New Porsche 718 Boxster crunches the numbers
A new turbo charged Porsche, the same concerns. What will it sound like? Will it offer equal enjoyment, is turbo charging the solution, what damage will be done to the car’s soul? These questions were on everyone’s lips upon arrival in Abu Dhabi to drive the new 2016 Porsche 718 Boxster. The latest Porsche to forgo its normally aspirated engine for something smaller and of turbo charged persuasion.
We drive the new Porsche 718 at world launch. Coming to SA in May
Before we address those merits, let’s focus on the new name. Porsche 718 Boxster, or correctly pronounced Seven Eighteen Boxster. Porsche’s transition to apply numerical stature to its sportscars (718, 911,918) could in the fullness of time see the Boxster part fall away. The 718 also pays tribute to the 550 Spyder – a shared motorsport link with the then unbeatable 4-cylinder engine echoing its design and ethos.
Yet name aside, this is still the entry point to the Porsche two-seater range and sweeps in the most significant change in the model’s history. Can you feel the weight of expectation building?
No need to dwell on the turbo charging thing, which you might think is strange given that it is the catalyst for everything that follows. If anything the Porsche 718 is the ideal candidate; owners who might care about matters like fuel consumption or carbon emissions. All of the 718’s competitors are turbo charged…have been for some time.
Of course offering better performance helps to smooth the transition and assuage any fears. Porsche 718 Boxster barks through a 4-cylinder turbo engine, sized at 2.0-litres for the Boxster and 2.5-litres for the Boxster S. Downsized engines (sorry Porsche your rightsized lingo won’t work here) but each model pumps out another 22kW for 224kW and 260kW. Turbo charging provides a remedy for the predecessor’s anaemic torque by inflating it to 380Nm and 420Nm. The 0-100km/h figures (a measurement that was to entirely miss the point of Boxster) is now 4.7 seconds or 4.2 seconds while top speed will see you cruise past other cars limited to 250km/h.
All very well but this turns Porsche 718 into a bit of a number cruncher, and that was never the case before. Objectively it possesses all the answers but we’re now standing in Yas Marina’s pitlane and frankly at this point numbers, particularly around lowered thirst, don’t interest us.
We head out in the Boxster and change our earlier thoughts about the 4-cylinder’s noise which now sounds deeper and purer than it did on the road and bless Porsche for not taking the easy route with artificial enhancement. You’re never going to get that wail of 7000rpm but there is a different note to the chorus the harder you push and the bass has no trouble filling the cabin.
The Boxster S fitted with optional sports exhaust popped and fizzed in slow corners. Speaking of slow corners, the turbo engine catapults out of them, even if you’re a little lazy with the gear changes. A Porsche that tolerates a driver’s inexperience is acceptable in a 718 and that’s not to say it doesn’t command respect from the advanced drivers.
This is now a quick car and the increased forces exerted on the body happen violently. Porsche has committed itself to making the 718 all the car it can be, even if that means putting it on the toes of the 911 Carrera. The mid-mounted engine, rear wheel drive formula is everything a keen driver can wish for with extraordinary balance peppered with a lively rear end manipulated with the throttle.
The type of car that knows when to be serious and when to hang it loose. On the wrong side of the kerbs or well within the lines, you come out grinning, believing wholeheartedly you’re the master of car control – how does this modest looking thing with an engine the size of a hatchback thrill more than cars that cost double?
It’s a jolly fabulous engine but ultimately sings from the same hymn sheet as everything else. To jazz it up, features like Sport Response (which unleashes 20 seconds of gearbox and engine fury) has allowed engineers to be creative with the power delivery but the engine has stepped back from being the main event.
The 718 Boxster S is still the one to buy but you won’t be doing so for any other reason than the additional power. Visually Boxster S receives red calipers but there’s no badging to point out – in fact you can choose any combination of badging you want from 718/Boxster/blank. And if you don’t want the oval-shaped pipe, you can order the double-barrelled Sports exhaust.
A few new comfort features in the cabin have pushed the weight up slightly but in a convertible we’re not going to moan about some extra sound deadening or bracing. For the first time, the Boxster’s cabin feels modern and connected. Porsche’s adage is to never compromise involvement but call us a new breed of sportscar lovers who crave items like Apple CarPlay and responsive touchscreens. And we like to be able to select driving modes off the steering wheel’s new rotary switch divided into Normal, Sport, Sport+ and Individual.
A conflicted verdict on this new Porsche 718 Boxster. If fuel consumption and carbon emissions weren’t such unavoidable requirements, would Porsche have gone with the smaller engine?
What you gain in some areas you lose in others and all the brand can aim to do is build a better car than the current competition. Under that view, 718 remains the benchmark. The car never looks at itself in the mirror and sees a junior Porsche staring back – it will test all skill levels, speak your language and invite you into a prestigious circle bound by motorsport success.
The Porsche 718 Boxster will arrive in South Africa in May, followed later in the year by the 718 Cayman. Price parity will cover both models.
Porsche 718 Boxster: R868 000
Porsche 718 Boxster S: R947 000
Both models come with a 3-year Drive Plan but can be upgraded to a 5-year plan