Porsche's mid-engined sports car benchmark is back with a new name

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 old 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. Regardless, it remains the car that defines and heads the class, by a significant margin, but that engine changes it, and not always for the better.    

 

Body Style: Sports car      Seats: 2                MRP from £41,739-£50,695

         

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

Verdict: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (6.9/10)

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, crucially, economy and emissions, are better than that of the six-cylinder engines they replaced, 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 with the loss of those two cylinders, then, but it’s still a hugely enjoyable, capable sports car.

Pricing

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Engine & Specs

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Fuel Economy

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Safety Features

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Performance & Handling

★★★★★★★★★ (9/10)

Interior & Comfort

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Design & Exterior

★★★★★★★★★ (9/10)

Technology & Connectivity

★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ (3/10)

 

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

We Like

Handling balance

Looks sensational inside and out

Plenty of performance

We Don't Like

The new 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

Design & Exterior: ★★★★★★★★★ (9/10)

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

Interior & Comfort: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

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, while those 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.

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.

 

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

Technology & Connectivity: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ (3/10)

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

It’s not a case of the 718 Boxster being a Luddite, just that, if you want it to offer all the latest technology, then you’ll have to get used to ticking plentiful option boxes for it. There is a standard sound system and Porsche Communication Management, which includes mobile phone ‘preparation’ on both the 718 Boxster and 718 Boxster S, but if you actually want to connect your phone you’ll need to pay extra. Likewise for satnav, Bose, or Burmester premium audio; indeed, Porsche doesn’t even include DAB radio as standard, which seems a bit cheap. There are all manner of Connect and Connect Plus options, which bring things like Apple CarPlay, WIFI and App connections, but again they’re all on the options list. Tick all those options, as most people do, and it’s all accessed via a slick operating seven-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash.  

 

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

Performance & Handling: ★★★★★★★★★ (9/10)

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

You might forgive Porsche for that somewhat miserly standard technology offering as, really, 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 gearbox, a standard six-speed manual, 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 a PDK 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 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 300hp 718 Boxster, or the 2.5-litre 718 Boxster S with 350hp. 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, 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

Safety Features: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

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. Plenty of safety kit then, but a lot of it needs optioning.

 

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

Specs and Trim Levels: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

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. Indeed, think of them both as something of a blank canvas for options, as the Porsche way seems to require plenty to bring either model up to a level that’s approaching desirable.      

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

Running Costs & Fuel Economy: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

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, and gained little in reality over the old car’s flat-six. Officially, the 718 Boxster with PDK automatic will return 40.9mpg and emit 158g/km, worsening to 38.2mpg and 168g/km with the manual. In the S those figures are 38.7mpg and 167g/km for PDK and 34.9mpg and 184g/km for the manual, so those PDK cars are usefully cheaper to tax and run, though not as fun to drive.  

Reliability and servicing

Call us cautious, but we’d have it looked at annually. It won’t be cheap to do so, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.

Petrol models

20,000 miles or every two years

Diesel models

n/a

 

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

Pricing: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

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 by ticking a few essentials from the long options list.    

 

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.

Company Car Buyer

If the company’s paying, minimise your tax with a PDK 718 Boxster for its lowest emissions offering.

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.

BMW Z4

BMW’s roadster should be the match for the 718 Boxster, but it simply isn’t.  

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.

What others say

Autocar

Better than ever objectively, but at the expense of vital subjective appeal.”

Evo

Faster than ever and still brilliant to drive, but the new turbo engine lacks character.”

 

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster