The Boxster used to be the runt of the Porsche family.
Engine: 2.5L turbo boxer 4-cylinder
Power: 350 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 7-speed PDK or 6-speed manual
EPA Fuel Economy (MPG): 21, city, 28 hwy, 24 combined (PDK)
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 11 city, 8.4 hwy (PDK)
US Price: Starts at $68,400
CAN Price: Starts at $78,000, $101,895 as tested
When it first came out in 1996, I remember my Porschephile dad dismissing it as a lousy entry model for people who couldn’t afford a 911. Ouch. As time went by, the Boxster became more and more legit, slowly winning over skeptical enthusiasts with performance that started to step on the toes of its 911 big brother. But with the return of the 718 name, those same enthusiasts reacted to the news of a four-cylinder engine the same way you’d react when you look into a stroller and see an ugly baby: A mix of shock and pity.
But the 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster S doesn’t need your pity because it’s not the ugly baby of the family. People who were worried about a four-cylinder engine ruining the Boxster need to calm the hell down because this 718 is as much of a sports car as it ever was, and maybe even more so. Even with a four-cylinder engine, the Boxster S is one of the most legit sports cars you can buy.
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Let’s Talk Turbo
About 12 inches behind the driver, the S model has a turbocharged 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder with output rated at 350 horsepower and 309 pound-feet of torque. The regular 718 Boxster has a 2.0-liter turbo four. Half a liter more displacement and a few other upgrades means the S gets 50 more horsepower and 29 more pound-feet of torque than the regular Boxster.
Although this Boxster S is down two cylinders compared to the previous-gen model, it has more torque and more horsepower, so the car does feel more energetic. The old one didn’t exactly have a speed problem to begin with, but the difference is that the torque is much more usable because it’s available much earlier on and during a much wider range.
Max torque is available from 1,900 rpm all the way to 4,500 rpm, but it doesn’t feel like it drops off at the higher end like so many turbos do. Except for a wee bit of initial turbo lag, it pulls strong the whole way through no matter what gear you’re in. No, the power isn’t as linear as the naturally aspirated flat six, but you’ll still be impressed by the Boxster S’s turn of speed.
It Still Sounds Savage
Turbos generally won’t sound as good as naturally aspirated cars, fine. But Porsche has worked some magic with this engine because when equipped with the optional sport exhaust, it is one of the most savage sounding four-cylinder engines I’ve ever heard. I drove it almost exclusively in Sport or Sport+ mode with the sport exhaust activated because it made the 718 sound like the legit sports car it is. Even at idle, it’s addictive.
A lot of people are saying it sounds like a Subaru. WRONG. It sounds like a Porsche. It hits a lot of the same tones the flat six did, perhaps not as loudly, but my god, vicious is the only way I can describe it. The way it cracks and burbles is exactly what I look for when evaluating how a sports car should sound. The only issue with this fierce sounding exhaust is that stop-start becomes really obnoxious. I just turn it off.
How Does She Drive?
Our tester had Porsche’s snappy seven-speed PDK, but, thankfully, you can still get it with three pedals. Although the PDK is smoother, quicker and more fuel efficient, I’d still want the manual every single day because it’s more engaging, but it’s also $3,200 cheaper. Still, even with the PDK, the Boxster is entirely involving to drive.
With that PDK, the Boxster S is capable of getting to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, which is actually faster than a base 911. Add on the optional Sport Chrono package, and it shaves the time to four seconds flat. A fun cue taken right out of the 918, the circular drive mode selector on the steering wheel also has a button in the middle that acts like a “push to pass” feature. When you push it, it gives you maximum responsiveness for 20 seconds so you have all the car’s prowess to pull off a quick pass. It’s fun to use and the countdown in the gauge cluster makes it feel even more like a video game.
Although the rear-wheel-drive Boxster S feels as balanced as it ever did, the back end feels more planted — it feels like you have more control and it’s more difficult for the rear wheels to break loose (unless you really want to), so it’s more well-behaved. You can just dive into a corner, and it feels so confident and you know you’ll have the traction and grip to keep pushing it. The way it handles hits every single sports car hallmark.
The steering is also a lot quicker than it used to be and uses the same setup a the 911, so it’s responsive, delicate and accurate. It’s perfectly weighted and communicative, so it a huge factor in what makes the drive so entertaining and engaging. The S gets upgraded brakes over the regular Boxster (the same ones in the 911), and they’re fantastic. The S also comes with a useful brake hold feature that you activate by pushing down on the brake all the way when you’re at a stop light or stuck in traffic so you don’t mistakenly roll forward.
It Looks Sexier Than Ever (and It’s Practical!)
During my week with the Guards Red Boxster S, I was shocked by how many people stared, did double takes, talked to me at stoplights, yelled praises at me while driving by and asked me to rev it. People driving 911s looked jealous, dude bros in slammed Golfs were impressed, people gave me thumbs up, and onlookers were generally smitten.
The Boxster definitely isn’t a supercar, but I think people can sense supercar vibes. They see a lot of 918 influence in the design, enormous shiny rims, and they hear the crazy sounds coming from it and they know it’s something special. This is a huge feat because although Porsche says every single body panel on this 718 is different from the previous one, to most people, it pretty much looks the same, but that’s not a bad thing.
I’m also going to argue that this is a practical sports car: There is 5.3 cu.-ft. of space in the deep frunk (front trunk) and 4.4 cu.-ft. in the rear for a combined 9.7 cubic feet. No you won’t be able to go to Ikea and buy furniture, but that’s more space than pretty much any other sports car. As a test (don’t try this at home, professional on a closed course here), I climbed into the front trunk and was able to close the hood – you can fit a whole Jodi-sized adult in there.
Inside is also well done, although I wish the buttons used less plastic and that Porsche didn’t use so many “dead buttons” to remind us of all the features we didn’t get. It’s not a terribly fanciful interior with a lot of flourish, but it makes sense, is comfortable and is well built. I love the fact that the touchscreen is very responsive and that I don’t have to deal with a rotary knob to use the infotainment system.
The power top is also quick to retract and put back up, and can even be operated while the car is still in motion. With the top up, blind spots can be a bit of an issue, but the top should probably always be down any way.
The Price Problem
Here’s the one bad thing I have to say about the new 718: It’s not cheap. It actually starts out as quite the bargain, but Porsche loves to charge you out the wazoo for optional extras, so it’s terrifyingly easy for a 718 Boxster S to surpass the six-figure threshold. While I’d normally just recommend slashing the options, a lot of these extras are stuff you actually want like the sport exhaust, PDK, navigation, suspension management, and the Sport Chrono package.
In the U.S., the Boxster S starts at $68,400, but built to be just how I wanted it, the price ballooned to more than $105,000, which is 911 territory. That’s a lot of money for a car with four-cylinders, no matter how good it is, and that’s this car’s biggest problem.
My Big Dilemma
The Jaguar F-Type was my lottery car, but now that the 718 is here, I’m torn — I don’t know which one I would buy if I had the funds. With the Jag, you have a unique and gorgeous style and an incredibly sexy sound, but performance and interior that isn’t at Porsche levels. With the 718 S, you have better performance and a higher-quality build, but it doesn’t sound as good as the F-Type and perhaps isn’t as unique or dead sexy.
I’m leaning toward the Boxster S because it is more engaging to drive, feels more responsive and is slightly more practical because of the front trunk. Then again, an all-wheel drive F-Type would make a great winter car, too! But truth be told, I’d have a 718 Boxster S or Cayman S over a 911 any day, so all I have to decide when my winning numbers come up is F-Type or 718. Or maybe I’ll win enough money to buy both …
The Verdict: 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster S Review
I’m convinced that the misguided people who complain about the 718 are crazy and either didn’t drive it or are just somewhat crotchety people who miss carburetors and air-cooled engines. This car is better in every single way than the one that came before it, even though it is down two cylinders.
The 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster S sounds amazing, drives even better, and remains one of the best and most genuinely engaging and gratifying sports cars you can buy right now. Best of all, the 718 was also approved by my Porsche-snob dad, so if that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.
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