Porsche 718 Boxster – Review
By Liam Bird
Many mumblings were heard amongst the so-called (and self-proclaimed) Porsche aficionados back in 2016 when the word came from Wiessach that the Boxster was to receive a new engine. Not only was the new motor to be a four-cylinder, displacing either just 2.0 or 2.5 litres – all Boxster engines up until that point had been sixes of at least 2,700cc – it was to be turbocharged too. “Sacrilege” they declared. “It will sound awful”. The Boxster, they cried, will never be the same again.
I may even have said something similar myself somewhere or other – just in passing, of course.
But how many of those armchair experts had actually driven the new Boxster – the one Porsche would now call 718? And what percentage of those fortunate to do so had also recognised the significance of its “new” nomenclature?
“A heritage thing”
Let’s start with the basics: All early Porsches were four-cylinder. Porsche invented the VW Beetle; where d’you think he got the engine for his first cars from? The very first one 356-001 was even mid-engined, just as the Boxster is today. Porsche’s 356 was a four-pot from Pre-A spec, right up to C, (after which came the 911). As was the 550 – y’know, the one James Dean was killed in. And so too the original 718.
Built between 1957 and 1962, Porsche’s elegant little 718s boasted just 1.5 litres and approximately 145bhp. Nevertheless, they were giant killers. Edgar Barth and Wolfgang Seidel scored outright victory in one on the 1959 Targa Florio. And the bespectacled Masten Gregory won class honours in a 718 at the Le Mans 24 hours in 1961.
That’s the connection: It’s a heritage thing. Just like Carrera, and Panamera (as in Pan Americana), and even RS too. So very Porsche.
And so too is the 718 Boxster. You sit familiarly low, your view forward dominated by the white on black rev-counter that sits centre-stage in the three-dial dash. Beyond lie the curved tops of the front wings. The steering wheel is thick-rimmed and wrapped in soft leather, the seats hug you in all the right places, the heater controls and those for the simple radio are obscured by the gear-lever, the driving position is near-perfect, and the indicator stalks look like the ones in your Golf. It’s all so very familiar.
So too is the start-up procedure: Once in, all you do is dip the weighty clutch and turn the key. It’s only then that things appear a little different.
The metallic bark of the old flat-six has gone, replaced by something gruffer, more monotone, more beetle-like, and a tad uneven. The soundtrack is hollower, and if I’m really honest, well, a bit flatulent. The trademark chain-saw like Porsche wail at high revs of the old motor has also been lost. There’s no way to put it softly: The mechanical musical accompaniment simply isn’t as spine-tingling. Progress eh?
“Loud with the roof down”
That said, the 4 cylinder engine instantly feels more usable. There’s more torque, more tractability. You don’t need those high revs as much as you used to, the extra spread of twist-action, thanks to the turbo, makes the 4-pot a much more flexible engine. Although, keener drivers may well miss having to work as hard as they once had to.
The trade is the fact that living with the Boxster day-to-day is now even easier than it used to be. This is a car that has two boots, one front and one in the rear; the hood can be raised or lowered in just under 10 seconds; and, driven sensibly – but nonetheless swiftly – you can easily achieve Porsche’s claim of 38.2 mpg. If anything, that seems a tad conservative: I managed an indicated 39.3.
There are still compromises of course, the Boxster’s a two-seater sports-car after all. Rearward visibility with the roof up is akin to looking through a letterbox; there’s still little in the way of in-cabin storage for anything bigger than your phone and sunglasses (I assume, your wallet may be somewhat bulkier); and a modestly sized fuel tank means despite the Boxster being more economical, its range isn’t exactly continent crushing. And, it’s a soft-top, so it’s loud with the roof down and you boil if you get stuck in traffic on sunny day.
On a cool summer’s evening though, with the heater turned to toasty and the heated seats set to a similar it is genuinely lovely. Near perfect in fact. The gear-change, the steering, the performance… So much so that you can forgive it its occasional flatulence, you can learn to live with the noise.
It may sound different, and thanks to a recent restructuring of the Porsche line-up, it may now no-longer be the entry-level and thus the cheapest Porsche (that’s the 2.0 Cayman now), but the Porsche Boxster is still, by far, one of the best, and most involving, two-seater drop-tops nearly sensible money can buy.
Porsche 718 Boxster S
Engine: 1,998 cc horizontally opposed (flat) 4 Cyl 16V petrol
Transmission: 6 speed Manual, rear wheel drive.
Power: 300 bhp @ 6500pm
Torque: 280 lbft @ 1,950 – 4,500 rpm
0-62MPH: 5.1 Sec
Max Speed: 170 mph
CO2: 168 g/km
MPG: 38.2 combined
Price: from £44,758 (as driven £53,720)