Tuesday 5th December 2017
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First drive: Porsche 718 Boxster GTS. Image by Porsche.

First drive: Porsche 718 Boxster GTS
Faster, sharper Boxster GTS is one of 2017ís best

 



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Porsche 718 Boxster GTS

5 5 5 5 5

The Boxster GTS (as well as the Cayman GTS) proves to be one of the best, sharpest and most talented cars to drive of 2017. Time to get over our prejudices about the exhaust note...

Test Car Specifications

Pricing: £61,727 as tested. Boxster range starts from £44,758
Engine: 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-four
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body style: roadster
CO2 emissions: 205g/km (Band191-225; £1,200)
Combined economy: 31.3mpg (9.0 litres/100km)
Top speed: 180mph
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Power: 365hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 420Nm at 1,900 - 5,500rpm
Boot space: 150-litres (front), 125-litres (rear)
EuroNCAP rating: Not tested

What's this?

This is the Porsche Boxster GTS (there's a Cayman GTS as well, but more on that in a little while...) and those three letters have a magic attraction for Porsche fans. In recent years, the best 911 of all has often not been the GT3 or the Carrera S, but the GTS - a blend and balance between the two that swings close to the boundaries of perfection. Can the smaller 718 GTS series pull off a similar trick?

Well, it has one mountain to climb first and that's its engine. Porsche enthusiasts have not, in some quarters, been keen on the Boxster's switch to four-cylinder power, citing its lack of musicality compared to the old flat-six engines. Music is one thing, but muscle is another and the GTS' 2.5-litre engine has certainly been hitting the creatine powder. Compared to the same engine in the Boxster S, the GTS has an extra 15hp, bringing the total to 365hp. Torque is also up, to 420Nm for cars with the six-speed manual gearbox, and 430Nm for versions using the PDK dual-clutch. Now, that power figure is perhaps not as blinding as the 300bhp made by the smaller 2.0-litre flat-four in the standard Boxster, but for a 1,300kg road car with tight dimensions, it's somewhere north of decent, entering the city limits of plenty.

Porsche has tweaked the suspension a little to suit. There are no geometry changes, but you do get Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) as standard, as well as torque vectoring and a 10mm drop in ride height (you can go another 10mm lower if you opt for PASM Sports suspension).

On the equipment front, the Sport Chrono pack comes as standard, ad this adds a sports exhaust and switchable damper settings, as well as that gorgeous analogue stopwatch top and centre of the dash. There's also the new touchscreen, introduced when the Boxster became the four-cylinder 718 model last year, and a new Porsche Track App, which links with your smartphone to allow you to look over your telemetry and lap times, Mark Webber-style, after a session on track. It'll even send an alert to your Apple Watch (assuming you have one) if you set a better lap time.

On the styling front, there's not a lot to report. The GTS gets a more aggressive front and rear bumper layout, black-finish lights, black badging and black 20-inch wheels. The cabin gets lots of Alcantara suede and some GTS logos, but to be honest you'll have to be a Porsche anorak to tell it from a standard Boxster S.

How does it drive?

Given the price step between Boxster, Boxster S and this GTS, is it worth the extra? Well, let's start by saying that we really like the basic Boxster. That 2.0-litre engine is a marvel of power and economy, and it's remarkably good to drive. OK, so not everyone likes the noise, and we get that - it's somewhere between a Beetle hot-rod and an old Subaru rally car, and is more loud than it is tuneful -- but this car is about far more than its exhaust note.

The 2.5-litre engine in GTS tune doesn't sound any better or worse than in any other Boxster: it grumbles, burps and farts in an entertaining fashion. Open the throttle, or switch on the sports exhaust, and the noise doesn't change, it just gets louder, and while it can drone at times, it's not unpleasant.

You will have less spare brain capacity to spend on the engine's noise, though, because you'll be going so frikkin' fast. No, the Boxster GTS is no hypercar, but by heck it can shift. Torque just piles on from barely above tickover, and before you've even passed 4,000rpm, you're covering ground at a serious rate. Traction is nothing short of excellent, even on the tricky wet-and-dusty Spanish roads of our test route. As long as the front end has found enough grip to get around a corner, you can just start opening those taps again and let both the diff and the torque vectoring strut their stuff. If the back end does break away (and on the appallingly slippy roads of our test route it kept doing that, must have been the dust, honest officer) the slide is well-telegraphed, and easily gathered up with the assistance of the long-tempered Porsche Stability Management system. I don't think any mid-engined car has ever felt quite so benign and manageable at the limit.

It's the Boxster's agility that gets you, though. That small, perfectly round steering wheel, with its oh-so-tactile Alcantara rim, feels utterly joyous in your palms, and for an electrically-assisted steering system, it has wonderful feel and feedback. You only have to go for a couple of hundred yards in a Boxster GTS to feel totally at one with it. Its sheer sense of balance is amazing, but what's really great is that you don't need to drive it at illegal speeds to enjoy it. In spite of that 365hp, the prodigious 0-62mph time and that lofty top speed, the GTS is actually at its best on the twistiest road you can find, with the lowest coefficient of grip that you can manage. It's delightful, and it even manages to have a pliant ride quality.

What's really remarkable, then, is how the GTS deports itself on track. We only got to drive the Boxster GTS on the road, and then the Cayman GTS only on the track, so this is a bit of a split verdict. It could well be that the Boxster is terrific on the road and useless on the track, and the Cayman vice versa. That's rather doubtful, but not in doubt is the fact that the Cayman GTS is one of those rare road cars that's entirely unintimidated by track work. Many a fast road car wilts within a few corners on a race track, but on the Ascari track, just outside Ronda in southern Spain, the Cayman GTS felt right at home. With Sport+ mode on and the dampers set to maximum attack, it growled around the track, with that flat-four sounding both loud and aggressive as it did so. Here the steering precision was less about having fun, and more about getting that nose tucked into an early apex, the torque vectoring dabbing the inside brakes on the way into the corner to help tighten your line. Yesterday's rain was drying up, but there were still sufficient damp patches around for the rear end to get its wiggle on in a few spots, but even at track speeds, the Cayman was entirely biddable and exploitable, and managed to feel thrilling, but not threatening.

Verdict

Neither the Cayman nor the Boxster GTS are exactly cheap, but you are getting the GTS experience and the magic of that badge for almost half the price of a 911 GTS, and nearly £20,000 less than the cost of even a basic 911 Carrera. OK, so the six-cylinder howl is gone, but let's just get over that now, shall we? The fact is that in either coupe of convertible form, the 718 GTS is a remarkably sweet car to drive, sufficiently practical and comfortable for daily driving, and yet is a potent and rewarding track-day weapon. Irrespective of the noise it makes, that sounds pretty sweet to us.

3 3 3 3 3 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Neil Briscoe - 5 Dec 2017









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2017 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS drive. Image by Porsche.2017 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS drive. Image by Porsche.2017 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS drive. Image by Porsche.2017 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS drive. Image by Porsche.2017 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS drive. Image by Porsche.

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS drive. Image by Porsche.2017 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS drive. Image by Porsche.2017 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS drive. Image by Porsche.2017 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS drive. Image by Porsche.2017 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS drive. Image by Porsche.








 

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