There was a time when the word ‘turbo’ meant fast and powerful – and, to me, that was all I would ever need in a car. Today, its meaning has shifted slightly to indicate vehicle efficiency – lowering fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. So, when I was taking the keys to Porsche’s latest (and first) turbo-charged iteration of the Boxster – the 718 Boxster S – I was none too skeptical.
Growing up, I’d come to adore the Boxster – its sports car pedigree and throaty exhaust note produced by an in-line six-cylinder engine was simply glorious. Now, Porsche claims their choice to go the turbo-charging route is not only to maximize efficiency, but also to kick dust on their predecessors.
So, have they done that? Let’s find out.
Form meets function
Before we delve into the drive, let’s begin with the look of the 718 Boxster S. From the outside, for the first time ever, the new model looks truly unique. Granted, it’s still as distinctive as a Porsche, but with its newly redesigned 918-esque headlamps with the embedded LED-light patterns and re-designed 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 in the boot.
Inside, the 718 is reminiscent of the Macan we tested a while back, which is a good thing. It’s got comfortable sport-bucket seats and soft-touch materials all around the cabin, padded in leather. Surprisingly, the car is quite spacious – for both driver and passenger – and there’s enough leg- and head-room for both. Unlike most sports cars, it’s also easy to get in and out of.
The soul of the 718 Boxster S is its 2.5-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder motor, which is placed bang in the middle of the car and pumps out an astonishing 350hp and 420Nm of torque. 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 about purpose 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).
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’s electric, really manages to communicate with you, as if it were actually a real hydraulic setup.
With all of 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. Switching 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.
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 tire squeal whatsoever. Of course, if you’re 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 civilized affair; there’s none of that tire 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 turbo-charger for an added boost for a period of 20 seconds. This could be useful on the track if you plan on racing your machine. To be completely honest, I didn’t require it because there’s always plenty of power on-tap. If you take control of the gearshifts manually, you also eliminate the possibility of any turbo-lag. Unlike most turbo-charged 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 go on to give super-cars a run for their money on the track.
Porsche Boxster S Specifications
- Engine: 2.5-litre turbo-charged flat four-cylinder
- Transmission: Seven-speed ‘PDK’ auto-manual
- Horsepower: 350hp
- Torque: 420Nm
Porsche Boxster S Features
- Rear-wheel drive
- ESC and Traction Control
- Retractable fabric roof
- HID headlights
- Bose audio system
- Sport Chrono package