reason to believe that this model won't follow suit.
Perhaps the only sense in which the Boxster could be described as an under-achiever is because Porsche makes it that way to prevent it embarrassing the iconic 911. To some extent, that principle still holds true, but seems to have been relaxed for this 718 Boxster S, which leads its class by an even breezier margin than its predecessor and no longer feels like the 911's poor relation.
With more assured styling, a 911-standard interior, brilliant hood, serious pace and exquisite handling, the Boxster S is more compelling and charismatic than ever and sure to win over a whole new legion of fans and admirers.
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