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In their search for more performance from fewer resources, engineers at Porsche have delivered what is agonizingly close to an unqualified success with the 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster S. With this all-new roadster, there are two numbers to consider: the “718” in the name harkens back to the 1957 Porsche 718 RSK (which went on to win Le Mans); and, “4”, the number of cylinders both 718s use to power performance.
In the case of the 718 RSK, the engine was a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre four-cylinder boxer; meanwhile, the 718 Boxster S employs a turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder boxer. (To continue this theme, the base 718 Boxster features a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder of the same configuration.) Despite having two fewer cylinders than the outgoing Boxster S, the new model boasts more horsepower (350 in total), more torque (310 lb-ft), better acceleration and better fuel efficiency.
But there’s more to the latest convertible from Porsche than just engine performance – this car is entirely new, apart from the trunk lid, windshield and soft-top.
To ensure the 718 Boxster S is more driveable in all sorts of conditions, including stop-and-go traffic, it employs an advanced turbocharger design created for the latest Porsche 911 Turbo. To compensate for the increased power of the engine, the 718 comes standard with larger brakes. To give it more direct steering, the new car uses the steering rack from the Porsche 911. To help it carve corners with greater alacrity, the rear tires are 0.5 inches wider than the fronts. To top it all off, the Boxster is available with Porsche’s PASM sport suspension (and a 20-mm lower ride height) for the first time.
The net effect of all these changes made an impact during a day’s drive through the countryside outside Lisbon and some closed-course runs at a military base in a town called Ota. The 718 Boxster S proved quick and nimble. The PDK dual-clutch seven-speed automatic is brilliant; the six-speed manual may be even more so. The handling of the mid-engine Porsche is fantastic; even on the airfield tarmac, a cracked surface that was littered with sand and stones, the 718 on the optional 20-inch wheels dug into corners with raw tenacity.
But despite all its brilliant qualities, the Porsche 718 Boxster S is not the perfect convertible. With the top down, there’s significant wind buffeting. With the top up or down, it’s noisy inside. Another issue: Much of that noise, which comes from the turbo 4, is not nearly as satisfying as the roar created by the old six-cylinder boxer engine. For this reason alone, the 718 Boxster S may not resonate with the purists. But for those willing to set aside old prejudices in favour of a new kind of open-top motoring experience, this roadster represents an inspired ride.
You’ll like this car if ... You like your driving experiences pure and undiluted.
Base price: $78,000 (718 Boxster: $63,900)
Engine: Turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder
Transmission/Drive: Six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic/rear-wheel drive
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): Manual – 10.7 city, 6.5 highway; 8.1 combined; automatic – 9.5 city; 6.0 highway; 7.3 combined (New European Driving Cycle figures)
Alternatives: Audi TT-RS, BMZ Z4, Jaguar F-Type, Mercedes-AMG SLC, Porsche Cayman S, Porsche 911 Carrera Convertible
Looks: The shape of the car hasn’t changed all that much, but it has been enhanced by larger front air intakes, double-vane side air intakes, new headlights and clear glass tail lights.
Interior: If the driver manages to wedge him or herself behind the wheel, they will discover a well-tailored environment that places a sharp focus on all the critical controls.
Performance: The new 718 has posted a 16-second gain around the Nürburgring Nordschleife compared to the previous version. That’s a big improvement for a car with a smaller displacement engine.
Technology: A car such as this doesn’t require a great sound system, semi-autonomous driving systems or even Bluetooth connectivity. So these systems aren’t the focus of this roadster.
Cargo: Weekend getaway bags? No problem. A set of golf clubs? Problem. Skis? Bigger problem.
More power, more torque, better fuel efficiency, better braking – what’s not to like?
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.
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