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First drive: Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.

First drive: Porsche 718 Boxster S
Think Porsche has ruined the Boxster with turbocharging? Think again.

 



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Porsche 718 Boxster S

5 5 5 5 5

Say hello to the return of the four-cylinder Porsche. No, wait, don't click away looking for cute cat videos in disgust; this is worth reading. In launching the new 718 series with a range of turbocharged flat-four petrol engines, Porsche has masterfully reinvented the Boxster as a totally unique proposition to the 911 it has always closely shadowed. We'd go so far as to say it's more exciting to drive, certainly in Boxster S guise reviewed here.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Porsche 718 Boxster S
Pricing: Boxster from 41,739; Boxster S from 50,695
Engine: 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: two-door, two-seat roadster
CO2 emissions: 184g/km (VED Band I, 230 annually)
Combined economy: 34.9mpg
Top speed: 177mph
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Power: 350hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 420Nm from 1,900- to 4,500rpm
Weight: 1,355kg

What's this?

The spanking new Porsche 718 Boxster S. Now, I know what you're thinking, and no, it doesn't, at first glance, look all that different to the outgoing Boxster, but apparently it shares only its soft-top, windscreen surround and luggage compartment lids with that car. Styling cues to watch out for include larger air inlets in the front bumper and ahead of the rear wheels, smoother door handles, different side sills, wheelarches and exhausts to differentiate the Boxster and Boxster S and, of course, new wheel designs and colours. The most obvious visual clue to the new car's identity is found at the back, where the redesigned LED lights are joined by a raised spoiler that features 'PORSCHE' written in large 3D letters. We're still not completely sold on the look of this, but overall the car is undoubtedly attractive. Those rear lamps include a four-point brake light signature, which is echoed in the front daytime running lights if you go for the optional all-LED headlights. Otherwise there are bi-Xenon headlamps as standard.

Inside, there's a new steering wheel modelled on that of the Porsche 918 Spyder with a mode button allowing quick selection of Normal, Sport and Sport Plus settings. Specify Sport Chrono and an Individual mode is added. Pair PDK and Sport Chrono and the Sport Response button is added, as on the latest range of 911s. The other big improvement inside comes in the form of the newest Porsche Communication Management (PCM) infotainment system, signified by the presence of the slick-looking touchscreen. The other switchgear is as tactile as ever and the instruments are wonderfully clear.

All standard facelift fodder so far, right? Same with the chassis really. The brakes are upgraded across the line-up and the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system has also been tweaked, offering as much as a 20mm reduction in ride height. The electro-mechanical power steering is more direct than before too, on all versions.

The most important aspect of the new 718 is its four-cylinder engine, replacing the naturally aspirated flat-six of its predecessor. It's a flat-four ('boxer') design using a single turbocharger with double overhead camshafts per bank and four valves per cylinder. Valve timing and lift are variable on all four camshafts. There are in fact two distinct engines. The 718 Boxster is powered by a 2.0-litre unit making 300hp and 380Nm of torque. The Boxster S tested here uses a 2.5-litre version (the bore is bigger, stroke the same) that also gains a variable geometry turbocharger. Its maximum outputs are 350hp and 420Nm.

Power is sent to the rear wheels via either a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic. In all cases, the PDK-equipped versions are the quickest against the stopwatch and the most efficient. Naturally the new 718 is more powerful and faster than its predecessor, though it's no lighter, but Porsche also quotes an efficiency improvement of up to 13 per cent.

Pricing starts at 41,739 for the 718 Boxster and rises to 50,695 for the manual 718 Boxster S and, to fit in with the 911 way of doing things, the Boxster will now be more expensive than the equivalent Cayman coupe.

How does it drive?

Well the outgoing Boxster hardly needed much improvement, did it? And while Porsche has made plenty of changes, the 718 Boxster is still a brilliant driver's car, using its mid-engined balance to good effect. It's sharper than ever in its responses, thanks in no small part to the more direct steering rack, which gives it deliciously fast turn-in and plenty of feedback. The feeling of agility is no trick, as the Boxster points its nose precisely where you ask it to with no slop or delay. There's loads of grip available, yet within minutes on an interesting road keen drivers will find themselves pushing the car up to and subtly beyond its limits as the car is just so playful. The upgraded brakes are faultless, the six-speed manual gearbox the best that Porsche currently makes and if you fit the optional PASM system then there's a wide spectrum of road surfaces and conditions on which the Boxster will exceed expectations. In short, it's even better to drive than it was before.

And what about that engine? Well, it's nowhere near as musical as the old flat-six; it was never going to be, was it? However, it's remarkably different to any other four-cylinder engine in production, giving the 718 a unique personality and putting considerable distance between it and the Porsche 911. Admittedly, when cold, it doesn't sound the best at idle, but that evens out and at full chat it's highly distinctive and, with the optional sports exhaust fitted, downright vocal. Flat-out, it's an evocative sound and the performance the 2.5-litre unit delivers more than lives up to the noise. There's a variable geometry turbine on this car's turbocharger, working with the variable valve lift and cam timing to give it huge flexibility. Hence it's not easy to catch it napping. For everyday driving, slot it into a high gear and cruise along on the wide torque plateau without a grumble of protest from the engine, but if you want to have some fun it's still worth chasing the red line. As the needle approaches 6,000rpm it seems to increase its speed around the rev counter and at that stage you'll realise that this car is much quicker than the model it replaces.

Obviously, faster isn't always better, but the move to turbocharging means that the engine's performance is accessible a lot more of the time. The old flat-six wasn't short on torque, but it took commitment to unlock its full ability. Now, that's on tap from the off, complementing the chassis changes to deliver a driving experience that is more thrilling than anything referred to as a 'junior' Porsche has a right to be. Sensational.

Verdict

We didn't quite know what to expect from the 718. The Boxster S was already a brilliant car and the flat-six a charismatic engine. The writing was on the wall for it when the 911 Carrera adopted a twin-turbocharged engine, but it's been a long time since there's been a four-cylinder Porsche. Some will no doubt grumble about the change, but our first experience, in a cleverly specified Boxster S, reveals that the 718 could turn out to be one of the surprise performance car stars of the year.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Shane O' Donoghue - 4 Apr 2016









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2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.

2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.



2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.
 

2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.
 

2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.
 

2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.
 

2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.
 

2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.
 

2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.
 

2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Image by Dean Smith.
 






 

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