Although the Boxster initially rode on the coattails of the legendary 911 when it debuted two decades ago, Porsche's roadster has since become an icon in its own right. For 2017, Porsche added 718 to its name as a nod to its motorsports pedigree, but otherwise this is still the same recognizable two-seater roadster the Boxster has always been. Significantly, the latest-generation Boxster loses two cylinders yet gains 35 horsepower. Has the magic, embodied by its fantastic handling, sound, and feel, been diluted?
We found the answer to this question to be mixed. While the new car gains in terms of measurable performance and fuel economy parameters, and it retains its spectacular handling agility, immediate responses, easy top operation, and premium cabin ambience, the car's power delivery and sound characteristics have been somewhat adulterated in the transition.
Any concern that a four-cylinder may not broadcast the right bravado is instantly erased, as the mid-mounted engine hums and barks just behind you. Acceleration is brisk; we measured a 0-60 mph time of just 4.4 seconds with our 300-hp base model. But in everyday driving, there's typically a slight delay before the rich torque supplies a big rush. Compare that with the more gradual buildup of power and the smoother zing of the old six-cylinder, and some of us get nostalgic. Engage Sport mode, and the car changes its demeanor, sounding as if it is eager for a track day, complete with hearty exhaust "blats" on downshifts.
We opted for the PDK automated manual transmission to reflect most customers' preference. Despite trepidations, this transmission has won favor among us thanks to its swift, punctuated, and direct shifts. Buyers who want a traditional manual, complete with a clutch pedal, can still get one.
Handling is pinpoint accurate and seemingly telepathic. The car seems to execute your cornering line as you outline it in your head. It stays flat and turns in immediately yet never feels nervous. Those traits carry over to the track as well where the 718 demonstrates tenacious grip and a balanced behavior. Few cars can rival the Boxster's agility, driver confidence it inspires, or the grin it puts on your face.
Being a through-and-through sports car, no one expects a plush ride, lofty price not withstanding. The firm suspension ensures a very controlled ride, which is stiff but not overly punishing.
Noise is well managed with the the top up, and around town the engine and its range of tones become center stage. The cloth roof goes up and down by holding a single button, transforming the car in about 10 seconds -- even when moving at above 40 mph, which is pretty impressive. Wind buffeting is also kept to a minimum.
The low-slung Boxster has a cozy but premium feeling cabin. The firm seats are very supportive and offer a wide range of adjustments, but wider drivers will feel confined by the pronounced seat bolsters. The updated infotainment system proved easy enough to operate, although the center dashboard is a sea of similar-looking buttons.
One benefit of the Boxster's mid-engine design is that it allows for both front and rear trunks, resulting in enough space for a weekend trip. And it is a guilt-free pleasure to get 26 mpg overall in such a rewarding sports car.
Porsche has clearly instilled its trademark DNA in the 718 Boxster. Its secret sauce is evident in the car's handling, brake feel, sound, and cabin ambience. If you appreciate the driving experience, are young enough at heart, and aren't deterred by the steep price, then you're in for an uplifting thrill with the 718.