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New Porsche 718 Boxster S 2016 review

New name, new engine, but is the Porsche 718 Boxster still a thriller?

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

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Porsche has hit the bullseye once again. There’s no denying that the new four-cylinder engine in the 718 Boxster doesn’t have the ultimate character of the old flat-six, but the massive increases in performance and useful fuel efficiency gains make this a price worth paying. Factor in the car’s sparkling handling, tweaked looks and upgraded interior, and the new Boxster is one of the most desirable roadsters money can buy.

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Porsche has been dropping bombshells on its fans left, right and centre of late. First off, it revealed that most of its legendary 911 models would recieve turbocharged engines. Now, it's unveiled the latest mid-engined Boxster roadster, which has ditched its flat-six engines in favour of smaller, flat-four turbo units. 

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Yet while Porsche fans are up in arms, the firm isn’t breaking any new ground. In fact, its first ever car, the 1948 356/1, had a mid-mounted flat-four, while the newcomer’s 718 model designation is a nod to the sixties racer that scored numerous victories and even spawned an F1 racer. So has this trip back to the future paid off for Porsche?

Twist the key in the ignition and the boxer erupts into life before settling to an off-beat idle. Entry-level models get a 2.0-litre, while the S model tested here has a larger 2.5-litre capacity. Both are turbocharged, and in the S you get the same variable vane geometry turbine tech used on the 911 Turbo S. As a result power is up from 315bhp to 345bhp, while torque swells by 60Nm to a thumping 420Nm. Crucially, this peaks at 1,900rpm, so the latest Boxster S is no slouch. Porsche claims 0-62mph takes just 4.6 seconds.

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On the road it feels even quicker than the figures suggest. There’s a tiny pause when you apply the throttle at very low revs, but once the turbo is spinning the Boxster is catapulted forward with an urgency that’s more in keeping with the more powerful 911.

Yet it’s the engine’s flexibility that really impresses. In the old car you had to work the naturally aspirated unit hard to make decent progress, but in the 718 you simply squeeze the throttle in any gear and you’ll be pinned back in your seat. Happily, this engine still has an appetite for revs and it will eagerly spin all the way to the 7,500rpm red line, plus the six-speed box benefits from a crisp and precise shift action.

Of course, the old six-cylinder car’s spine-tingling howl has gone, but the mechanical growl is reminiscent of the sixties 356 Carrera, particularly with our car’s optional sports exhaust. And the strong efficiency will compensate; Porsche claims 34.9mpg and 184g/km of CO2.

The sublime handling is unchanged. The new Boxster has the 911 Turbo’s faster, more direct steering rack, and the rear suspension has been overhauled using lessons learned from the brilliant Cayman GT4.

Turn into a corner and the 718 responds instantly, and there’s so much front-end grip that you can place the car with laser-guided accuracy. The controls fizz with feedback and the mid-engined layout means beautiful mid-corner balance. And with so much more torque on tap, you can use the throttle to adjust the car’s attitude through bends.

Another worthwhile update on this S is the adoption of the 911 Carrera’s larger brakes. The 330mm-diameter discs are clamped by four-piston calipers that provide powerful and progressive stopping power.

Our car also had Porsche’s PASM set-up, which combines a 10mm-lower ride height and adaptive dampers. In normal mode it delivers a remarkably supple ride, while Sport serves up rock-solid body control.

You’ll be having such a blast driving the 718 that you probably won’t notice the other subtle changes. Porsche claims every panel is new apart from the boot and tailgate, but at a glance the low, squat, well proportioned car looks much like its predecessor. Inside, it’s a similar story; the new infotainment system, smaller-diameter three-spoke steering wheel and reprofiled air vents are the most obvious updates to the beautifully finished cabin.

As before, the powered roof can be raised and lowered in seconds, and is well insulated when in place with very little wind buffeting once it’s stowed. The front and rear boots also offer a total load capacity of 375 litres.

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