2017 Porsche 718 Boxster review, test drive
31st Mar 2017 12:15 pm
It’s got a small, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine alright, but don’t jump to conclusions about the Porsche 718 Boxster’s abilities.
What is it?
Porsche’s dynamically gifted mid-engined convertible gets a big update – a smaller engine. The glorious naturally aspirated flat-sixes of the earlier Boxster have made way for turbocharged flat-fours. This dramatic change of heart is all part of Porsche’s grand drive towards better emissions and efficiency. India only gets the ‘standard’ Boxster with a 2.0-litre engine; the Boxster S with the larger and more powerful 2.5-litre engine is not on sale here. But before you go up in arms, have a look at the numbers. The new 2.0 flat-four makes a strong 300hp at 6,500rpm and 380Nm from 1,950-4,500rpm, figures that compare well with the old 981 Boxster S (India only got the S) and its 3.4-litre flat-six's 315hp at 6,700rpm and 360Nm from 4,500-5,800rpm. New engine apart, the 718 Boxster gets a retuned suspension and quicker steering, as well as styling tweaks inside and out.
The basic look is the same as the older car but Porsche says only the hood, windscreen and fabric roof (it takes all of 9sec to fold/unfold) are common between the 981 and 718. Still, the bi-xenon headlights with the four-point LED DRLs and larger air intake on the front bumper are the only things that really stand out as new at the front. At the rear, the reshaped LED lights with their own four-point brake lights will catch your attention first but the tail is rounder and visual width is enhanced by the dark strip that links the lights. It’s not the most dramatic of designs but the Boxster is small, tight and just right.
What’s it like on the inside?
You sit low in a Boxster but outside visibility is surprisingly good making it easy to place the car. The cabin on the 718 has been updated but it doesn’t give the same feeling of newness as you get in an Audi TT. The air-con vents are slightly different, the steering wheel is from the 918 supercar and there’s a nice-to-use, new touchscreen that’s thankfully part of standard equipment. You will have to spend big for a better sound system or sportier seats but that’s just the sad reality of doing up your Porsche. The stock seats hold you well but only the driver’s perch gets electric adjust. Porsche will have to rethink the spare wheel position too. The space saver is oddly positioned just behind the passenger seat, to accommodate which the backrest can’t be fully reclined nor can the seat be taken back. Frankly, the passenger seat is all but unusable with the spare in place. Perhaps the front luggage compartment (there’s another one aft the engine) under the bonnet could host the spare but would Porsche want to compromise the Boxster’s delicate weight balance?
What’s it like to drive?
First impressions of the small new engine aren’t particularly positive. Idle is a bit gruff and the engine sounds mechanical and borderline clattery at low speeds. But these lesser points become inconsequential the moment you drive the Boxster as a Boxster.
The first bootful of throttle will push you hard into the seat; the 718’s 4.9sec 0-100kph time makes it over half a second quicker than the 981 S to the ton, and it’s faster than its predecessor until 200kph too. As you’d have guessed, it’s the turbo and the thick band of max torque available from under 2,000rpm that makes all the difference. Power doesn’t build in a crescendo-like manner as it did in the old car. What you get here is a hint of turbo lag followed by a strong, sustained thrust from low in the rev range until about 7,500rpm. For reference, the old car revved until 7,800rpm. Where the Boxsters old and new also differ greatly is how they sound on their journey up to the limiter. The characteristic rasps and snarls of the flat-six are obviously missing, and in their place is a rorty, boomy note with pops on the overrun for added effect. The whole sound experience is, well, different. Not bad, just different.
What hasn’t changed, though, is the Boxster’s handling. The 718 is just sublime around corners. There’s a brilliant sense of connection with the car through the steering, pedals and paddles (or gear lever), the front wheels do exactly as commanded and the overall sensation is of being in a car that pivots around the driver. Seriously few sportcars on sale in India put the driver in the heart of the action like a Boxster does. And because you are such an integral part of the experience, the Boxster doesn’t intimidate even at the silly speeds it can hold through corners. Grip levels are amazing, there are no exaggerated movements from the body and even the brakes are beautifully calibrated. Importantly, the Boxster doesn’t get unsettled by mid-corner bumps, and ride quality and ground clearance are fairly good for what is a stiff sportscar. The Boxster is a razor-sharp precision tool you can use every day.
As ever, the brilliant seven-speed dual-clutch PDK gearbox is a key part of the package and ensures you are always where you want to be in the powerband. It’s super quick in shifts, ultra responsive to manual inputs and very lenient in how it lets you downshift to the limiter.
Should I buy one?
There will be many to whom the new 718 Boxster’s four-cylinder engine will be a deal breaker. Our advice to this lot would be to think of the 718 Boxster as an exceptional sportscar that just happens to be powered by a small engine. Because that’s exactly what it is. It’s as quick and as sharp as you’d expect a Boxster to be. Sure, the 718 is a smidgen less evocative than its naturally aspirated predecessor but buy one and you’re sure to love it to bits.
What’s more, thanks to the smaller engine, the 718 Boxster has qualified for tax breaks on imported cars with engines smaller than 3,000cc, and the net result is that Porsche has been able to price it more aggressively. Yes, at Rs 85.53 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the 718 Boxster is expensive in absolute terms but the price still makes it a good Rs 25 lakh cheaper than the last Boxster S! In short, if you can, you must.