The Porsche Boxster is back with sleek looks, a strong engine and sharp handling. Alvin Thomas takes it for a spin.
There was a time in the world when the word “turbo” meant fast and powerful. Back when I was growing up, the word was so prevalent that it would be written on toys, clothes, mugs, and even vacuum cleaners! So to me, “turbo” was all that I would ever need in a car.
Today, however, things are a bit different: the word “turbo” on a car translates to “efficiency” – lowering fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. So when I was taking the keys to Porsche’s latest (and first) turbocharged iteration of the Boxster – the 718 Boxster S – I was none too sceptical.
Growing up, I had grown to adore the Boxster – its sports car pedigree and throaty exhaust note produced by the in-line six-cylinder engine – was simply glorious. Today, however, Porsche claim that their choice to go the turbocharging route is not only to maximise efficiency but also to kick dust on their predecessors.
So, have they done that? Keep reading to find out.
But before we delve into the drive, let’s begin with the looks of the 718 Boxster S. From the outside, for the first time ever, the 718 Boxster looks truly unique. Granted, it still looks as distinctive as a Porsche, but with its newly redesigned 918-esque headlamps with the embedded LED-light patterns and redesigned bumpers, the 718 Boxster S looks nothing short of menacing.
My test car, which was finished in yellow, was particularly striking to look at, and even more eye-catching when on the move – especially with the electrically operated soft-top stored back in the boot.
Inside, the 718 is fairly reminiscent of the Macan we had tested a while back, which is a good thing. It is a marvellous place to be in, with surprisingly comfortable sport-bucket seats and soft-touch materials all around the cabin. All the areas your legs and hand would touch are padded in leather. Surprisingly, the car is quite spacious – for both the driver and the passenger – and there’s enough leg and head room for both. Unlike most sports cars, it’s also very easy to get in and out of.
The soul of the 718 Boxster S is a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder motor, which is placed bang in the middle of the car, and pumps out an astonishing 350hp and 420Nm of torque. Of course, there’s no pun, when I say “soul” because the engine is an absolute gem, and it sounds (admittedly, surprisingly) very good.
Yes, Porsche’s decision to drop two cylinders may have left Porsche purists begging for the old flat-six screamer from 2012 but this engine is more purposeful than show, as it knocks-out the old engine by 40-odd horsepower.
All of this, along with the PDK transmission and sports chrono package allowed me to charge from 0-100kph in just 4.5 seconds! The gearshifts are extremely smooth (again, surprisingly), even when you take control of them manually.
There’s a sense of urgency in the shifts, even when you let the car take control of things but at no point does the power and torque feel like a handful, thanks to the brilliant electronic nannies that work hard to keep you from going into a tank-slapper (awkward drift).
But because the Porsche 718 Boxster S is a mid-engine sports car, the chassis is quite stiff and well sorted, even though there’s no metal roof that provides additional rigidity. Therefore, you can take corners like a real racing driver (even if you’re an ox, like me). The steering, even though it is electric, really manages to communicate with you, as if it were actually like a real hydraulic setup.
Because of all this, you can take corners at extraordinary speeds. Things are kept a bit mellow – but sharp – if you keep the car in ‘O’ (normal) mode. But switching things into ‘S’ (Sport) and ‘S+’ (Sport Plus) sharpens things up even further. I’m guessing that this also relaxes the traction and electronic stability controls, because, now, the car turns into an absolute animal (maybe a cheetah or something).
Doing this stiffens up the suspension and quickens the steering, gearshift and throttle response to help you make the most out of the power and torque at any given moment.
The handling in ‘S+’ is absolutely phenomenal. The car takes sharp and tight corners flat, with no understeer or tyre squeal whatsoever. Of course, if you are planning on unsettling the car, you can poke it with a stick (by giving more throttle). Doing this lets you drift into corners like nothing else out there.
Even then, the steering is incredibly precise, and there’s no chance of you messing up and ending up in an embarrassing spin or a cloud of your own dust. If things do get a bit out of hand, the clever traction control will sort things out for you.
Drifting in the Boxster S is still a very civilised affair. There’s none of that tyre smoking and donut-making drama like you find on American muscle cars.
Also included in the car was a “Sport Response” button, which kicks up the turbocharger for an added boost for a period of 20 seconds. I reckon this could be useful on the track if you plan on racing your machine someday. To be completely honest, I didn’t require it, because there’s always plenty of power on tap. And if you take control of the gear shifts manually, you could also eliminate the possibility of any turbo-lag. Unlike most turbocharged vehicles, the engine also screams onto 7,000rpm.
I still remember there was a time people saw the 718 Boxster S as a toned-down version of the bigger and beefier 911. But in truth, this car is nothing like the 911. It’s a true-bred full-on sports car, which can unsettle all its European and American rivals, and then go on to give supercars a run for their money on the track.