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We already know the new 718 Boxster S is as sweet as before, but for a price. Does its less powerful, but cheaper, sibling shine more brightly?

What is it?

You could call this the Porsche Boxster lite. The diet Boxster, if you please. The last time Porsche launched a car powered by an engine this small was 40 years ago; the motor came out of a VW van and went into a thing called a 924. From 2.7 litres of snarling flat six, the Boxster has been downgraded to 2.0 litres of warbling flat four.

Many who have already driven the Boxster S with the 2.5-litre version of this engine have emerged with their admiration for some aspects of this new powerplant under close control. What chance, then, for what is essentially the same car but with the one unquestioned asset of the S engine – its towering punch - removed?

Before we assess that, a quick look at the essential differences between the new 718 Boxster and its S derivative. The S has 50 additional horsepower, thanks not only to that larger engine but also a variable-geometry turbine, although you won’t need to be a maths professor to work out that it is actually the standard car that enjoys the higher specific output.

The S also comes with the same diameter brakes, but slightly thicker front discs, but as the Boxster already has the same braking system as the old Boxster S, it is unlikely to prove deficient in this regard. Boxster Ss come with 19in rims which are optional on the Boxster and have two rear exhaust pipes instead of one, unless you opt for a sports exhaust on your Boxster. And that’s about it, apart, of course, from the £8950 you’ll save if you are able to resist ticking the S box on the configurator.

What's it like?

One should always be very careful when leaping to conclusions, and never more so than when assessing Porsches. More than with any other brand I can think of, it is the modestly specified cars that so often turn out to be preferable.

And so it is again. Any slightly patronising thoughts you may harbour about the diminutive nature of this engine explode at the first prod of the throttle pedal. Small the engine may be, but turbocharged it is too, to provide not only 296bhp but also a fat 280lb ft wad of torque at less than 1950rpm. That’s more torque at less than half the revs – not compared with the previous Boxster but with the previous Boxster S. So despite having gained a few kilos, this new base Boxster accelerates just as fast on 2.0 litres and four cylinders as did the previous Boxster S on 3.4 litres and six cylinders. Add a PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission and it’s actually quicker.


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But that’s not the nub of the matter. Far more important than raw data or even raw power in a car like this is the way it is delivered, and here the news is both bad and good. If the eternally optimistically minded among you were hoping Porsche had somehow managed to turn its base-spec engine into something as sharp, sonorous and rev-happy as the old flat six, when it had been unable to do so with the S, you will prtobably be disappointed. This is a turbocharged flat four, and that is precisely how it sounds from idle to limiter.

But it is a sweeter engine than that in the Boxster S. Its voice is less gruff, its power delivery smoother. It seems no less eager to head for the red, and if you play about at low or medium engine speeds on part throttle, it will emit a purposeful and decidedly pleasant burble. No, it won’t silence its detractors and, yes, of course I wish it still had a flat six, but I’d say this engine at least makes up in manners what it loses in power over the S motor.

Happily, the engine also has enough torque for its follow-on benefits to remain intact. It can be used to bring the chassis alive at the flex of a foot rather than first requiring a couple of downchanges, and it still doesn’t feel as overgeared as all previous-generation Boxsters save the Spyder. This remains a fabulous car to drive, offering a riot of entertainment on the right road.

And say what you like about the engine, but it has had the effect of elevating the Boxster into an altogether more senior category of performance. If anyone used to consider the cheapest Boxster the poor relation you’d only buy because you couldn’t afford a proper Boxster, that, emphatically, is no longer the case.

Should I buy one?

If I were in the market for a car like this, I’d value the 718 Boxster's considerably lower price and more melodious engine above the extra slug of power that seems to be the only substantive advantage offered by the Boxster S. In the world of Porsche sports cars, less is more once again.

Remember, too, that whatever the limitations of the new engine, they have no effect on the Boxster’s position in its class. It was the most desirable car in its category with six cylinders and so it remains with four, regardless of whether there is a little 'S' on the bootlid or not.

Porsche 718 Boxster

Location Pitlochry, Scotland; On sale Now; Price £41,739; Engine 4 cyls, 1988cc, turbo, petrol; Power 296bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 280lb ft at 1950-4500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1410kg; 0-62mph 5.1sec (4.9sec with PDK); Top speed 170mph; Economy 38.2mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 168g/km, 30%

Join the debate


13 May 2016
You can get hot hatches in this power range now and for a lot less. You can get coupes too. So you buy the badge, build quality, handling and anti-depreciation.

15 May 2016
A hot hatch should not be an alternative to an open top roadster. Like comparing a Jag xf estate with a similarly powered transit van. And as a Boxster owner I can tell you that they are not bought for their quality. I have one that's badly put together with some nasty materials too and unreliable. The flat six may sound glorious but it has some fundemental design flaws. If you can't afford the odd engine rebuild,then forget it.

13 May 2016
No thanks Porsche !
Bye bye...
Long live the 20th century !

14 May 2016
that the standard 2.0 liter Cayman is the more desirable 718. Can't wait to see that one tested against the new Alpine.

14 May 2016
Autocar "The last time Porsche launched a car powered by an engine this small it was 40 years ago". No it wasn't, it was last year in the shape of the Macan 2.0 - 1984cc vs 1988cc for the Boxster. What's more, the output is positively puny in comparison with Boxster at only 252hp accoding to the Porsche website. Pedantic I know, but I like details to be right!

14 May 2016
The Cayman/Boxster are dead to me now. No matter how much they may have improved everything else. At the end of the day its just a turbo 4 pot. That's fine in a budget sports car (like my now No1 favourite affordable one - the MX-5) and hot hatches, but not a premium priced Porsche. I also believe the future resale values of these small 4 pot Porsche's are going to be crap in comparison to the older-gen flat 6s. Even the firms new turbo base 911s have lost their magic a bit, because of those engines. I know Porsche had to do all this, and its going to be even worse in the future with turbo 4 pot 911 hybrids. Which I believe will finally kill off the 911 once and for all after 50 odd years of evolution.

In fact all this line of Boxster, Cayman and 911s will be extinct soon. And then we'll be left with Porsche a manufacture of saloons and SUVs only. The only glimmer of hope for the future of Porsche is that admittedly very attractive 4 seat sports electric vehicle they displayed in show car form recently. That'll end up being the only remotely sporty Porsche you'll be able to buy in the future...I don't care what anybody says the Panamera, Cayenne, Macan matter how well they handle for what they are. Are not real Porsche sports cars and never will be! RIP


15 May 2016
Cyborg wrote:

The Cayman/Boxster are dead to me now. No matter how much they may have improved everything else. At the end of the day its just a turbo 4 pot. ...

Well, the Porsche name and handling will carry the badge onward. But I do wonder why they (and other exotics) don't just downsize the cylinder size rather than the number of cylinders. Why not a 6 cylinder 2.0 turbo? Sure, it won't win the economy wars vs a 4 cylinder but pretty sure no Porsche driver is looking for optimal mpg...

14 May 2016
I'm afraid I have to agree that a turbo four, no matter how accomplished, is a retrograde step for Porsche. That, and the clumsy facelift, takes the new (982 generation?) Boxster off my wish list. I owned a 987 generation Boxster for six years and never tired of the wonderful engine note and the beautifully linear power delivery. I sold it to a good friend, who loves it just as much as I did. In fact, I missed it so much that I've just bought a nearly new 981 generation Boxster, which is being delivered on Tuesday. Can't wait!

14 May 2016
I can't see any other way than engines going this way. How long until we see the 911 diesel. Let's remember based on numbers and models, Porsche is an suv manufacturer that also makes a limited range of sports cars.

15 May 2016
I don't understand why Porsche didn't try and develop a range of 3 Cylinder engines. At least then you may have had something much closer in terms of the noise. So much of the sports/supercar experience for me is the noise, and the 4 pots just don't do it. The only 4 pots that do make a decent noise are the V4's and cross plane crank inline 4's that the motorcycles have. Again I'm sure there are reasons for car manufacturers not going down this route (looking after shareholder's dividends) but if you really want to, there are ways of still getting a decent noise out of a smaller engine with less cylinders.


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