Porsche 718 Boxster gets power boost, performance options galore


The Boxster is Porsche’s more affordable convertible two-seater sports car, though it’s still very much a premium product. The new 2017 model marks the fourth generation since it was introduced a couple of decades ago, with each generation being a little more powerful and a little more fuel-efficient than before (the former satisfies drivers, while the latter satisfies government fleet regulations).

New for this year is the Boxster’s designation as the “718,” which hearkens back to a model line of successful four-cylinder, mid-engined racers in the 1950s and ’60s. Porsche added this number to help differentiate it from the 911 and 918, but it will keep the Boxster name because there’s also a hardtop variant of the model, the Cayman. That all-new coupe will be launched early this summer as an almost-identical mechanical twin to the Boxster.

This year, the six-cylinder boxer engine shrinks into a turbocharged four-cylinder, but power is up considerably: the Boxster has a 2.0-litre engine that makes 300 hp, and the Boxster S has a 2.5-litre engine that makes 350 hp.

This is a big bump of some 35 horsepower for both. Torque – all-important for acceleration – is also increased, to 280 lbs-ft in the Boxster (a huge jump from 205 in the previous generation) and to 310 lbs-ft in the Boxster S (up from 265). Torque peaks below 2,000 rpm and holds its strength to 4,500 rpm, with redline at 7,500 rpm.

With all this extra power, the car weighs only five kg more than before; it has a lighter engine but a beefier platform. It also costs more than before—its base price is up $4,500 for the Boxster (now $63,900) and $5,100 for the Boxster S ($78,000). Start adding options and everything gets very expensive very quickly. Is it all worth it?

Walkaround

It’s gorgeous. It doesn’t matter if you like Porsches or not, you have to appreciate the workmanship and finish of the car. Everything fits tightly, the paint is smooth and eye-catching, and the lines sweep back low and wide.

  • See the full gallery of 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster photos here

It shares headlight technology with the 911, so it has the swiveling bi-xenon lamps surrounded by four small daytime-running lights, just in case other drivers aren’t sure what’s coming up fast in the rear-view mirror. LED lights are available as an option.

The Boxster isn’t changed in size, but it’s been subtly reshaped for this fourth generation—only the front trunk lid, the roof and the windshield are kept from before. And as with the 911, the photographs speak for themselves: what you see is what you get when you look up close. There are no surprises—as there shouldn’t be at this price.

Interior

Settle down low into the Boxster’s stock seat – wide enough for Americans, without being too grabby – and you’ll immediately feel how your car reflects your budget. Several options are available for sports seats, costing from $920 up to $4,370, but the base model comes with manual adjustment for forward and back.

Navigation is also an option, for $1,980, as is a wireless charging tray with full connectivity for your iPhone through Apple CarPlay, for an extra $1,130. Porsches do not work with Android Auto, though. Apparently, 80 percent of owners use Apple technology, so the company has Androids on the back burner.

The luxury goodies come at a price, though. This is the same for the 911, of course, so don’t think a well-optioned Boxster will cost the same as a well-optioned 911. They’re all incrementally expensive, and the technology is good enough now to be really tempting.

Everything is beautifully integrated into the cabin, and a far cry from the stripped-down purist cars of even just a decade ago. Today’s Porsche owners clearly like to be pampered, and the company is quite happy to provide whatever you’re willing to pay for.

Technology

The Boxster is right up there now with the new 911 for cutting-edge connectivity – as long as you own an iPhone like the rest of the in-crowd and not some poxy Android. Its (optional) navigation system is also as good as it gets. I drove through a maze of roads here in Portugal and the system was simple to use and always accurate.

The real technology is in the engine and chassis, of course, both of which are new for this generation. The turbocharging systems of the boxer fours borrow from the lessons applied to the six-cylinder engines in the 911, with greater airflow and improved management.

The 2.5-litre engine includes what Porsche calls “variable turbine geometry,” which uses an additional turbo wastegate with adjustable vanes to keep everything at its most efficient; this is taken directly from the 911 Turbo.

The redesigned chassis keeps the ride just a little flatter and more stable, though this was no fault of the previous generation. I drove fast through a slalom course – very fast, actually – and the handling was classic Porsche, feeding back information through the wheel and the seat of the pants, with the only limit being the state of the driver and the tires. This year, the rubber is a half-inch wider at the back, on 18-inch rims for the Boxster and 19-inch rims for the Boxster S. Twenty-inch wheels are an option, naturally.

Driving

Here in Portugal, the roads vary from bumpy cobblestone lanes barely wider than the car to lightly-policed toll highways that encourage an “ambitious” driver, and I tried them all for a day in every variant of the new car.

First of all, don’t even think you’ll get anything like the fuel consumption claimed by Porsche, which is an improvement of about 13 percent over the previous generation. It’s not that you can’t – I’m sure the claims are accurate – but if you do, you’ve totally lost the point of owning a Porsche roadster and you might as well drive a Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Canadian figures have not yet been released, but the official European claim for the Boxster PDK in combined driving is 6.9 L/100 km. My average over about 300 km was 11.7. The official claim for the Boxster S PDK is 7.3 L/100 km, while I more than doubled that over a long afternoon with 14.8. Granted, that was with a six-speed manual, which is a little thirstier, but even so.

The stick-shift is a lovely transmission and purists will continue to demand it. In Canada, about 30 percent of Boxsters last year were sold with manual transmissions, while the number was roughly 50 percent in Germany. The fans are dying off, though. While the seven-speed, paddle-shifted PDK automatic costs an extra $3,660 and weighs an additional 30 kg, it’s an exceptional and rewarding choice.

It’s quicker, too – you just can’t shift as smoothly or as fast as the PDK computer. Zero-to-100 km in the manual Boxster takes 5.1 seconds, but only 4.9 seconds with the PDK, and you can shave another 0.2 seconds from that with the launch control of the Sport Chrono option (an extra $2,200). The manual Boxster S drops the time to 4.6 seconds, but the PDK brings it down to 4.4 seconds, and the Sport Chrono option again slices 0.2 seconds from that.

Porsche has finally reversed the change pattern on the automatic shifter, as it did with the new 911, so you pull backwards to go up a gear and push forward to go down. This is in sync with every other normal race car on the planet. You’ll probably forget all about the shifter, though, and use the paddles, which keep your hands on the wheel like a real driver.

For those serious about driving, you’ll probably want to opt for the active suspension package ($2,050) that lowers the car by 20 mm and further tightens the suspension through corners, as well as the Porsche Torque Vectoring ($1,510) that helps keep control of the individual driving wheels through those corners.

Save your money, though, by ignoring the optional Sport Exhaust system ($3,300). It includes a console button that makes everything just a bit louder and more crackly, but it still seemed muted. Mind you, I’ve just come from driving a Jaguar F-Type SVR through New York’s Holland tunnel, and every car’s sound pales in comparison to that.

Porsche will even sell you ceramic brakes for your Boxster ($8,450) but why anyone would install them and not just step up to a 911 is beyond me. Besides, the Boxster’s brakes are very good: the regular car uses the larger brakes from the previous Boxster S, while the more powerful car uses the larger brakes still from the previous 911 Carrera.

I also wasn’t so impressed with the management of the air inside the cabin when the top is down. The soft roof is pretty good at insulating road noise when it’s in place, but when it comes down, things get drafty around the seats, even with the rear baffle in place. This isn’t a big deal unless it’s cold. It’s too bad Porsche doesn’t have the neck-warming heaters now available on convertible Mercedes and BMWs.

Value

It's a Porsche, which means it’s in a league of its own. The Audi TT and Jaguar F-Type are probably the chief competition, but even so, the value of any Porsche is really gauged most correctly against other Porsches. Nothing else offers quite the combination of allure, performance and reputation as Porsche, and drivers are prepared to pay for this. The company is exceedingly profitable.

A sports car is a far more emotional purchase than a sedan or an SUV. It’s much less practical, too. All of which means, if you have your heart set on a new Porsche, the only question for value is which model, and how to option it.

Conclusion

So now there’s a progression at Porsche that runs seamlessly through the Boxster lineup, each costly option making the car a little more sporty, until you’re poking against the price point of the even more powerful 911. It doesn’t stop there, either, but continues through the Carrera and Targa lines all the way to the quarter-million dollar Turbo S flagship.

So your only real option is to decide how much you want to spend on your new Porsche and stick closely to that budget. How much is enough? There’s always a bit more, but unless you want to compete in your car on the track, the base Boxster will deliver all the power, performance, handling and technology that most people will ever want. Do you really want to spend an extra $14,000 just for some extra heft?

After all, the regular Boxster took me around the roads of Portugal with confident style, its top down for the sun, and even all the way to a comfortable 240 km/h on a closed-off runway. It did everything I could want from a roadster, and it did so just a little more easily than the previous generation. There’s very little wrong with this new Boxster, and a lot that is right.

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