2017 Porsche 718 Boxster
One of the world’s best sports cars just got better
For 2017, Porsche has bestowed the 718 prefix for both the Boxster and Cayman models. The brand has mined their rich history of racing to come up with the 718 for the twins, resurrected from a winning bunch of mid-engined, four cylinder powered cars going all the way back to the 1960’s.
Did you say four cylinder?
We sure did, and that’s the biggest storyline for model year 2017. In a never ending quest to keep up with government mandated emissions targets and tightening fuel economy targets, Porsche has followed in the steps of so many automotive brands by ditching larger, normally aspirated engines in favour of turbocharged smaller displacement units. Normally, you’d take a sip of your coffee and keep reading with minimal interest; this downsizing is not news these days. But this is Porsche we’re talking about, and they happen to make some of the best six cylinder engines money can buy. In the Boxster/Cayman’s case, they are particularly decadent, offering good power and a soundtrack that is amongst the best in the entire automotive kingdom. Sure, you have to swing the tach needle a good bit to the right to access the sweet spot of the engine’s power, but that is one of the more rewarding chores asked of a driver in the automotive kingdom. The last time we tested a Boxster with the 3.4 litre flat six we’d go out of our way to utilize driving routes wherever we could that featured as many underpasses as possible. If you like your horizontally opposed engine blocks with six holes, the pre-owned market is the only way you can pair those engines with the Boxtster/Cayman twins. Like any major change Porsche makes to its cars, it’s been met with a loud chorus of outrage by fans.
Is the switch to four cylinder turbos really a bad thing?
A Porsche purist would tell you that these new engines are basically signalling the beginning of Armageddon, but that’s quite the exaggeration. Progress isn’t always met with unanimous acceptance with this bunch- remember the incessant growling when the Cayenne was introduced- but after spending a week with the 718, we actually became quite fond of the new engine family. The 2.0 litre flat four turbo (there’s a 2.5 litre version in the 718 Boxster S) makes 300 horsepower and 280 pound feet of torque, upgrades of 39 and 73 respectably over the 2.7 litre six cylinder engine it replaces. It’s pretty hard to get steamed over an engine that gives you more power and greater efficiency over the ones it replaces. It also gives the lightweight car a newfound urgency when squirting out of corners, harnessing a praiseworthy linear rush of turbocharged torque. This low down truculence at lower engine speeds no longer requires you to rev the daylights out of the motor, and the payoff for doing so is diminished slightly because these new four cylinders don’t have the same top end rush as before. As far as the sound goes, well, some will like the new noises the 718 makes and some will not. Admittedly, it took us a while to warm to the engine’s new score, but after a while it grew on us and we began to enjoy it. We came to the conclusion that if you’d never experienced the old six bangers and this new version of the 718 was your only frame of reference, you’d have zero complaints about what Porsche is putting in the engine bay.
How does it drive?
We know there isn’t such thing as a perfect car, but the 718 Boxster comes close. OK, so despite the two trunks there is not much room to carry stuff, and being a pricey two seater won’t make it a fitting choice for taking the family along. It’s also pretty low and will demand that you climb up steeper driveways gingerly. But with all that being said, the Boxster is a sports car, and it pulls that feat off incredibly well. Take the steering, for example. The rack is swiped from the 911 Turbo and even though it’s electronically assisted, it still offers laser guided precision and great feedback. Attention all automakers: if you need a benchmark when tuning your own electric systems, look no further. The excellent path control should also be credited to the chassis, which is a masterpiece. It turns in and attacks corners with tenacity but won’t beat you up when you just want to commute, despite 19” wheels and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) in Sport mode. It’s sense of solidity and balance is superb and you can clearly see why Porsche has always tried to restrain this setup from overtaking the 911 in terms of driving enjoyment. The 718 is equally gifted in the braking department, offering the same rotor and calipers as last year’s Boxster S that are resolute against the slightest signs of fade and are managed by a pleasingly hard pedal. And although our curmudgeonly obvious choice would have to be a manual gearbox, our tester’s PDK 7-speed dual clutch transmission made an awfully convincing argument for itself, zapping from gear to gear with an uninterrupted flow in power, both on upshifts and down. Sure, shifting for yourself is rewarding and fun, but try not to be impressed how eerily telepathic it is in fully automatic mode. It simply is never caught out in the wrong gear, no matter the situation. When it’s time to tone things down, it shifts smoothly and will try to put itself in 7th gear wherever possible to save fuel. So while perfection will always remain elusive, the 718 gets pretty close. Also, to our eyes, this is the best looking Boxster ever- Porsche has really nailed the styling on this generation. The interior is a great place to spend time, apex shredding or otherwise- comfortable seats, excellent driving position, snappy infotainment system- but we hardly noticed because we were too busy having fun driving the thing.
What might go wrong?
With a price tag over $80,000 it might be hard to justify- harder still if you start piling on the options which can push that figure well over the $100K mark. Our solution: skip stuff like ceramic brakes ($8,450) and colour keyed ignition key ($560). There are others who will incessantly complain about the turbo four’s audio signature (we get it; the outgoing six cylinder engines will be achingly missed) but perhaps like us they’ll grow to relish it over time.
Should I buy a 718 Boxster?
If you like driving, yes, you certainly should.
2017 Porsche 718 Boxster- Specifications
- Price as tested: $82,545
- Body Type: 2-door, 2 passenger convertible
- Powertrain Layout: Mid-engine/rear-wheel drive
- Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic (PDK)
- Engine: 2.0 turbocharged inline-four, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 300 @ 6,500 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 280 @ 1,950-4,500 rpm
- Curb weight: 1,365 kg (3,009 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 10.8/100km (22 mpg)