2017 Porsche 718 Boxster Adds Might and Refinement


Boxster evolution remains iterative, in much the same way as Porsche has over the years perfected the 911?a legendary sports car whose familiar silhouette conceals decades of perpetual improvement. Likewise, even though the Porsche 718 Boxster is all-new, with only the windshield, top, and luggage compartment lid carrying over, the 2017 roadster is instantly recognizable?only better.

Beyond the more extroverted styling, the dawn of new Boxster generation is signaled with the addition of ?718? to its formal name, a moniker that serves as a tribute to the race-winning, mid-engined 718 from the 1950s and 1960s.

More significantly, the new Boxster is powered by a new direct-injection, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that boasts 35 horsepower more than the outgoing six-cylinder model, for 300 horsepower total. Despite losing cylinders, torque has dramatically improved and we noted that the engine has more gusto with less effort.

For those craving even greater performance, the Boxster S now produces 350 horsepower.

Despite the automaker?s efficiency claims, aided by an auto start/stop system, the EPA estimates that the base Boxster will concede 1 mpg overall to last year?s model, for 25 mpg combined. We will soon confirm this, as our purchased car moves from the break-in period to formal testing.

As is so often the case with Porsche, the options piled up quickly with our test car, raising the $56,000 starting price to $69,790. Along the way, we gathered a few niceties, like the PDK automated manual transmission ($3,200), sport seats with memory ($2,320), 19-inch wheels ($1,970), Bose stereo ($990), Porsche Connect ($830), and blind-spot warning ($690). The seats were further upgraded with ventilation ($730) and via the Premium Package ($1,370), which added 14-way adjustments. All told, this is a pretty typical 718 and yes, even though a manual transmission seems like it should be an integral part of the recipe, the vast majority of 718 are expected to be PDK-equipped.

Sitting behind the wheel, the low-slung Boxster feels much like the previous car, complete with a cozy cabin, premium feel, analog primary gauges, and a confusing array of Chiclet-like buttons. The infotainment system has some Porsche charm in its display and operation, but it has proved easy enough to learn. There have been some quirks using Apple CarPlay that warrant further exploration. Some drivers have missed having steering wheel controls, which could offset the difficulty in selecting the right buttons when driving.

Those expensive seats are firm, with flat centers and modest width. Having the PDK transmission allows for a sizable dead pedal for resting your left foot. There are two cupholders, cleverly concealed behind dash trim. When used, the drinks are perched high, making spills a particular concern with controls and vents nearby. Cargo storage is quite good, thanks to a front trunk and a rear trunk providing enough space for a weekend trip or grocery store run. But interior space is quite stingy, limited largely to your pants pockets.

Fire up the engine, and it sounds frisky from the get-go. Any concern that a four-cylinder may not broadcast the right bravado is instantly erased, as the mid-placed engine comes across just as you would expect for a car whose big brother is a motorsports champ. Engage Sport mode and the car sounds like it is eager for a track flogging, complete with hearty ?blats? on downshifts. As a fuel-saving measure, the engine shuts off at stoplights. The audible change in sound may seem to other motorists like the car stalled. The engine refires quickly as needed.

With the top up, noise is well managed at highway speeds. Around town, the engine and its mischievous personality are more pronounced. The cloth roof goes up and down by holding a single button, transforming the car in a mere nine seconds?even when moving at city speeds. Pretty impressive.

Acceleration is brisk, with even this base model being muscle-car quick when pushed. The PDK has won favor among the staff, with its swift, punctuated shifts proving a well-calibrated compliment to the turbo engine. Shifts can be manually controlled via steering-wheel-mounted paddles or tapping the shifter, if you?re so inclined.

Steering effort skews toward the heavy side, with zero slack and immediate response. The handling is engaging, with virtually no body roll, immediate responses, and tenacious grip. Few cars can rival the Boxster?s agility, the driver confidence it inspires, or the grin it puts on your face.

Beyond the handling, the ride is very controlled?stiff but not punishing. The suspension actually absorbs imperfections better than you might think. It is worth noting that our car is fitted with 19-inch wheels, as opposed to other sizes offered on the 718.

Based on the initial 2,000 miles, which we had no trouble accumulating, mind you, it is clear that the Porsche secret sauce has been liberally applied to 718 Boxster, as exemplified by the handling, brake feel, steering, and sound. We?re impressed thus far, but how the Boxster truly measures up to the competition will be determined as we put the car through our more than 50 tests.

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