YEP, THE PORSCHE BOXTER IS TURBOCHARGED AND HAS JUST FOUR CYLINDERS NOW. But no, neither of these things are new for Porsche.
Granted, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a turbocharged four-cylinder Porsche in showrooms - you have to cast your mind back to the mid-90s and recall the 968 Turbo.
But a mid-mounted turbo flat-four... that's a new concept for the brand.
And given these new turbo fours, a 2.0 and a 2.5 litre, replace a pair of much-loved naturally-aspirated flat-sixes, many will be no doubt curious about what effect the adoption of turbo power has had on the character Porsche’s entry-level roadster.
We travelled to sunny Queensland to play with the freshly turbo-fied Boxster range, and can verify that while the changes are obvious and far-reaching, these are changes for the better.
Vehicle Style: Sports convertible
Price: $113,100 (Boxster manual) to $148,390 (Boxster S PDK)
Boxster - 220kW/380Nm 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol flat four | 6sp manual/7sp auto
Boxster S - 257kW/420Nm 2.5 litre turbocharged petrol flat four | 6sp manual/7sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.9 l/100km (Boxster PDK), 7.3 l/100km (Boxster S PDK) | tested: 9.4 l/100km (Boxster S manual)
The Boxster has been with us in its present shape for four years now, launching internationally in 2012 carrying the ‘981’ model code and powered by a 195kW/280Nm 2.7-litre naturally aspirated flat-six in the base Boxster and a 232kW/360Nm 3.4 litre flat-six in the Boxster S.
For 2016 the engine compartment looks radically different, and the model designation has changed to suit.
Instead of the 2.7-litre, there’s a 220kW/380Nm 2.0-litre flat four, and the 3.4-litre six has been usurped by a 257kW/420Nm 2.5 litre four.
Not only that, but every exterior panel bar the bonnet, windscreen frame and bootlid is different, reshaped for better aero performance as well as to give the 718 an aesthetic point of difference over its 981 predecessor.
That rump-spanning black bar with inset ‘Porsche’ script is the biggest tell-tale sign that you’re looking at a 718.
It’s much more than a 981 with a new set of engines, as much of the rear structure and suspension has been modified to suit the 718’s newfound muscle. So, although largely similar externally (and that interior is mostly carryover), the 718 is highly evolved from its naturally-aspirated predecessor.
- Standard equipment: Power fabric roof, dusk-sensing bi-xenon headlamps, LED tail lamps, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, power seats, trip computer (with 4.6” colour display in instrument panel).
- Infotainment: Satellite navigation with touchscreen display, six-speaker audio, bluetooth phone and audio integration, Apple CarPlay integration, USB audio input
- Cargo volume: 150L front, 125L rear
The big changes in here are limited to a new 375mm steering wheel, round rather than rectangular central air-vents, a repositioned Sport Chrono clock/laptimer and standard Porsche Communication Management infotainment system with Apple CarPlay integration for the first time.
A digital radio tuner is standard along with sat-nav, Bluetooth phone/audio integration and voice controls, and an even smaller/sportier 360mm diameter “GT Sport” steering wheel can be optioned.
Five new interior colours are also available, should you want a brighter cockpit than the standard black-on-black configuration.
Everything else is familiar, and that’s fine with us. The standard electrically-adjustable seats offer excellent support, and the relationship between wheel, shifter and pedals is spot-on for a sports car.
Being a mid-engined two-seater there’s naturally a limit to how far back the driver’s seat can travel, but there’s more than enough adjustment to accommodate tall adults.
Up front there’s a surprisingly deep 150-litre trunk, while the rear lid lifts up to reveal a shallower 125-litre storage space. Between them, there’s enough room for a couple’s luggage for a weekend getaway.
ON THE ROAD
Boxster - 220kW/380Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol flat four
Boxster S - 257kW/420Nm 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol flat four
- Transmission: rear-wheel drive, six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and rear
Boxster - 330x28mm ventilated and cross-drilled front rotors, 299mmx20mm ventilated and cross-drilled rear rotors with four-piston fixed calipers front and rear.
Boxster S - 330x34mm ventilated and cross-drilled front rotors, 299mmx20mm ventilated and cross-drilled rear rotors with four-piston fixed calipers front and rear.
- Steering: electrically assisted, variable ratio. 10.98m turning circle.
Hearing whooshy turbo induction noises over your shoulder can take some getting used to if you’ve been in a naturally-aspirated Boxster before. By the same token, feeling a full 420Nm of torque push you in the back is also an unusual sensation for those familiar with older Boxsters.
In fact, only the 981 Boxster Spyder made more torque than the 718 Boxster S thanks to its 276kW/440Nm 3.8 litre six, and that car cost a huge $169,000.
But the Boxster S is faster than the Boxster Spyder, by a not-insubstantial 0.3 seconds on the 0-100km/h sprint when equipped with the PDK twin-clutch automatic and in Sport+ mode. With a manual, the 718 Boxster S is just 0.1 seconds behind the Spyder. The base 718 Boxster, meanwhile, has 20Nm more torque than the outgoing Boxster S.
It’s faster than it’s ever been, the new Boxster, and we have turbos to thank for that. It’s also more driveable as a result.
While the atmo sixes needed their necks wrung to generate their best, the Boxster’s new turbo fours are much more relaxed in the way they do things
Boost builds from very low revs - both engines make peak torque between 1900-4500rpm - but both the 2.0 and 2.5 deliver power in a beautifully linear fashion. As long as you’ve got around 2500rpm on the dial, you can enjoy huge tractability at virtually any speed.
But when I say “relaxed”, don’t confuse that for “lazy”. These engines are responsive; that moment of lag you might otherwise expect with a turbo is hardly there - especially in the 2.5-litre. Its larger displacement and variable turbine housing all but banishes turbo lag.
Both engines make peak power - 220kW for the 2.0 and 257kW for the 2.5 - at 6500rpm, and redline is at 7500rpm. Whether lugging down low or singing in its higher registers, both of these engines are comfortable with whatever you ask them to do.
The steering and chassis are just as willing to comply with your every command too. The variable-ratio steering rack has been tightened up for the 718, and when coupled with the Boxster’s stupendous levels of front-end grip it makes for a supremely agile car.
In fact its reserves of grip are so high that a skidpan drift exercise required the liberal application of diesel on the road surface to get the Boxster to unstick. Once sideways, it is easy to exploit the Boxster’s great balance and adjust its attitude using the throttle.
With the optional PASM adaptive dampers, ride quality is superb, even on the 20-inch alloys our Boxster S tester was equipped with. Standard fit are 19-inch alloys, though you can opt for a set of 18-inchers (below) if comfort is a priority.
Flick the Manettino-style steering wheel switch to Sport or Sport+ and it firms up considerably while loosening the reins on the electronic chassis nannies, perfect for track work.
A harder-core PASM Sport suspension is also available, featuring a 20mm lower ride-height and spring and damper rates that are more aggressive for track work. The ‘regular’ PASM hardware is more supple by comparison, though the standard fixed dampers can at times feel a touch brittle over rough roads.
As always, the Boxster’s body rigidity is amazing for a car with no roof. Even over the lumpiest of roads there is barely any scuttle shake or steering column shimmy. It’s a car built for the singular purpose of going fast, and the adoption of turbo power hasn’t diluted that at all.
Go for the manual and you still get a wonderful three-pedal six-speed with a rifle-bolt gearshift linkage. Opt for the PDK auto (a $4990 extra), and a quick-shifting twin clutch with paddle shifters is yours to play with.
But what about the sound, you say? Yep, there’s some significant sonic separation between the 718 and the 981, and while some may miss the high-rpm yowl of the old flat sixes, the turbo fours have an aural character that’s all their own..
The turbo on either engine isn’t as vocal as you may expect, and is drowned out by the exhaust crackle that’s generated on overrun. A “sound symposer” artificially massages the frequencies to dial out harsher noises, and its effect is most noticeable when the roof is up.
Both cars still sound sporty, it’s just a different sort of sporty. Do we hate it? No. Does it turn us off? No. Most people will probably feel the same way.
ANCAP rating: The Porsche Boxster has yet to be rated by ANCAP
Safety features: Stability control, ABS, EBD, traction control, brake assist, front and side airbags.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
For a luxury open-top two door with significant sporting intent, the closest match for the Boxster is Jaguar’s F-Type - namely, the V6 and V6 S versions of the F-Type. Both are more expensive than their Porsche equivalents, but with a rip-snorting supercharged V6 and gorgeous proportions they’re not short on appeal.
BMW’s Z4 sDrive35is is a viable alternative, though it’s starting to show its age somewhat. The Lotus Exige S Roadster is another choice, albeit one that’s significantly tighter and more spartan in the cabin.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Outward similarities aside, Porsche aficionados will no doubt find the 718 to be a different car with a distinct personality to the 981 - however that does not mean it’s any less accomplished than its naturally-aspirated predecessor.
Rail against turbos all you want, but this is what progress looks like.
The 718 is an outstanding sportscar in its own right, and rolling proof that the wider application of turbocharging doesn’t besmirch the hallowed Porsche badge.
Porsche has been turbocharging its road and race cars for decades now, let’s not pretend it's new to the art. The new 718 Boxster is rapid proof of that; and a modern classic still.