Just in time for the Boxster’s 20th birthday Porsche ditched the naturally aspirated engine and got rid of two cylinders. After an initial shock I tried to find out, whether there is any Boxster feel left.
Brussels must be void of petrol heads. One emission and low consumption law after the other. The last horsepower habitats are drying out. Vanishing. Even traditional sports car manufactures fall victim to this forced downsizing. 20 years of Boxster and in the third generation of the popular entry-level Porsche the six-cylinder had to go. Six out, four in, plus turbo.
In a clever move Porsche also changed the name. Adding a legendary number in front of Boxster: 718. The upcoming new Cayman is going to have this nomenclature as well. The historical reference serves to remind the Zuffenhausen fan base, that Porsche’s first stock model ever was an air-cooled four-cylinder, the 356. Followed later by the 911 with six cylinders. The Porsche 718 was the famous mid-engined four-cylinder race car of the 1950s and 1960s. Winning both the Targa Florio and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. So is the legend returning?
I am going to find out on the famous Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi. My first fear is eliminated quickly. The new four-cylinder is not a souped-up Golf engine. Its still a mid-engine boxer. Reluctantly, I am turning the ignition key. A four-cylinder turbo will definitely sound different from a naturally aspirated one with six pots. After an initial, faint beetle sound, a snotty and defiant crackle is audible. The deep throaty roar is gone, replaced by something else. Distinctly different, but still pleasing to the ears of petrolheads. Getting even better on track in Sport plus mode. Unfortunately the optional sport exhaust wasn’t available at the launch yet. This additional button should do the rest.
As in the new 911, the turbo feels very much like a naturally aspirated engine. When I ease off the accelerator, the throttle remains wide open, only the fuel injection is interrupted. Therefore the charge pressure does not drop completely and the engine reacts quickly - turbo lag-free - to another push of the accelerator.
With the steering and chassis components borrowed from the 911 as well and together with the traditional mid-engined Boxster configuration, the car feels clued to the track. The weight balance is still perfect. And each and every lap I take the turns a bit faster. I am having so much fun in Sport plus with a numbed ESP.
Back to the pits for a car change. As with the old Boxster, as soon as you try the ‘S’ there is no going back. It’s so worth the extra dough. And with a performance vehicle like this, you have to know the Nurburgring time. Well, it is 7.42min. 16 seconds faster than its predecessor.
As in the new 911s the 718 now features a sport response button. Pushing it, both engine and gearbox sharpen up for 20 seconds, allowing instant and swift overtaking manoevres. The sport mode dial is now in the steering wheel. It doesn’t look Porsche enough. More like a Volkswagen part. Porsche design could have done something more appetizing here.
Though with the overall design they couldn’t have done a better job. Parked in the pit lane the 718 has presence and street cred. Only boot lid, soft top and windscreen are identical to the previous model. Everything else is new. More masculine. The front fenders are a clear homage to the great-grandfather, the historic 718. Highlight in the rear is the black strip with integrated ‘Porsche’ lettering.
On conclusion, I can confirm, that the 718 is still a Boxster – and a Porsche. The iconic brand’s new entry-level sportscar. Having said this, I would like to give all the Boxster enthusiasts out there some sound investment advice. Now is the perfect time to buy an ‘old’ six-cylinder Boxster. They will rise in price. Even superfast brand ambassador Walter Röhrl immediately bought one, when the four-cylinder replacement was announced.
Porsche 718 Boxster/Boxster S
Engine 2.0-l./2.5-l. 4 cyl. mid-engined boxer paired with 6-speed manual/7-speed PDK box
Power 220kW/257kW and 380Nm/420Nm
0-100km/h 4.7/4.2 seconds
Top speed 275km/h/285km/h
Price from R868 000/from R974 000