2017 Porsche 718 Boxster Manual


When Porsche revised its roadster line last year, rechristening it the 718 Boxster, restyling it slightly, and swapping in turbocharged 2.0- and 2.5-liter flat-four-cylinder engines for its beloved 2.7- and 3.4-liter flat-sixes in standard and S models, respectively, we knew we would have to test every powertrain permutation of each to see exactly how the changes would affect their characters and capabilities. (It's a tough job, we know.) Well, after this test of a Guards Red 2017 718 Boxster with the six-speed manual, we now have coverage of all four Boxster models. Say what purists will about the loss of two cylinders in the (still unfortunately sealed) engine bay behind the driver, we now can aver that every last variant of the 718 Boxster is spectacularly quick. And we've got the numbers to prove it.

If This One's the Slowest ...
With its mere 300 horsepower and human-actuated shifter, we expected this configuration to be slower than either of the 350-hp S models and/or any Boxster equipped with the lightning-fast dual-clutch automatic transmission. And we were right that this car did take the longest to get to speed. But, like all 718s we've tested so far, the base Boxster proved exceptionally quick, requiring just 4.4 seconds to hit 60 mph, 10.6 to achieve 100 mph, and 13.0 seconds to cover the quarter-mile at 109 mph. Yes, 4.4 seconds to 60. And that's the slowest-accelerating Boxster available to Americans.

In terms of acceleration, the switch to turbo four-cylinder power has paid off particularly well for base 718 models: This car is a huge 1.2 seconds quicker to 60 mph than was the previous Boxster manual, while the 718 Cayman manual's comparable time has dropped by a full second, from 5.3 to 4.3 seconds. PDK-equipped 718s do remain consistently quicker than their manual counterparts, but with the 2.0-liter turbo four, the gap has closed somewhat. Only 0.4 second separates human-shifted 718 Boxsters and Caymans from their automatic counterparts.

Thank you, turbocharging, for bestowing the 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 280 lb-ft of torque, 36 percent more than the former naturally aspirated 2.7-liter flat-six could muster, all of it delivered with only a whiff of lag from a low 1950 rpm. In most of our previous 718 reviews, we've expressed how the 2.0-liter lacks the nuanced character and symphonic aural experience of its predecessor. It's worth noting in that context that this engine's 7500-rpm redline is just 300 revs lower than that of the old six, and the 2.0-liter unleashes its 300th only when the needle sweeps past 6500 rpm, so exploring the full range of the tachometer remains as worthwhile as ever. With all that torque on the low and middle revs and peak power still found near the top, pretty much any spot in the 2.0-liter's rpm range could be considered the sweet spot. The result is a car that feels highly alert and more excitable. The base 718 Boxster bares its teeth and bites on command, and with the optional sport exhaust system ($2890), it boasts a mean bark, too.

The $10,400 Question
While Porsche claims that half a second separates the base Boxster from the S in the run to 60 mph, this car's time trailed that of the 2.5-liter S manual by a mere 0.1 second. That half-second disparity did appear in the run to 100 mph, which the S did in 9.8 seconds, but the base Boxster lost no additional time to the S as it charged toward the quarter-mile mark, even regaining a tenth, and ultimately arriving just 0.4 second and 4 mph off the S's result of 12.6 seconds at 113 mph.

There's zero daylight between the 718 Boxster and Boxster S manuals in handling, at least if the non-S is equipped, as ours was, with the $1970 19-inch Boxster S wheels, the $1790 Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) dynamic dampers that drop the car by 0.4 inch, and the $1320 torque-vectoring differential. Despite lacking the S's optional Sport Chrono package, which brings a still lower ride height, this Boxster demonstrated 1.01 g of lateral grip versus the S model's 1.04 g. At 145 feet, this Boxster's 70-to-zero-mph performance was as scintillating as the other three versions, which halted from 70 at 143 or 144 feet.

Praise, Praise, Praise: You've Heard It All by Now
After publishing six prior instrumented tests of 718 Boxsters and Caymans and naming the pair to our 10Best Cars list, it's likely that few readers remain uninformed about the many ways in which we think the cars get all the important sports-car things right. Everything from their solid structure to their excellent seating positions, great visibility, clear and sensible instrumentation, and perfectly sculpted steering wheels contributes to driving environments that are nearly ideal. And the precise shift action and communicative clutch found in 718s with the six-speed stick are benchmarks for those who would understand how a properly engineered three-pedal manual operates.

The Boxster also gets lots of other things right, including its impressive materials and assembly quality. Front and rear cargo holds give it unexpected practicality. Fuel economy is near the top of the segment, at 21 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. And its perfectly proportioned mid-engine body is absolutely, incredibly, ridiculously good-looking.

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