Porsche’s brutish new Boxster packs a whole lot of punch
Porsche’s best roadster just got better, faster and angrier, writes Michael Taylor
There are few cars more compelling to people who love to drive than a Porsche Boxster. Sure, the great unwashed can deride them as soft Porsches, until you persuade them to join you for a mountain blast.
As ever, Porsche walked a fine line with the 718 Boxster and Boxster S, ensuring the badge’s traditional balance between power and poise remained unmolested and exquisite.
And now here it is with the standard car’s niggling criticism taken care of. The 718 Boxster GTS delivers more power and an angrier exhaust note and, to keep the game fair, its suspension has been lowered 10mm to add grip, too, mostly to cover off Porsche’s Active Suspension Management system.
The same stuff has happened inside its hardtop twin, the 718 Cayman GTS, too, with both arriving in SA in April 2018.
Porsche has added a bigger compressor wheel to the variable-geometry turbocharger, rammed the maximum boost pressure up to 1.3 bar (up from 1.1) and cleaned up the intake manifold, punching an extra 11kW out of the 2.5l flat four.
Those 11kW will cost you though. In SA the extra two letters of the GTS mean a R172,000 step up from the Boxster S. Porsche says it’s worth it, but it’s a big jump and you’ll have to decide for yourself.
For us, there’s plenty of value in the new engine tuning and it goes a long way beyond just the 11kW. It’s the noise. Where the noise from the 718 Boxster S’s flat four distracts and detracts from the magnificent work of the chassis, it has now improved. A bit.
A hard-pressed GTS now sounds angry, snarling and sometimes it’s downright nasty, but in a good way because it’s working for you, not against you. So there’s that. It’s brilliantly flexible at urban and overtaking speeds, but is at its happiest barking out snappily from 4,500r/min up to its redline.
The downside is that while its delivery has improved, it’s never going to convince anybody it is as distinguished, sophisticated, linear and capable of performing even the most odious tasks effortlessly, like the old six.
For everything it has lost in the move to four cylinders (and speed isn’t one of them), the engine still weighs almost the same thanks to two turbochargers. The 718 Boxster GTS, with four cylinders, weighs 1,405kg, which is 30kg heavier than the old, six-cylinder GTS. And that’s just sad. On the upside, it’s the same weight as the hardtop Cayman GTS, so it gets a folding roof for free.
If there’s an upside to the engine switcheroo, it’s torque, along with the when and where of the torque. The GTS delivers 430Nm from 1,900 revs to 5,000 revs, but only if it’s bolted to the optional seven-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission. (Anyone plumping for the more engaging, but slower, six-speed manual only gets 420Nm, but up to 5,500revs). For all of that, it’s just a tenth of a second quicker to 100km/h than the stock Boxster S, getting there in 4.3 seconds with a PDK ’box and 4.6 seconds as a manual.
Fortunately, straight-line sprinting has never been the only arrow in the Boxster’s quiver, because punching much harder than this would turn the powertrain from a seamlessly integrated piece of a package into its dominant feature, and that’s never been the Boxster/Cayman way.
It feels tremendously strong, though, anywhere, all the time. It can be left in taller gears to add stability in bumpy bends without losing any pace, because peak torque is already pumping through at 1,900 revs. It’s never been short of grip or poise, but the extra torque adds to the car’s ability to ooze its exquisite chassis through a series of bumpy corners at astonishing speed.
The engine isn’t the only downgrade from the old Boxster, but it’s almost as critical.
No other car for anything near this money delivers this kind of point-to-point brilliance and joy and handling purity.
The steering has lost its intimacy and its nuance. It’s accurate and beautifully weighted and its rack ratio is perfectly chosen for the rest of the chassis’ performance, but its feedback is minimised, where it was once detailed and full of nuanced detail.
And that’s about the end of things you can criticise fairly with this car.
There are some subtle changes in the styling, including a bigger diffuser, black tints on the lights, black tailpipes to mark the end of the standard sports exhaust and it’s even had a little tickle on the front bumper bar.
There’s more to see too, with some black GTS badges low on the doors, 235/35 front and 265/35 rear rubber wrapping around black 20-inch alloys and the interior is pretty schmick.
There are the two firm-fitting seats, a beautifully vertical steering wheel and two drink holders that, on our car, flopped around in corners (though previous Boxsters with this setup were fixed firmly in place) and either two or three perfectly placed pedals in the footwell.
But the real highlight is, as always, the chassis and the handling and the poise. It’s a glorious car; a piece of engineering as comprehensive as it is balanced and a car that keeps delivering long after common sense suggests it should be all over.
No other car for anything near this money delivers this kind of point-to-point brilliance and joy and handling purity. It’s ferociously strong under braking. It turns in with an unavoidable glee and rides mid-corner bumps so effortlessly that it’s always a shock to see how much speed you’re carrying across apexes. And then the mid-engine location and the mechanical limited slip diff helps it to punch out of bends using every scrap of engine performance available to it.
The new adaptive dampers have made it an even better handler, without compromising its comfort in town. It flows so beautifully you feel like it’s oozing its way through even the toughest roads and bends.
Extend too far, finally, and the stability management works so effectively that plenty of buyers won’t even realise they’ve been saved by the most seamless system out there. It will let you feel a gentle hint of understeer before using every trick at its disposal to hit the line again, with barely reduced speed.
It’s a brilliant car, but it’s a big financial ask to step up from the 718 Boxster S that is already a brilliant car. And if this car still ran a smooth, buttery six-cylinder engine, there’s no doubt we’d be scoring it even higher.