First DriveAhead of its official launch, we get an early ride and technical overview of the Porsche 718 Boxster S. Can a turbo flat four really replace a howling flat six?
First DriveOptional Sports Chassis turns the standard Porsche Boxster S into a focussed track day blaster
What is it?
We could hardly be more besotted with the new Porsche Boxster S, a car we’ve already described as one of the world’s most exciting - now it’s time to find out if the smaller-engined, entry-level version deserves the same high regard.
The original Boxster was criticised by some for only producing 204bhp when its water-cooled 2.5-litre flat-six was revealed nestling behind the seats in 1996. Cut to sixteen years later, and Porsche has extracted 261bhp from a downsized 2.7-litre lump directly derived from the 3.4-litre engine found in the S model.
Detailed improvements, including revised pistons, adjusted variable valve timing and a flow-optimised air intake system, combine to produce 10bhp more than the previous 2.9-litre Boxster at slightly higher revs (6700rpm compared to 6400rpm).
Peak torque is also delivered over a broader range - appearing marginally later but staying on song until 6500rpm - even if at 206ft lb it has suffered a negligible 8lb ft decrease over its predecessor.
In return for that modest penalty, Porsche’s return customers can expect to see a marked improvement in efficiency. Thanks to better cooling, automatic stop-start across the range and intelligent battery charging, the standard Boxster’s combined economy improves to 34.5mpg (from 30mpg) with the standard six-speed manual and 36.7mpg with the optional seven-speed PDK driven here.
More impressive is the 29g/km drop in CO2 emissons (34g/km with the auto) which sees the Boxster fall below the 200g/km threshold, and in the PDK’s case, tumble two VED bands in a single stroke.
What’s it like?
It’s not unusual for the less powerful derivatives of performance cars to edge their brawnier counterparts in the satisfaction stakes, if only because more of their potential pace can be wrung out on the road (rather than left frustratingly unused in the box).
There is an element of that sentiment in the standard Boxster. The car is barely any lighter than the S, but it feels a little leaner and revs with almost the same howling enthusiasm. However, Porsche’s immaculate fettling underneath has produced a car of such masterful ability that the 2.7-litre’s lower output barely seems to scratch the dynamic surface.
On the sun-bleached smooth roads of the south of France, the Boxster’s chokehold lateral grip and grasping traction (complimented by the optional mechanical rear differential) mean the roadster feels like it could cope with more power than even the S sends to the back wheels.
Which isn’t to suggest that the cheaper car is by any means a disappointment. It isn’t. Even without the endearing final punch of the 3.4-litre engine’s higher yield, the Boxster bristles with flat-six brio. An absence of torque beneath 4500rpm is palpable in the PDK’s willingness to kick down three gears even in its gentlest mode, but keep the 2.7-litre motor spinning near its 6700rpm peak and it answers the throttle with an assertive yowl.
Opt to include the Sport Chrono Package and the Boxster gets a Sport Plus button that activates a ‘racing track’ shift strategy on the PDK, yielding 5.5 second to 62mph performance. At the opposite end of the scale, the ability to remap the engine (and gearbox’s) responses via the push of a button is part of what makes the Boxster’s improved economy possible - and while the default setup lacks the whip-crack riposte of the thirstier alternatives, its easy-to-live-with congeniality underlines the roadster’s continuing appeal as a use-everyday machine.
Should I buy one?
Of course you should. But if electrifying performance is your main criteria for buying a Boxster it would probably be wise to invest the extra money in the S model. Porsche’s uncanny ability to engineer quantifiable gaps between its variants means the more expensive car retains a tangible edge over its sibling.
However, if flat out pace is less of a concern than, say, running costs or any of the other fine features that make the new Boxster a superb ownership prospect, the standard car is a more than worthy entry to the range. Like the S, it’s ride, refinement, enhanced appearance and dazzling chassis make it easily the finest roadster within the reach of modest money.
Porsche Boxster 2.7
Price: £37,589; Top speed: 163mph; 0-62mph: 5.5 secs; Economy: 36.7mpg; CO2: 180g/km; Kerb weight: 1340kg; Engine: Horizontally-opposed six-cylinder, 2706cc petrol; Power: 261bhp; Torque: 206lb ft; Gearbox: 7-speed dual-clutch