View all Porsche 718 Boxster reviews
Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5
Loading...

Entry-level Porsche still good to drive

PROS

  • Fun to drive
  • Fast, compact electric roof
  • Refined and comfortable
  • Excellent build quality
  • Eye-catching design

CONS

  • Characterless engine
  • Pricey extras
  • No mpg improvement in typical use
  • Turbo lag in Boxster

Verdict

The 718 Boxster is the new name for the Porsche Boxster, a mid-engined two-seat roadster that rivals the Mercedes-Benz SLC, BMW Z4 and Jaguar F-type V6 models.

Despite first impressions, this not a mid-life refresh. Porsche claims only the luggage compartment lids, windscreen and convertible roof carry over from the outgoing Boxster.

There are chassis changes, new body panels and an updated interior with a much-improved touchscreen infotainment system, but the big news relates to the engines.

Boxster loses two cylinders; gains a turbo

Out go the old 2.7 Boxster and 3.4-litre Boxster S flat-six-cylinder motors, replaced by a pair of flat-four turbos mounted behind the driver.

The Boxster has never had anything but six-cylinder power since its introduction 20 years ago, so Porsche is dusting off its historically important 718 naming to legitimise the new engines. It references a four-cylinder roadster that raced with success in the 1950s and ’60s.

The entry-level 718 Boxster uses a 2.0-litre flat-four with 295bhp, while the 718 Boxster S steps up to a 2.5-litre version rated at 345bhp.

Sadly, the Boxster has lost an integral part of its character along with those two extra cylinders. The exotic howl of the old engines – both closely related to the 911’s – has disappeared, replaced by a deep burbly thrum that could be mistaken for a Subaru Impreza’s, especially if you specify the optional sports exhaust.

These are, however, technically impressive engines, both are keen to rev and the 718 Boxster S disguises turbo lag ably. They are also more powerful and efficient (on paper) than the larger six-cylinder units. In real-world conditions, however, even engineers admit fuel economy is likely to be similar between the two generations.

Classic Boxster driving dynamics remain

Despite our grumbles over the new engines, the Boxster continues to be the benchmark driver’s car in this segment: its steering is fast and precise, and the mid-engined chassis is both agile and incredibly forgiving.

It feels far more exotic to drive than its relatively affordable price suggests. Both feel like performance cars, but the S is a very quick car.

Both models are available with a beautifully tactile six-speed manual transmission, or a dual-clutch PDK with paddle-shifters on the steering wheel. The PDK offers faster gear shifts, but also improves fuel economy.

Folding roof can be operated on the move

While some rivals favour a folding hardtop – literally a solid metal roof that folds away into the luggage compartment – Porsche has stuck with a fabric roof.

It has the advantages of lowering and raising much faster, and of doing so while the vehicle is moving at speeds approaching 40mph. And unlike folding hardtops, the fabric roof does not eat into luggage space when stowed. It’s a key tenet of this versatile sports car’s enduring appeal.

We tested both the Porsche 718 Boxster and S models on the press launch in Portugal.

 

There’s more to the Porsche 718 Boxster than a name harking back to a 1950s racer from the firm’s back catalogue – in case you’re wondering, Porsche protocol is to say Seven-Eighteen.

 

Look closely and you’ll spot the refreshed bodywork and spangly, new LED-laden lights but even more important is what you can’t see. Hidden at the 718 Boxster’s heart is a pair of new four-cylinder, turbocharged engines.

 

Not that such an overhaul means Porsche’s got the premium roadster market all to itself. There’s the recently facelifted Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class, stylish Audi TT Roadster and the big-engined Jaguar F-Type Convertible to contend with.

 

Turbocharging for torque and efficiency

 

Downsizing’s a trend across the motor industry so it’s no surprise that even mighty Porsche has succumbed to smaller-capacity engines. We’ve already seen a turbocharged 3-litre installed in the rear of the Porsche 911 Carrera where a naturally aspirated once 3.8 resided.

 

With the 718 Boxster, the changes are even more dramatic. Out go the previous 2.7- and 3.4-litre units of the Boxster and Boxster S, replaced by turbocharged, horizontally-opposed four-cylinder powerplants in 2- and 2.5-litre guises, respectively.

 

Both engines have gained an additional 34bhp over their predecessors, with the standard 718 Boxster up to 296bhp, the faster S version producing 345bhp.

 

Even more impressive is the torque output. Not only do the figures rise by 100Nm to 380Nm from 1,950rpm for the 718 Boxster and 60Nm to 420Nm at 1,900rpm for the S, turbocharging – with variable geometry on the S – ensures its delivery is more linear through to 4,500rpm, making the engines far more flexible.

 

Nevertheless, Porsche’s worked hard to ensure the engines will still gleefully rev up to 7,500rpm and have been tuned to sound suitably throaty, particularly with the optional Sports Exhaust package.

 

Specify the 718 with the optional Sports Chrono Package and PDK automatic gearbox, as Porsche expects most customers to do, and both versions are riotously rapid.

 

While the 718 Boxster S will reach 177mph and cover the 0-62mph sprint in 4.2 seconds, its less expensive sibling will still touch 170mph and hit 62mph from a standstill in 4.7 seconds – that’s a tenth of a second quicker than the outgoing Boxster S.

 

In spite of that accelerative urgency, Porsche’s engineers have also been keen to improve the 718 Boxster’s efficiency, with a claimed average fuel consumption of 40.9mpg and 38.7mpg for the S. Emissions are rated at between 158g/km and 184g/km of CO2, depending on the engine and gearbox combination.

 

Revised 718 Boxster styling

 

A casual glance may suggest otherwise, but all the 718 Boxster’s exterior is new save for the fabric roof and bootlid.

 

More pronounced edges on the front and rear wings make them appear taller and broader, a theme emphasised a tad heavy-handedly at the back.

 

The revised tail lights no longer blend seamlessly into the rear spoiler, instead a gloss black applique with a 3D Porsche script nestles below the electrically operated wing. Thankfully, the modified diffuser below it is more pleasing.

 

Up front, Porsche’s ‘four-point’ day running light signature is now incorporated within the headlamps, while the grilles in the front bumper have been widened.

 

Climb into the 718 Boxster’s superbly-built cabin and there are even fewer tweak to distinguish the latest iteration. Most obvious alterations centre upon the revised infotainment system and ovular air vents. Keener pilots may splash out extra on the smaller 360mm diameter steering wheel, previously seen on the Boxster Spyder.

 

Substantial chassis modifications

 

Underneath the sharpened exterior, the Porsche 718 Boxster’s undergone an extensive overall with improvements to the suspension, steering and brakes.

 

At the rear is an additional brace to improve the suspension’s rigidity making the 718 even more predictable at the limit. This can be further enhanced with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) which is 10mm lower than standard; a new 20mm lower option with the Boxster S’s Sports Chassis.

 

Assisting with transmitting that additional power and torque to the road, the 718’s optional 20-inch wheels are now 10.5 inches wide at the back.

 

As with the latest 911 series, the 718 Boxster’s Sport Chrono control moves from behind the gear lever to a rotary dial mounted on the steering wheel. Porsche claims to have introduced a greater degree of differentiation between the modes, something we’ll explore further when we road test the newcomer.

 

Porsche’s fitted the 911 Turbo’s electrically-assisted steering set-up to the 718 Boxster making it 10 percent more agile but also claimed to be lighter while operating at lower speeds. This is further supplemented by a torque vectoring system which not only modulates the degree of power sent to the grippiest wheel or, but will introduce a degree of supplementary braking to amplify the effect.

 

To cope with the extra speed Porsche’s uprated the 718’s braking performance: as standard the Boxster gains the previous S’s brakes, while the new S adopts the four-piston callipers from the 911 Carrera. Six-piston carbon ceramic brakes remain an (expensive) option.

 

When can you buy one?

 

You can already order a 718 Boxster with deliveries expected from late April 2016 onwards.

 

We’ll be putting this faster and more fuel-efficient sports car to the test in a few weeks when we discover if the new Porsche 718 Boxster will still lead the roadster market.

Next steps

Sidebar Right

Choose a different car: