2016 Porsche 718 Boxster review: Fast, fun, flat

Introduction

Like its 911 relation in the class above, the Porsche Boxster and faster Boxster S have long been the benchmark by which all rivals have been judged. Deservedly so, too, as Porsche’s two-seat, mid-engined roadster is a phenomenal sports car, with poise, performance, and huge badge appeal. Priced at a level that - while not inexpensive - is within the reach of a far wider audience than the 911 above, it’s been a huge success for Porsche.

In 2016 the Boxster underwent arguably its biggest revision since its introduction nearly 20 years ago. Porsche removed the naturally aspirated flat-six engine and replaced it with a turbocharged flat-four, significantly changing the car’s character. Signalling that change was the addition of the '718' to the Boxster name, which is a reverential nod to an historic racing Porsche with a similar engine configuration - though one only the most informed Porsche fans will get. 

Body Style: Sports car      Seats: 2                MRP from £44,758 - £55,714

Did you know? The 718 added to the Boxster badge harks back to a successful Porsche racer from the late 1950s that had a four-cylinder boxer engine.

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

The 718 Boxster remains very much the car that heads its class and, dynamically at least, has a few tricks that cars costing much more cannot match. Fundamentally it is excellent, whether in 2.0-litre 718 Boxster or 2.5-litre 718 Boxster S guise, but it’s also defined by what went before it. The newer four-cylinder engines have a lot to live up to, and while their on-paper performance and official economy and emissions are better than that of the six-cylinder engines they replace, there’s no denying some of the exotic, sports car magic has been lost in translation to the 718 model.

If the rest of the car wasn’t so far ahead of its competition then that might be enough for us to write off the 718 Boxster, but its handling is so sublime, its balance so good and its cabin so appealing it’s impossible to ignore. It’s even fairly practical, with luggage space up front and at the back. It might have lost some of its prestige and aural appeal with the loss of those two cylinders, then, but it’s still a hugely enjoyable, capable sports car.

 

 

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

We Like

Handling balance

Looks sensational inside and out

Plenty of performance

We Don't Like

The engines lack character

Expensive to buy, and to add options to

Economy gains not realised in real world

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

Always a pretty and beautifully proportioned car, the change from mere Boxster to 718 Boxster wasn't just signalled by a new pair of engines, but a fairly sizeable styling overhaul, too. The front and rear bumpers have been re-profiled, the lights updated with LED technology, and every panel on the 718 Boxster bar the bonnet has been altered. If it might not look too radical a departure then that’s entirely deliberate, as Porsche’s styling is never anything but evolutionary. Not that it needed a huge shot visually, but the surfacing on the new car is so much sharper, the rear in particular more dramatic thanks to strip linking the rear lights with bold 'Porsche script' below the automatically rising spoiler. The Boxster's mid-engined status is obvious not just from its proportions, but also the large vents fore of the rear wheels, which feed cooling air to those turbocharged engines that power it.

Badges aside there’s a few hints to the 2.5-litre car over its smaller capacity relation, the most obvious (if you’re following it) being the two circular tailpipes exiting in the middle of the rear bumper, where the regular 718 Boxster features a single near lozenge-shaped exhaust outlet. Along with that, the S comes as standard with larger 19-inch alloy wheels, behind which sit red brake callipers - the 718 Boxster has black ones. Either car looks good, roof up or down; the 718 Boxster is an attractive, head-turning sports car.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

The cabin in the 718 Boxster is a very fine driving environment indeed. The fit and finish are impeccable, the central console tidied up significantly with the addition of a touch-screen, under which supplementary buttons control various entertainment, ventilation, and heating functions. Those buttons concerned with the driving character are gathered around the gearstick further down the transmission tunnel. In front of you is a familiar Porsche set of instruments, the cluster dominated by a large rev counter, as ever, and many of the functions of the centre screen are duplicated in a digital panel to the right of it, with a conventional speedometer to the left. Porsche is rather proud of its current steering wheel, its design linked to that of its 918 hypercar's.

That wheel, depending on specification, contains various buttons for the audio, and, with the Sport Chrono option pack that adds another mode to the available driving selection, adds a simple rotary dial that allows you to flick through them without taking your hand from the wheel.

The seats are great, too - you don't need to fork out for the more heavily bolstered 'sports seats plus' unless you're planning on taking the car on track. However, it is a real shame that there's no adjustable lumbar support as standard, and you have to find some £1500 to get 14-way electric seat adjustment to get it. If you're planning on doing high mileage in your Boxster, this could be an option worth adding, expensive as it is. 

Road noise is fairly well contained, while the roof, though fabric, does a good job of isolating the wind rushing past. Roof down, the air management - with the small deflector in place between the seats - is acceptable, with very little buffeting in the cabin.

Practicality

For an indulgent, two-seat, drop top sports car the Boxster is surprisingly useful. There’s a luggage compartment up front that’s deep, holding 150 litres, while the rear boot is wider and shallower and adds 125 litres to that. You also get two pop-out cup holders, a reasonable amount of cubby storage, and a clothes hook on the back of each seat.

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

The Boxster gets a slick 7.0in colour touchscreen, which includes sat-nav, digital radio, USB input, Bluetooth, voice control and Apple CarPlay as standard. It's one of the best systems out there, since it looks great and responds quickly to a prod, or you can control it via the rotary dial on the dash, although sometimes it can be hard to find a specific setting in the various sub-menus. It's a shame it doesn't have Android Auto, mind, although given that the nav and direct MP3/Smartphone connectivity is so good, it's unlikely to bother you. You can upgrade the standard 8-speaker sound system to a 10-speaker Bose system, or for true audiophiles there's a Burmester 12-speaker option, but it'll cost you more than £2700.  

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

The Boxster is all about driving, and here it excels. We’ll get to the engines, but first the good bits. The Boxster has always been a beautifully balanced car, and the 718 Boxster remains exactly that. The chassis is so adept at dealing with the power, the steering crisp, well weighted and hugely accurate, the suspension able to cosset and control, and the way you can pick a line and the Boxster faithfully follows is little short of breath-taking. There are cars costing many multiples more than the Boxster that are overshadowed by it dynamically.

Grip and traction levels are high, though breaching them isn’t to be feared, as the chassis is so biddable that it’s possible to exploit that movement - though best to do so on a track. As standard it’s an incredibly able, hugely engaging car dynamically, but there’s the opportunity to add to its ability, via either PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management), or PASM Sport (on the S only), adding adaptive dampers to the mix: standard PASM drops the ride height by 10mm, Sport by 20mm. There’s also Porsche Torque Vectoring, which, in conjunction with a mechanical locking differential, increases the cornering ability even further.

The standard six-speed manual gearbox is sublime; the quality, speed and accuracy of the shift right up there with the very best, the weighting of the clutch similarly good, while the pedal spacing allows heel-and-toe downshifts if you want, though press Sport and Sport+ (assuming you’ve optioned Sport Chrono) and the electronics will rev-match down changes if you’re not quick on your feet. We’d like the option to remove that trick in truth, especially as there’s the PDK dual-clutch automatic for those wanting give their feet an easy life and shift instead via paddles - the PDK gains an extra ratio for seven speeds overall.

The engines that either of those gearboxes are attached to are the biggest single change in the Boxster’s make-up since it was introduced. Now four-cylinder turbocharged units rather than naturally aspirated sixes, they retain the horizontally-opposed boxer configuration, but fundamentally change the way the car performs. With low-rev torque thanks to that turbocharging there’s less need to rev them out, in either the 2.0-litre 295bhp 718 Boxster, or the 2.5-litre 718 Boxster S with 345hp. All versions are quick, but how quick depends on a couple of things, such as your choice of transmission - the PDK automatic is quicker, especially when mated to the optional Sport Chrono package that adds launch control.

So equipped, the quickest 718 Boxster S reaches 62mph in 4.2 seconds from rest, PDK accounting for around two tenths of a second advantage to 62mph, while adding Sport Chrono subtracts another two tenths on top of that. All reach 170mph, the S 177mph. We’d trade a bit of that any-rev, any-gear speed for a bit more engagement and character though - particularly for a better exhaust noise, since the engines sound a bit underwhelming even with the optional sports exhaust - but the march of progress means that, for economy and emissions reasons, we’ll have to do without.  

Recommended engine: 718 Boxster S manual

0-62 MPH

4.6 seconds

Fuel economy

34.9 mpg

Emissions

184g/km

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing 

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

Full-size driver and passenger airbags, Porsche side impact protection with thorax airbags, and head airbags come as standard, as does a fixed roll-over protection system, ABS brakes, and traction and stability control. Optional safety equipment includes Adaptive Cruise Control with Porsche Active Safe, which detects traffic in front and assists in braking to help avoid a collision. There’s also the option of Lane Change Assist, which warns of vehicles in the blind spot, while a camera-based speed limit indicator is also available if you pay for it. Traffic sign recognition and Isofix fittings in the passenger seat are both options that should be standard, and automatic city emergency braking is also notably missing from the Boxster. Plenty of safety kit then, but a lot of it needs optioning.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

Colours

The Boxster is a premium product, and a sports car, so the colour range is expansive. Four solid colours are offered: White, Racing Yellow, Guards Red, and Black, and eight fairly staid metallic colours of Carrara White, Rhodium Silver, Sapphire Blue, Night Blue, GT Silver, Graphite Blue, Agate Grey, and Jet Black. Opt for one of the four ‘Special’ exterior colours and you can have Lava Orange, Carmine Red, Miami Blue, or Mahogany. There’s also the option of five different hood colours, including black, blue, red, or brown, and these, surprisingly, don't add any cost. Inside, the trim choices are extensive too, and, like the outside, if you’ve any special requests, Porsche can accommodate them, at a price, via its Exclusive department.  

Trim Levels

There’s the basic 718 Boxster and the 718 Boxster S, the latter adding some equipment over its entry-level relation, though not a great deal. You'll want to add cruise control, Sport Chrono, PDCC adaptive dampers, sports exhaust, possibly the upgraded sound system and full electric seat adjustment if you like your comforts, and then there's the plethora of trim finishes and leather upholstery options. You can get away with a fairly basic Boxster if you need to, but adding some £5k of options makes it a better car throughout - and one that will hold its value much better. 

Size and Dimensions

Length

4,379mm

Width

1,801mm

Height

1,281mm

Max towing weight without brake

n/a

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

See that badge on the front? It doesn’t come cheap, and maintaining and running it won’t be cheap either. The engine switch was in a bid to improve economy, though all we’ve driven have struggled to get near their official figures - most of which are somewhere between 35mpg and 40mpg. In fact, we've found that in real world you're more likely to get 30mpg-ish, which is (somewhat ironically) no better than you would have got from the six-cylinder engines of old. Unusually, the PDK automatic cars are usefully cheaper to tax and run, though not as fun to drive.  

Reliability and servicing

The Boxster has impressively long intervals between necessary services, but those services will be pricey. Call us cautious, but we’d have it looked at annually. It’ll be worth it in the long run.

Servicing schedule

20,000 miles or every two years

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

Yes, it’s a Porsche, and yes, it’s very much the best car in its class and beyond dynamically, but its list price is very much a starting point. It’s not too difficult to add £10,000 to the purchase cost.    

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Recommendations

Car Enthusiast

A manual, Sport Chrono equipped 718 Boxster S will be a thing of utter joy.

Trend Setter

The GTS looks great, with its more overtly sporting styling and a more generous kit list. 

Luxury Seeker

Go wild with the options, though don’t bother with PASM, and you must have the Burmester stereo and every leather add-on.  

Rivals

Audi TT/TTRS

Audi's TT RS is a serious contender now, with power to outgun the Boxster S, though not quite the dynamic measure.

Mazda MX-5

Not a patch on the Porsche's classy finish and badge pedigree, but this dinky sports roadster is a joy to drive and easy to live with.

Mercedes-Benz SLC

New name for an old model: capable and fun, but the Porsche is sharper still, significantly so.

Lotus Elise

The Lotus is purer to drive, but for all its huge appeal, the Porsche is a far more talented all-rounder.

Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

So much promise, so much disappointment in reality. The 718 Boxster absolutely monsters the Italian.

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