Porsche Boxster 718 first drive review
The world is changing and along with it the things we knew and liked once are no longer the same. But that does not mean what's new isn't likeable. Case in point, the new Porsche 718 Boxster. It is new. Comprehensively. It does not look all that new but there is a sea change it envelops underneath the covers. Porsche have downsized the six-pot engine that powered the older Boxster by reducing two cylinders in the interest of better efficiency and tighter emissions. So you now have a Porsche 718 Boxster with a four-cylinder engine. But it's still a boxer or what is popularly known as the flat or the horizontally-opposed engine. So, is a four-cylinder engine good enough for a Porsche or does it dilute the purity of the cars rolling out of Zuffenhausen? Not if you throw a turbocharger into the mix!
Turbocharging the flat-four gives the 718 Boxster a 35 percent power boost which is a huge gain compared to the previous engine. The 718 Boxster in standard trim gets a 2.0-litre engine aided by a classic turbocharger. The 718 Boxster S gets a larger 2.5-litre engine with a variable geometry turbo that was earlier exclusively used in the 911 Turbo. Does turbocharging alter the character of these cars? Absolutely. The new 718 Boxster and Boxster S are sharper than before. Splitting their atoms around the Yas Marina circuit, it takes just a couple of corners to realise that the engines are crisper, quicker and much more fun.
In the 718 Boxster, power output has been bumped up to 300 horsepower and max torque is 380Nm available between 1,950 and 4500 rpm. The big gain is in how the torque manifests itself. Since it comes in earlier than in the previous engine, there is hardly any turbo lag in any gear at any speed. All you feel is a big shove and the car gets to triple digits in a matter of seconds! 100kmph, Porsche claims comes up in just 4.7 seconds with the 7-speed PDK transmission and the Sport Chrono package. The 718 Boxster S gets 50 more horses than the standard trim with max torque reaching 400Nm between 1,900 to 4,500rpm, 0-100kmph comes up in 4.2 seconds. It's an exhilarating engine and in both trims, the 718 Boxster feels like one of those all-time brilliant sportscars that will become a legend in time! The Boxster is now in a sweet spot where its power isn't intimidating enough to warrant better skills behind the wheel. Neither is it weak, and that makes it enticing enough for the more hardcore punters.
The changes keep coming. The new 718 Boxster gets a sport response button located in the middle of the drive selector knob on the steering wheel. Depressing this button gives a 20 second power boost, something similar to a NOS effect. What the engine in the 718 Boxster does is part conditions the turbocharger by closing the bypass valve, retarding the ignition and keeping the throttle open slightly. This keeps the torque constant but increases the air flow into the engine and increases charge pressure. So what you get is a shove, depending on which part of the rev range you are. Now if you were in Sport Plus mode, then the engine is already in a higher state of readiness for any inputs, so the sport response button as I experienced it, is best sampled in normal mode. It's a shot of adrenaline for a traffic light drag!
And here is the other thing that's new in the 718 Boxster but will get opinion divided right down the middle - its exhaust note! Porsche has developed an entirely new exhaust system for the Boxster and it's louder, clearly audible even if the revs aren't at their peak. However it's not a note I found particularly thrilling. It does not have the crispness and sharpness of the F-Type or the maddening beastly howl of an AMG!
With the increase in power, the suspension has also been tuned to keep up with the performance. The chassis is entirely new and its principal goal has been to inject more stiffness and rigidity into the equation. This hasn't made the car unbearable, but here in the United Arab Emirates with its super smooth roads, it's hard to figure out just how stiff the ride quality is. There is a small amount of bumpiness but I doubt it would be uncomfortable in Indian conditions. On track, the newfound rigidity makes it more stable and easier to control, and that is going to be one of the big selling points of the 718 Boxster - its ease and friendliness! In either trim, as I mentioned before, the power manifests itself rapidly but it's never intimidating. The 718 Boxster is precise and tracks a superb, well-controlled line through every corner. Slightly wider section rear tyres and the mid-engine configuration also help give the 718 Boxster better stability and dynamics. At the racetrack or with the top down, it's quite enamouring in any situation!
Drop the way it looks and there isn't much to call it new if you go by exterior design. But the changes under the skin are nothing short of epic! Yet some small details can be seen, like the new lights front and rear which are slimmer, brighter and use LEDs for daytime running. What you may not realise is that the front air dams have gotten slightly larger to feed air to the turbo. Inside, the 718 Boxster gets the steering wheel from the GT though the rest of the elements appear familiar. The one addition if you get the optional dynamic package is the drive selector module on the steering wheel. Carplay is now standard across the range and then there are various other bits you can add or modify.
Overall then, the combination of power and handling feels best in the Boxster S, it's a slightly more potent combination, but you could get a better thrill in the Boxster because it's that little bit more manageable. As an entry-level sportscar, it's unparalleled! And the rest of it is down to how you want to spec your cars. Do you want the optional Sport Chrono package, do you want the Porsche Active Suspension Management that drops ride height by 20mm when needed? Do you want the interior trim? There's tons of equipment and features to choose from. So creating your individual Porsche isn't a big issue. India will be getting the standard 718 Boxster, the S trim won't be offered but there is always hope that it may be offered in the future. I, for one, wouldn't complain, the Boxster in any trim will go on to become a benchmark for the ages thanks especially to that 4-cylinder motor. If sportscars is your thing, pick one now. But then do drive it, it's a keeper!
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