2017 Porsche 718 Boxster First Drive
In removing two cylinders from the Porsche Boxster, it's understandable that some potential buyers may have reservations. After all, the Boxster has been using a sonorous flat-6 engine since it was born two decades ago. When Porsche announced it was replacing the Boxster's naturally aspirated 6-cylinder with smaller, turbocharged flat-4s, some wondered whether the Boxster would lose its bite.
We already relayed some juicy details about the new Porsche Boxster and were teased with its performance abilities via joy rides in its passenger seat. Now, after driving the 2017 Boxster, we can happily report that Porsche's entry-level roadster is as satisfying as ever. Step up to a Boxster S, and it's downright thrilling.
Welcome to Porschegal
For its driving debut of the new Boxster, now dubbed the 718, Porsche invited us to Portugal, where the roads are fast and smooth, the weather is ideal for top-down driving, and there was access to a military training base where we had the chance to push this Porsche on a closed runway.
Our first taste was a standard Boxster with Porsche's PDK 7-speed dual clutch automatic. Starting from the town of Estoril just outside Lisbon on the Atlantic coast, we snaked our way through narrow, congested city streets before hitting the open road. Among the first things we did was to defeat the engine start/stop system. Popularized in Europe for their ability to save fuel by cutting engine power at stop lights and in congested traffic, these systems are becoming more common on all cars. But in traffic, this stop-and-go cycling can feel rough. And that's about the only edge where this Porsche is rough.
Power delivery from the 300-horsepower 2-liter flat-4 is urgent, and its PDK transmission is among the best. Even if you manually tick up and down gears via the steering wheel mounted paddles, shifts are nearly imperceptible in the standard drive mode. In this drive setting, the first of which includes Sport, (plus Sport+ for models equipped with the chrono package), and Individual, the Boxster is a comfortable companion. It will happily loaf along with all the style and prestige inherent in a Porsche. For more than a few, that’s raison d'être enough for having a Boxster. But this puppy is eager to play.
Even left to its own devices in normal mode, the Boxster is quick and lithe. Turbo lag is minimal -- if that -- for quick starts off the line, and there's always power for passing. But the Boxster's true sports-car nature emerges when switched to one of two corresponding modes, now easily done with a flick of the thumb or fingers via a rotary dial on the lower right of the steering wheel. Once in sport mode, shifts become notably quicker and power from the all-new turbocharged engine pours on.
Here the Boxster's new exhaust note also speaks up. About that: Where the outgoing 6-cylinder powerplant wailed, the new 4-cylinder emits a deeper, athletic warble. It's different but satisfying in its own way, especially when fitted with the sport exhaust. When equipped thusly and floored, the Boxster emits an addictive crackle and pop as you move up and down the gears.
Compared to the outgoing Boxster, the new 718 is notably quicker off the line. The smaller but more potent base engine develops 300 horsepower, compared to the 265 of the old flat-6. The increase in torque is equally impressive: 280 lb-ft, compared to 206 for the 6-cylinder. Porsche says the new 4-cylinder engine is more efficient -- some 13 percent more, but the EPA has yet to publish exact figures.
For our time on track we again had a base Boxster, but this one was fitted with a 6-speed manual transmission. It's every bit as good as the PDK, and the one to get if you want the most engaging experience. Throws are short, the clutch is light, and the way the shifter notches into place is satisfying.
For our track experience, we tested the Boxster through a slalom, high-speed lane change and high-speed straightaway with subsequent full braking. The first two exercises showcased what the Boxster has long done best: handle like a champ. With its 265 horsepower, the outgoing Boxster wasn't the fastest off the line, but it could get the better of more powerful cars in corners thanks to its inherently balanced design with the engine sitting in the middle of the car, powering the rear wheels. The new Porsche Boxster still shines in the handling department, but now has extra power to boot. Even a base Boxster is capable of reaching 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, while a the more powerful Boxster S can do it in as little as 4 seconds flat. Which brings us to our next taste of the all-new Boxster.
The 2017 Boxster S, and really good brakes
If the standard Boxster was the main course, that higher powered S was dessert. If even the standard Boxster can feel like a bat out of hell, the Boxster S feels is akin to falcon with its tail on fire.
The Boxster S feels markedly faster than the standard model -- far more so than its 50 horsepower/29 lb-ft of torque gains would suggest. The standard model is no slouch, but if speed is your thing, the Boxster S will leave you grinning from ear to ear. It did for us.
Extinguishing that speed is another matter, and Porsche's new roadster proved more than adept here, too. The standard Boxster is fitted with the brakes from the outgoing S model and brought us down from nearly 140 mph on the track quickly, easily and with no stress. The optional carbon ceramics on our Boxster S were of course even more impressive, but at $7,400, you'd better plan to do a lot of high-speed stops to make them worth the payout.
Arriving this summer
Order books for the 2017 Porsche Boxster and Boxster S are open, with models set to reach dealers on June 25. The Boxster starts just over $57,000 when factoring destination charge, and the 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster S debuts at $69,450.
As you contemplate/dream about which color combination you want on your Boxster and whether to splurge for the Burmester audio system (why not?), here are a few parting thoughts we had after our first blush with this new Porsche:
- With fabric roof in place, the Boxster is reasonably quiet up to triple-digit speeds.
- While passenger room is fine -- two adults can even share the center armrest -- interior storagespace is at a serious premium. It's limited to a shallow center tray and a couple of pull out pockets on the bottom of each door. If you don't have the seats moved all the way back you can also throw a jacket or small bag behind them. Thankfully there is both a small rear bay and a front trunk. (Remember, this is a mid-engine car. If you see a Porsche Boxster owner with the hood raised, they're retrieving bags, not broken down.)
- The latest-gen Porsche Communication Management (PCM) infotainment is quick and even easier to use thanks to a swipeable touchscreen. Opt for navigation and you'll get a quick system guided by a friendly female voice.