Boxster

“Ahoi Česko” – on the trail of the Leipzig Opera Ball

Shortly before the Leipzig Opera Ball, influencer Magic Fox and fashion blogger Masha Sedgwick tested the top prize in this year’s raffle – a 718 Boxster. Masha reports on her experiences on the road trip to Brno, Czech Republic, in the Porsche Newsroom.

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Porsche 718 Boxster review – was swapping two cylinders for a turbo a good idea?

 
For 
Superb balance, traction and feedback all with that distinct Porsche polish and poise
Against 
Characterless engine not up to the high standards of the rest of the package

Dynamically superior to the previous Boxster, its problems lie in the engine bay.

Initially a ploy by a struggling Porsche to grow dwindling sales alongside the then vulnerable 993 911 back in 1996, the mid-engined Boxster has been a major factor in Porsche’s rise to its current status as the world’s most profitable manufacturer.

Recently updated in its third generation, the Boxster has long been an evo favourite, winning countless group tests on the back of its supremely talented chassis and characterful flat-six engine.

>Click here for our full review of the Porsche 718 Boxster

However, the drive for efficiency and its constant pressure to downsize has made its mark on the Boxster with the new model now utilising an all-new flat-four turbocharged engine brought in alongside a nomenclature change to 718. Not only that, a positioning amendment now sees the previously more expensive Cayman, which shares identical powertrain specifications, drop below the entry price of the soft-top Boxster for the first time since its inception in 2005.

Both the standard and ‘S’ Boxster models receive new styling keeping the 718 in line with the current Porsche design language, meanwhile most of the interior updates seen on the 911 have also been carried across. 

The conundrum is that although this new 718 Boxster is a measurably better car, the loss of the straight-six engine could well be the undoing of the Boxster’s appeal to buyers.

>Click here for our full review of the Porsche 718 Boxster S

Porsche 718 Boxster: in detail 

Performance and 0-62mph time > Measurable performance is improved. Power is up in all models, while torque is both up and more accessible within the rev range.

Engine and gearbox > The source of the new 718’s most contentious change. The all-new flat four has been specifically designed for the new Boxster and it’s tin-top Cayman cousin.

Ride and Handling > Always a strong point for the Boxster, the new 718 builds on the excellent foundations of the previous model.

MPG and running costs > The reason for Porsche fitting the new flat-four engine; on-paper efficiency is improved, but economy in real world applications shows less progress than hoped. 

Interior and tech > In isolation, the Boxster’s interior is well constructed, ergonomically sound and refined, but is starting to feel old compared to rivals like the Audi TT and upcoming Alpine A110.

Design > The 718’s updates are mostly confined to updated lights and re-profiled front and rear bumpers. The effect is subtle, if a little more contrived than the original 981 Boxster.

Prices, specs and rivals:

Previously the entry point of the Porsche range, the Boxster’s promotion to a place in the range above the Cayman is reflected in the higher purchase price. At just under £45,000, the Boxster’s considerable rise in price is at least partly rationalised with a boost in standard equipment levels.

Basics like bi-xenon headlights and an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system are now standard fit, the latter Porsche’s ‘Communication Management System’ as seen in the 911. The seats are upholstered in part man-made leather and Alcantara although a dip into the options list will allow you to upgrade your Boxster to your hearts content.

For a £9000 premium, the Boxster S adds various performance upgrades, which we will go into more detail later, but also larger 19-inch alloy wheels in place of the standard car’s 18-inch items, twin exhaust outlets and real leather seats.

Like all low level Porsches, the options list is a deep and mystical world, allowing buyers to vary the look of their Boxster to anything between the track day weapon and Miami pensioner extremes. Thankfully for those more willing to pay for performance gain rather than aesthetic overkill, Porsche also offers plenty of choices. 

Notable options include the excellent PDK dual-clutch gearbox and Sport Chrono pack which has a launch control function and a useless, but pretty, stopwatch atop the dash. Adaptive dampers dubbed PASM are available, as are the eye-wateringly expensive carbon ceramic brakes (possibly a bit of overkill on a car with 295bhp).

Dynamically, few if any rivals can hold a candle to the Boxster in either basic or ‘S’ form, with the Lotus Elise Sport 220 offering a more visceral experience, but compromising everyday driveability. The Alfa Romeo 4C has the visual drama to shame both the Porsche and Lotus, but is even more difficult to live with and doesn’t offer anything like the driving capability.

For buyers looking for the open-top experience without a dynamic superiority complex could look within the VW group as the Audi TTS not only undercuts the basic Boxster in price, but also offers more grunt and standard equipment. The Mercedes-AMG SLC43 is a surprise value proposition, offering more power even than the considerably more expensive Boxster S, but struggles to get close dynamically, although the AMG’s V6 engine offers more excitement.

Performance and 0-60mph time

Let’s get one thing straight, this test is all about the engine, it’s contentiousness has been a topic of pretty intense discussion with different people having different, and usually strong, opinions about the effect the new flat-four engine has had on the Boxster as a package. 

Looking at it completely objectively, the performance of both 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre engines is above and beyond what the former naturally aspirated flat-sixes could manage, but the upgrade in power only tells half the story. The growth in torque is what’s most apparent, and while peak power of both engines is hit at a high 6500rpm, peak torque is available at just 1950rpm, speaking volumes as to how the new engines feel on the road.

Performance is incredibly strong, in part helped by the relatively lithe kerb weight, giving the 718 Boxster the sort of in-gear punch the old cars could only dream of. The respective performance figures reflect this as the standard Boxster will hit 62mph in just 5.1 seconds (4.9 with PDK), while the S will complete the same feat in just 4.6 (4.4 PDK). Sport Chrono equipped cars drop these figures by a further 0.2 of a second for PDK cars thanks to an included launch function.

Engine and gearbox 

The engines in all 718’s so far are brand new, Porsche-designed flat-four units. Being horizontally opposed, it is an engine unlikely to be shared outside of the Porsche brand and has been given all the latest technology to not only improve performance, but also fuel economy. The inherent advantages of the horizontally opposed engines remain, including a low centre of gravity and compact packaging capabilities.

The entry-level 2.0-litre unit in the standard 718 Boxster (and closely related Cayman) produces 295bhp at a lofty 6500rpm and 280lb ft of torque at 1950rpm as mentioned previously, this is what changes the character of the 718 so acutely in comparison to its predecessor.

Compared to the standard car, the S gets an extra 500cc and a variable geometry turbocharger. With the intention of generating crisper responses, the VTG turbo attempts to negate the natural reduction in response with mixed results. These upgrades unlock a more generous 345bhp and 310lb ft of torque, all available at the same rpm points as the standard 2.0-litre engine.

Both gearboxes are the same as in the previous Boxster which is no bad thing, as the 6-speed manual is a slick and polished companion, meanwhile the seven-speed PDK is amongst the best dual-clutch units on the market.

But, and there was always a but coming, it is not just the fact that the scintillating flat-six has been dropped for a smaller unit that has caused us so much angst, but the fact that the engines seem to be surprisingly poorly calibrated within the car as a whole. The standard 2.0-litre Boxster suffers when it comes to response, not much of an issue on most cars I grant you, but all too easily noticeable when compared to the scalpel sharp engines we have been used to in Porsches in the past.

The Boxster S’ variable geometry turbo does a better job of sharpening up throttle response, but suffers the same issues when combined with the unusually dim-witted PDK gearbox. The immediacy of the gearbox does not compute with the torque rich characteristics of the new engine, giving you the impression that Porsche’s calibration is not quite right.

The new engines are also completely devoid of charm, sounding like a cross section of various flat-four engined cars, none of which Porsche would appreciate being associated with. The sound doesn’t improve under load or when the roof is lowered either, robbing the entire driving experience of a critical part of what has always made the Boxster such an intoxicating drive.

Ride and Handling 

Thankfully, the change of engine has not marked the Boxster’s world-leading chassis, in fact the 718 carries through a cross section of welcome improvements, cementing its position as the most sorted handling sports car in the class. Driven hard, the Boxster’s exceptional balance comes to the fore, allowing you to goad the car almost pathologically though complex sections of road with supreme confidence.

The EPAS system may not be chock full of granular feel, but it is supremely accurate and does its bit to translate when the chassis loads up in bends giving you yet more insight into the inner workings of what is going on underneath you. When in sport mode, or when fitted with the optional lowered sports suspension, the Boxster’s body control improves further, keeping you entirely locked into the road surface and avoiding the subtle floating sensation you can get when on taller tyres.

Porsche’s typically superb brakes also play a role, with a short pedal travel and a perfectly judged ABS system, giving you the ability to really lean on the middle pedal without feeling like the car is getting away you. The various suspension and chassis options can make subtle differences to the way the Boxster drives on the road, but the sheer competence of the basic chassis always shines through during the driving experience. 

MPG and running costs

Porsche’s quoted economy figures are pretty impressive for a sports car offering the sort of thrills that the 718 can muster, but the reality is unfortunately a little different.

On paper figures of between 34.9 for a manual Boxster S and 40.9 for the PDK equipped Boxster bookend the range, although our experience suggest that these numbers are almost impossible to replicate in the real world.

With an average improvement of around 5mpg over the previous naturally aspirated flat-six Boxsters, it means that all this compromise when it comes to the engine response and aural pleasure is largely pointless for buyers.

Interior and tech

Although the change to 718 brought with it a significant mechanical overhaul, the interior has not quite undergone the same level of changes. Sharing the same basic 981 interior as launched back in 2012, the excellent ergonomics and build quality shine as strongly now as they did 5 years ago. 

The new infotainment system is an improvement over the last one, although the button laden centre console remains as a constant reminder of how many options boxes were ticked. At least the basics are exactly right, with pedal placement perfect for heel and toe-ing in manual cars, while the new smaller steering wheel looks and feels great.

Storage is also impressive for a mid-engined sports car, with the front and rear boots supplemented by reasonable interior cubbies. The issue is that although the Porsche badge may carry more cache than an Audi, the interior feels distinctly last generation compared to rivals like the TTS and upcoming Alpine A110.

Design

When the 981 Boxster was launched in 2012, its 918 Spyder (concept at that stage admittedly) styling and slick LED details were a dramatic improvement on the previous generation cars. A core reason for the success of the 981’s initial design was that for the first time the Boxster did without the need of sharing its doors with the 911. This allowed designers to give the 981 more wedge in its profile, as well as a more dramatic scallop on the doors leading to the side air intake. 

For the 718, Porsche kept the revisions exclusively to the front and rear of the cars. At the front, new pointier headlights and a simplified bumper arrangement mark out the main differences. Out back, the slick integrated rear spoiler has given way to a slightly odd looking raised one with a Porsche logo sat in the resulted opening. Although active rear wing does remain, the whole look when combined with the new four-point LED tail-lights is a little more contrived.

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