If our crush on the Porsche 718 Boxster and its coupe sibling, the Cayman, wasn't obvious enough from our multiple glowing reviews of the sports cars, we also gave the twins a 10Best Cars award for 2017-the Boxster's 12th consecutive honor. Need any more proof that we like this car? Ready or not, here we come with another track test of yet another 718, this time the base roadster equipped with Porsche's optional dual-clutch automatic transmission.
More Power from Less Engine
Porsche offers the Boxster in 718 and 718 S guises, with the S denoting a 350-hp turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder. The S-less regular 718 tested here uses a smaller-displacement version of the same horizontally opposed four, equipped with a less sophisticated turbocharger that lacks the S engine's variable-turbine geometry.
As a result, this 2.0-liter four makes "just" 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. That's a fair margin better than the output of the previous 2.7-liter flat-six. Assuming the turbo is alive and spinning, torque is more plentiful lower in the rev range, too, making the 718 a far better commuting partner than its predecessor. To answer the all-important exhaust-note question, our staff remains split on whether the new flat-four engine sounds more like a Subaru being waterboarded than like the classic Porsche song of its flat-six predecessor. Without question, it emits a sporty gargling sound that most will equate with "fast." The optional sport exhaust ensures that, no matter what you think the 718 sounds like, it can be set to "louder."
In combination with the quick-shifting PDK dual-clutch automatic, the lightweight Boxster reaches 60 mph in 4.0 seconds and lays down a 12.5-second quarter-mile time. That's a mere 0.4 and 0.6 second behind the 718 Boxster S PDK we tested previously, actually nipping the stick-shift 718 Boxster S's times to the same marks by 0.3 second and 0.1 second. The 718 Boxster also beats both the previous-generation Boxster S PDK and the 330-hp Boxster GTS and runs a dead heat with the 375-hp 2016 Boxster Spyder (which borrowed the contemporary 911 Carrera S's 3.8-liter flat-six) to 60 mph.
Our test car represents the quickest-accelerating configuration among 2.0-liter Boxsters, what with the $3200 dual-clutch transmission and the $2605 Sport Chrono package. Buy a manual-transmission model or skip the Sport Chrono gear (which adds a fancy stopwatch to the dashboard, a launch-control function, and a drive-mode dial on the steering wheel), and your acceleration times-and nothing else-will suffer slightly.
In theory, you could skip all the other options on our $79,605 test car and still drive off the dealer lot with an incredibly capable and satisfying sports car for $57,050. Did this 718's 1.03 g of grip and 144-foot braking distance benefit from the $1790 Porsche Active Suspension Management (adjustable dampers that provide both a tolerable ride and impeccable body control) and the Pirelli P Zero tires that come with the $1970 19-inch Boxster S wheels? Probably, but the car doesn't turn into a cow on roller skates with the standard fixed-setting suspension and 18-inch Goodyear Eagle F1 tires.
As with every 718 we've driven, this example proved to have a sharp appetite for eating curvy roads. The quick electrically assisted power steering delivers surprisingly clear feedback from the front tires to the driver's hands. The chassis communicates grip levels front and rear just as transparently, and the mid-engine layout helps the driver feel as though the entire car is pivoting around an axis running through his or her spine. It is so eager to change direction that the $1320 brake-based torque-vectoring system installed on our 718 seemed unnecessary.
But Really, About That Four-Cylinder...
If the new flat-four engine detracts from the Boxster experience in any way, it's only in the faint tingle it sends through the steering wheel, the shifter, and the driver's seat at idle. (This, despite variable engine mounts intended to quell the boxer's worst behaviors.) The rest of the time-thanks to the PDK-turbo lag is stifled at engine speeds above 2000 rpm, where most back-road work is done, and the more powerful engine builds thrust with zeal. The old flat-six, by comparison, didn't punch its time card until around 5000 rpm.
The improved performance more than makes up for the four-cylinder's failure to move the needle on fuel economy, which was supposedly the reason Porsche abandoned its beloved flat-six. Over several hundred miles, the 718 returned a decent 21 mpg-exactly the same figure we saw in a stick-shift 2013 Boxster with the six. Even using EPA testing procedures, Porsche didn't see an improvement from last year's six-cylinder Boxster. The four-pot 718 earns the same 22-mpg city rating and 25-mpg combined figure, while losing 2 mpg on its highway number. Upon learning this news, those who dislike the Porsche's four-cylinder sound are probably dipping torches in kerosene and fumbling for their Zippos while tripping over a pitchfork. Remember, though: The real-world fuel economy isn't any worse (we also recorded a stellar 33 mpg on our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test loop), while added power makes it quicker. Should more performance with no erosion in fuel economy really be counted as a demerit?
Another potential pain point for this 718 is its $22,555 in options, but we'll reiterate that none are must-haves, and only the following three truly affect performance: the aforementioned Sport Chrono package, the Porsche active suspension, and the PDK dual-clutch automatic. The $1970 for 19-inch wheels and tires is up for debate; they strike us mostly as an appearance upgrade, but we haven't had a car on 18-inch wheels at the track to provide a basis for performance comparisons.
The other extras here serve more as a reminder that Porsche allows customers unfettered reign over a deep reserve of personalization. Some items, surely, are practical, including the $760 dual-zone automatic climate control, $530 seat heaters, $1730 navigation, $440 sport seats, and the $320 small-diameter GT Sport steering wheel. Others, such as the $350 yellow-fabric seatbelts, $2890 dual-mode sport exhaust, and $2520 black full-leather-wrapped interior speak to an owner's particular vanities. Make of the order sheet what you will. Go hard and double up the Boxster's base price for a one-of-a-kind roadster built to your specifications-or don't. Either way, you'll be getting the best sub-$100,000 performance value next to a Chevrolet Corvette, four-cylinder engine and all.
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