0-62MPH: 4.2 secs
Top speed: 177mph
CO2 G/KM: 167g/km
MPG combined: 38.7mpg
Midway through its life, the Porsche Boxster has a new name – 718 Boxster – and a new pair of turbocharged four cylinder engines. For a marque synonymous with the sonorous flat-six, this could be a problem. Time to discover if four into 718 really does go...
We start in the 350hp 2.5litre Boxster S, which costs £53,000 when fitted with a PDK semi-automatic gearbox. Twist the 911-shaped key and the flat-four settles to a lumpy burble reminiscent of a Subaru Impreza. For a Porsche fan like me, this simply doesn’t compute.
As we escape Lisbon and head for the hills, it’s clear the noise doesn’t improve as the revs rise. The 718 barks and blares, but it sounds bland – particularly compared to the old sixcylinder Boxster. By God it’s quick, though. Select Sport Plus mode using the Ferrari-style dial on the steering wheel and 62mph is yours in just 4.2 seconds.
The four-pot engine is incredibly responsive, too. A Dynamic Boost function keeps the turbo spinning when you back off the gas, so the Boxster surges forward with no lag. And, when you feel like taking it slow, the extra turbocharged torque makes it easier to drive. With maximum pulling power from just 1,900rpm, you can cruise around with barely a flex of the right foot.
In truth, the Boxster has always been defined by its chassis, rather than its engine. Here, the news is all good. A sharper steering rack from the 911 Turbo and rear suspension from the hardcore Cayman GT4 make this one of the best handling cars money can buy. The way it goes around corners is nothing short of sensational.
I also tried the 718 on-track, at a Portuguese military airbase. Under the watchful eyes of army cadets with big guns, I pushed the car to its limits on scorching hot Tarmac. Snaking through a slalom of cones followed by a high-speed chicane, the car stays impressively neutral, neither running wide into understeer, nor sliding sideways into oversteer. And the brakes inspire total confidence; the £5,000 carbon-ceramic option seems like overkill.
Inside, the Boxster gets an upgraded touchscreen media system with bold graphics and optional Apple Carplay. This replicates your iPhone screen in the car, and you can even talk to it using Siri. Porsche still expects you to pay £1,052 extra for sat nav, but at least it now offers Bluetooth phone connectivity as standard.
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This is a surprisingly practical roadster, thanks to two boots: one in the front and one behind the engine. Combined luggage space is 275 litres – about one shopping bag short of a Ford Fiesta. Its also comfortable enough for pottering around town, although the optional 20inch wheels do make potholes a touch painful.
I later swapped into the standard 300hp 2.0litre car, which feels slower (062mph in 4.7 seconds) but slightly sweeter, especially with its sixspeed manual gearbox. Simple is best when it comes to the Boxster – a philosophy that also applies to the lengthy options list. I’d be tempted by the Sport Chrono pack (£1,125), digital radio (£284) and heated seats (£284). Beyond that, however, you’re merely gilding the lily.
Objectively, the new 718 Boxster is a better car. It’s faster, more agile and more efficient. From a subjective standpoint, however, it misses the mark. The problem is those engines, which – for all their midrange muscle – lack the howling, high-revving character of the old flat sixes.
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If you enjoy driving, and you have upwards of £42,000 to spend, the Boxster should still be near the top of your shopping list. But I’d be tempted to save a five-figure sum and find a used sixcylinder car instead. When it comes to something as irrational as a two-seat sports car, sometimes better doesn’t mean best.