Porsche 718 Boxster review
Latest generation Porsche Boxster gets new 718 name badge and four-cylinder engines that blend performance and efficiency
Despite the changes to its exterior being best described as subtle, the Porsche Boxster has been subjected to its most far-reaching update since making its debut 20 years ago. The adoption of four-cylinder engines will be tough for some purists to swallow, but what these new units lack in ultimate character, they make up for with scorching performance and decent efficiency.
Better still, the tweaks to the suspension and steering have made the 718 Boxster even sharper and more involving to drive. Few cars at any price are as entertaining as this mid-engined Porsche on a twisting back road. Elsewhere, the updated looks give the Boxster even more visual appeal, while the interior still sets the standard for fit and finish. The Porsche is also surprisingly practical, thanks to its roomy cabin and two spacious boots. Prices have risen, but given the extra kit and performance the Porsche is as desirable as ever, particularly in entry-level guise.
The original Boxster made its debut two decades ago and helped attract a whole host of new customers to Porsche ownership. With its mid-engined layout and characterful six-cylinder engines, the two-seater roadster proved to be a popular and more engaging alternative to models such as the BMW Z4, Audi TT and Mercedes SLK.
Now in its third generation, the latest Boxster has undergone the biggest and most controversial update in its twenty-year history. At the heart of this radical overhaul is the adoption of turbocharged four-cylinder ‘boxer’ engines in place of the traditional flat-six units.
Essentially these powerplants are the same as the latest six-cylinder units in the larger 911, but with two of the cylinders chopped off. The entry-level Boxster gets a 297bhp 2.0-litre unit, while the flagship S has a larger 345bhp 2.5-litre engine. Both are mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, while Porsche’s familiar seven-speed PDK twin-clutch transmission is available as an option.
There have been further changes under the skin, with the adoption of the quicker steering from the 911 Turbo and a revised rear suspension set-up that’s influenced by the hardcore Cayman GT4. And that’s not all, because there are also revised springs and dampers, new anti-roll bars, wider tyres and bigger brakes.
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You can add Porsche’s PASM adaptive dampers that come with a 10mm lower ride height, while the S is available with a Sport chassis that boasts the same dampers but a further 10mm drop in the chassis.
Externally the car looks very similar to its predecessor, although Porsche claims that every panel apart from the bonnet and tailgate is new. There are also distinctive new LED lights front and rear, plus new alloy wheel designs.
The cabin has been enhanced by the addition of Porsche’s latest touchscreen infotainment system, which is now standard on both models, plus there’s a smaller three-spoke steering wheel from the 911. Redesigned air vent surrounds are the other clue to the car’s updated status, but in all other respects the beautifully finished and well laid out interior is identical to its predecessor’s.
Prices have increased by around £3,000 across the board, but these rises are offset by the extra standard equipment and the significant boost in performance. Factor in the sublime handling and top notch finish, and the Boxster in one of the most complete sportscars money can buy.
Engines, performance and drive
Porsche fans have been up in arms about the switch to four-cylinder engines, but these critics have very short memories. The first ever Porsche road car, the 1948 356/1, was a mid-engined four-cylinder machine, while the Boxster’s new 718 designation is a nod to the similarly designed Sixties racer that swept to numerous race victories. What’s more, Porsche bagged both the 2015 World Endurance Championship and a Le Mans 24 Hours victory with its 919 LMP1 machine, which uses a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol/electric powerplant.
Not only has Porsche overhauled the Boxster’s engine line-up, it has also treated its chassis to a thorough makeover. The 718 gets the 911 Turbo’s steering rack, which is ten percent more direct than the old car’s. There are also revised springs and dampers, different anti-roll bars and tweaked rear suspension geometry that uses lessons learned from the fabulous Cayman GT4.
And that’s not all, because you can add Porsche’s PASM adaptive dampers that come with a 10mm lower ride height, while the S models are can also be added with a 20mm lower Sport pack. And as before, there’s the option to add a limited slip differential, which helps boost traction out of slower corners.
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On the road these changes make an already excellent car exceptional. The faster steering delivers scalpel sharp turn-in, plus there are huge reserves of front-end grip to lean on, allowing you to place the car with uncanny precision. What’s more, the smaller steering wheel is perfectly weighted and delivers just the right amount of feedback.
The mid-engined layout means the Boxster feels beautifully balanced mid-corner, plus is allows the car to change direction with acrobatic agility. And because the new turbocharged engines deliver so much more torque, it’s easy to trim your line through a bend using the throttle.
Cars equipped with the PASM system are even more impressive, although the Sport model is a little too stiff for really bumpy back roads. Even in the Normal setting the Porsche benefits from hugely impressive body control – there’s barely any roll through corners while big compressions and sudden crests are effortlessly shrugged off.
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Another dynamic highlight is the upgraded braking system. Standard Boxster models get the set-up from the previous S, while the new S is treated to the same 330m discs and four piston callipers as the current 911 Carrera. Both versions serve-up eye-popping, fade-free stopping power, plus they boast a beautifully weighted and progressive pedal action that makes it easy to modulate your braking.
Yet there’s more to the Boxster than back road driving thrills. The perfect driving position and decent visibility make it a doddle to place on the road, while the revised clutch is much lighter meaning you no longer have build up a sweat in stop-start traffic.
In their Normal setting the dampers provide a remarkably supple ride, while the well-insulated fabric hood does a good job of keeping out wind noise on the motorway. You can lower the powered roof in a matter of seconds and the standard wind break between the front seats helps to keep buffeting to a minimum.
The entry level-Boxster gets a 2.0-litre flat-four ‘boxer’ engine that develops a healthy 296bhp, which is a 35bhp increase over the old six-cylinder model. More impressively, peak torque has swelled by 100Nm to 380Nm and is delivered at just 1,950rpm.
As a result, this model is far faster than its predecessor, with the six-speed manual version sprinting from 0-62mph in just 5.1 seconds. Add the launch control-equipped seven-speed PDK twin-clutch transmission and this time drops to 4.7 seconds.
The Boxster S uses a larger 2.5-litre version of the same boxer engine, plus its turbocharger benefits from the same variable vane geometry technology as found in the 911 Turbo. As a result it pumps out and impressive 345bhp and a thumping 420Nm of torque at a lazy 1,900 rpm. This allows the standard car to scorch from 0-62mph in a blistering 4.6 seconds, while the PDK version reduces this time to a supercar-baiting 4.2 seconds.
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With both engines it’s the massive improvement in real world performance that really impresses. With so much torque on tap at low revs, the Boxster feels incredibly quick. It doesn’t matter what gear you’re in, simply squeeze the throttle and the 718 is catapulted down the road. Better still, the new flat-four units have a similar appetite for revs as the old six-cylinder cars and will spin eagerly and happily to a 7,500rpm redline.
Surprisingly, it's actually the 2.0-litre engine that's the better bet. It lacks the outright performance of the S, but it revs more sweetly and sounds less strained when extended. And because there's less mid-range muscle than in the 2.5-litre machine, you have to work te engine harder, which means you feel more involved in the process of driving the Boxster quickly.
Of course, what’s missing from both engines is the spine-tingling howl of the traditional flat-six. That said, the new car’s gravelly low speed sound track and high rev growl isn’t without appeal, especially if you add the optional sports exhaust. This addition allows delivers a high rev scream that's reminiscent of the old 356 Carerras of the Sixties, while lifting off the throttle results in the odd delicious pop and crackle from the exhaust.
In terms of transmissions, the seven-speed PDK is very easy to live with. Not only does it boost performance, it responds quickly and crisply to the wheel-mounted paddles, yet is silky smooth when left in automatic mode. However, for the ultimate sportscar experience we’d stick to the standard six-speed manual, which draws you into the action with its short throw and beautifully mechanical action.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
You don't buy a turbocharged mid-engined roadster to save on your motoring bills, but the latest 718 Boxster is more cost effective to run thanks to its new four-cylinder engines.
For instance, when fitted with the optional PDK gearbox the entry level car now claims to crack 40.9mpg and emit just 158g/km of CO2. Stick with six-speed manual model and Porsche’s figures suggest you’ll return 38.2mpg while emitting 168g/km. Not to shabby for a 170mph sportscar.
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The Boxster S isn’t quite as efficient, but like its less powerful brother it’ll make a smaller dent on your wallet than its predecessor. Once again it’s the PDK-equipped car that’s the most frugal, with figures of 38.7mpg and 167g/km claimed by Porsche. The manual car records 34.9mpg and184g/km.
Of course, if you frequently access the full performance potential of these cars than you can expect to see your fuel returns plummet into the low 20s. And while the Boxster’s CO2 emissions have been reduced, an increase in list price means company car users will be no better off when it comes to benefit-in-kind tax bills.
British security and insurance experts Thatcham haven’t yet released grouping data for the latest Boxster. However, given the car’s performance potential, relatively high value and hi-tech engineering it’s safe to say it won’t be a low rating.
That said, all models get a Thatcham category one alarm and immobiliser, plus there’s also standard tracking device – although you’ll have to pay an annual subscription fee to its service provider.
Given the desirability of the Porsche badge, it’s no surprise to find the Boxster is sought after on the second hand market. As a result, our experts have calculated that the new 718 will retain around 50 percent of its new value after three years and 36,000 miles.
Surprisingly its manual gearbox cars that are the most resistant to depreciation, with both standard and S models attracting just over 53 percent of their list price. The PDK cars attract a figure of 47 percent.
Interior, design and technology
Porsche has tried not mess with a winning formula when it came to redesigning the Boxster. In fact, glance at the 718 and you’d struggle to tell it apart from the old car.
However, apart from the bonnet, tailgate and windscreen, every external component on the Porsche has been changed. The reprofiled bumpers and more defined bodywork creases help give it an even wider and more purposeful stance, while the distinctive LED lights front and rear add an extra layer of visual interest.
At the rear there’s dark strip of trim between the tail lamps that is emblazoned with retro Porsche script. Both cars get a powered spoiler that raises automatically at 74mph or can be raised manually using a button on the centre console.
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The standard Boxster is identified by its 18-inch alloys wheels and trapezoidal centre exit exhaust, while the more powerful S gets 19-inch rims and a twin exit tailpipe.
Inside, the changes are even more subtle. There’s Porsche’s latest generation of touchscreen infotainment system, reprofiled air vents and a smaller diameter three-spoke steering wheel (375mm as standard, or 360mm as an option). That said, there wasn’t a lot wrong with the previous car so not many changes were needed. The high centre console and traditional five-dial instrument layout create a driver focused environment, while all the major controls are perfectly placed.
Equally impressive is the top notch fit and finish. All the materials have a high grade looks and feel, while the tight build quality is second to none. As before its possible to personalise the interior with various leather upgrades and colourful trim inserts.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
All versions of the Boxster now get the latest Porsche Communication Management infotainment system. This new set-up features a clutter-free touchscreen interface, crisp graphics and an intuitive layout. There’s also connectivity for USB and Bluetooth.
However, while the new system looks good and works well, it’s not exactly packed with features. The Connect Package costs £422 and includes useful additions such as Apple Car Play. You’ll have to pay a hefty £1,052 extra for the sat-nav upgrade, while a DAB radio is an extra £284 – both features should be standard on a car with a list of price of more than £40,000.
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Other upgrades include the £801 Bose surround sound stereo upgrade, which features a 505 Watt power output and 10 speakers. Buyers wanting an even richer listening experience can order the eye-wateringly expensive £2,663 Burmester sound system. This features a thumping 821 Watt output and 12 speakers, including a 300 Watt active subwoofer. You can also add a digital TV tuner for £744.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Despite its thoroughly overhauled exterior, the 718 Boxster is no bigger inside than its predecessor. That said, this is still one of the roomiest and most practical roadsters you can buy.
The cabin is wide and there are plenty of handy storage trays, including a large glovebox and Porsche’s trademark pop-out cupholders. However, the door bins are narrow and shallow, making them suitable only for small items.
In terms of its external dimensions, the 718 Boxster is pretty much the same size as its predecessor. The revised bodywork has resulted in a 5mm increase in length and a 1mm drop in height, but it’s the same width as before.
The wide opening doors make access relatively easy, and while the Boxster is quite low you don’t have to clamber over wide sills as you slide behind the wheel.
With the fabric roof in place over-the-shoulder visibility is compromised, while the glass rear screen is quite small. As a result we’d recommend forking out an extra £348 on rear parking sensors (front and rear sensors can be added for £599). At least the wide windscreen and relatively thin A-Pillars give a panoramic view forward.
Lowering or raising the powered roof can be achieved in 10 seconds or so and while travelling at speeds of up to 20mph. The covering folds neatly away underneath a panel behind the seats.
Legroom, headroom and passenger space
You don’t buy a two-seater sportscar for its practicality and space, but the Boxster is better than most when it comes to interior comfort.
There’s plenty of leg and shoulder room for both the driver and passenger, while headroom is decent with the roof raised. However, the small side and rear-windows create a slightly claustrophobic feel. This can be countered by specifying a lighter coloured interior trim, such as the red leather fitted to our test car.
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You can’t really consider the 718 Boxster a family car, but Porsche will add ISOFIX mountings and an airbag cut-out switch for the front passenger seat for an extra £122.
As with all Porsche models you sit low and there’s a wide range of seat adjustment plus the steering wheel can be tailored for height and reach. The standard Sports seats are well-padded and supportive and can be enhanced with 14-way electric adjustment for £1,538. For an extra £1,292 you can add the even more heavily bolstered Sports seats Plus.
Thanks to its mid-engined layout the Porsche Boxster has not one but two boots. At the front is a 150-litre compartment, while at the rear is a slightly smaller 125-litre load bay. This gives a combined total of a reasonable 375-litres.
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The nose-mounted boot is deep, well-shaped and capable of carrying at least two or three squashy bags. At the rear is a much shallower boot, but it’s wider and features a large opening. Unlike rivals such as the BMW Z4 and Mercedes SLC, the mechanism for the Porsche’s folding fabric roof doesn’t intrude into the luggage space when its lowered, meaning you get the same amount of luggage space whether the roof is up or down.
Reliability and Safety
The 718 Boxster is essentially a thorough facelift of the previous generation 981 model. That said, there are so many new parts that the latest version could be considered an all-new car. However, with Porsche’s hard won reputation for engineering integrity, there should be very few nasty mechanical surprises.
Both the 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre flat-four engines are closely related to the latest turbocharged flat-six units that debuted in the 2015 991.2 911 models. That means that despite having two fewer cylinders than the bigger cars, these units should be relatively unstressed. The six-speed manual gearbox has also been tweaked, while the clutch has been overhauled to deliver a lighter action and greater durability.
While the 718 Boxster has been developed to deliver the ultimate in driving thrills, the brand’s engineers haven’t overlooked safety. All versions of the Boxster get six airbags, stability control and a pair of fixed rollover bars behind each seat. Both the standard car and the S get bigger and more powerful brakes than before, while carbon ceramic set-up can be added for an eye-watering £4,977.
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Porsche Stability Management is fitted as standard and now features a new Sport mode that allows a little tyre slip and wheelspin before cutting in. As with all Porsches, the electronic driver aids can be fully disabled when conditions allow, such as at a track day.
Porsche has an enviable reputation for customer care, with the brand finishing an excellent sixth overall in our 2015 Driver Power satisfaction survey. Its dealers fared equally well, taking a well-earned eighth place with owners praising the technical knowledge and high levels of workmanship of the staff.
As with every Porsche model, the 718 Boxster gets a three-year unlimited mileage warranty, which is backed-up by a breakdown recovery package for the same period. The car’s paint is also covered for three years, while the anti-corrosion guarantee runs for 12 years.
If you’re planning on keeping your Boxster for a few years, then it might be worth considering an extended warranty. This package can be added for one or two years, provided you sign-up within 12 months of the car being registered.
There’s no getting away from the fact that a Porsche is going to cost more than the average family hatchback to maintain. This is mainly down to the fact that the Boxster’s high performance components tend to be expensive to replace.
That said, Porsche has tried to make running the Boxster as cost effective as possible by providing lengthy service intervals of two years or 20,000 miles, whichever comes first. The brand also has fixed priced servicing costs for all its models, so you should know beforehand what the financial damage is likely to be. However, bearing mind that consumable items such as tyres and brakes are likely to be expensive.