Porsche 718 Boxster

BY
VIVEK VENUGOPAL

February 21

With its steering rack borrowed from the 911 Turbo and the rear suspension derived from the excellent Cayman GT4, the new 718 Boxster isn’t to be passed off for its new small engine. Yes, Porsche fans will moan about the death of the flat six – as with any big change Porsche makes these days – but truth is, the Boxster has now become a better car overall. And that 2.0 litre engine, while down on capacity, has 35bhp and 100Nm more than the 2.7 litre engine it replaces.

While it might look like an all new car, the new Boxster is a thorough facelift of the 981 third generation. It looks so fresh with the new face and the four dot DRLs that are so distinctively Porsche. The chin is more pronounced and the headlamps look so well integrated with the bulging fenders. The rear appears even sleeker with new blacked out tail lamps and pop-out Porsche name spelled out under the spoiler. Only the hood, boot lid and windscreen have been carried over. In fact, the update on the 981 is so comprehensive it warrants a new chassis name on its own – the 982. Of course, Porsche calls it the 718 – a name that harks back to the race car of the sixties – one which punched above its weight and used a 1.5 litre flat four engine to beat a 3.0litre V12 Ferrari. A 718 RS60 won the Sebring 12 hours and the Targa Florio in the 1960, so there is some racing pedigree to be had with the flat four and 718 name. Also the new 718 name is in line with the 911, 918 and upcoming 919 models.

Inside, it is typically Porsche with good quality materials and well screwed together parts. The upper part of the dashboard is different with circular vents replacing the rectangular ones. The new touchscreen unit looks cool with its bezel-free look. The convertible roof which folds down rather quickly, doesn’t squeak or rattle over potholes. You can drive roof down without any buffeting thanks to the air deflector fitted between the rollover hoops. What’s more, you can also use the windscreen washer when driving top down. The spray pattern is so optimized not to wet the cabin and all you’d get is the distinctive smell of VAG spec washer fluid.

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The wheels are only 18 inchers in our base spec car. That we are used to seeing such profile tyres on sports cars these days, these look like they are from a bygone era. But they do offer good ride quality and peace of mind when driving over bad roads.

The 2.0 flat four is essentially the new 911 3.0 flat six with two cylinders removed. The turbocharger in this one runs up to 20.3psi with peak torque of 380Nm coming in at just 1950rpm and holding that way all the way to 4500rpm. Peak power comes in strong at 6500rpm. The engine revs up to 7500rpm which is quite lofty for a turbocharged unit. It feels meatier than the outgoing 2.7 litre flat six with strong mid range and clever PDK ratios. The engine is also very smooth, thanks to its inherent balance and active engine mounts which loosen up at low speeds for refinement and stiffen up at high speeds for that more connected feel. It also has a characteristic sound, unmistakeable of a flat four, with a deep rumble at low revs and a high pitched note when let loose. The sound is similar to a 911’s flat six and thankfully not like a tuned-up Subaru as most might imagine.

With 296bhp and 380Nm torque, the standard Boxster now has performance comparable to the earlier S model with the 3.4 litre engine. This must be the first time in the Boxster’s life that the base engine feels sufficient and torquey. Yes, there is some unavoidable turbo lag when you are caught in traffic and moving off, but once in its wake, it shines through. 0-100kmph comes up in 5.2 seconds but the Boxster is not about straight line performance. This is a car for the windy bits of roads. You’d struggle to find a better handling car at this price point than the Boxster. There is so much grip and balance through the corners you’d be focussing on correcting your line further and braking later for the next one. There is ample grunt to push you through after each corner and enough give in the chassis to be playful with the car. The new steering is even sharper and thanks to the weight savings, the car feels more eager to change directions than ever before. The bigger brakes are borrowed from the earlier S models (the S now gets ones from the 911) and have much better bite, giving you tons of confidence at speeds.

Driving with the top down makes it even better. As in any convertible, the gush of wind heightens the sensation of speed and you’d never be left wanting for more power. In the Boxster however, it makes you feel more connected to the road and yearns you to drive even faster. You are much more aware of the surroundings and that adds to the overall experience. You can also hear more of the engine which pops and crackles on the over-run adding to the drama of the already purposeful flat four note. The 2.5 litre motor with its 350bhp and 420Nm will be even more mental, but Porsche won’t be offering that here initially.

It is as much fun driving this thing as it is to park it by the side of the road and enjoy its looks. It is also a time when you can reflect on how much of a car it is for the price. It is one of the best driver’s car in the country and also among the best looking. The car is an eye ball magnet especially in this Guards Red flavour. Yes, cars like the Mustang offer more size and a big V8 engine around the same price, but lacks the dynamics, performance, badge value and perfection this one has. The Boxster is for a different class of buyer, one with finesse and possesses better driving skills. It is about the right size and so easy to drive on narrow roads. The Boxster is also more practical than you think, with its hood and boot, both offering sufficient cargo space. With the smaller engine, it is more efficient and thanks to the lower imports structure, it is better value than ever. With ex.showroom prices starting around Rs.85 lakhs, you can’t do better than a 718.

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BY VIVEK VENUGOPAL

Editor-In-Chief

Vivek Venugopal is one of India’s top automotive writers with over a decade’s experience in road-testing and reviewing cars. He is currently the Editor of Quarter Mile magazine and a columnist in several leading magazines and newspapers. He is also a highly sought after consulting engineer and market analyst for many automobile manufacturers.

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