No sports car handles as well or is packaged so expertly
Plenty sound better, though. Old Boxsters especially
What is it?
It’s sacrilege, that’s what. Okay, that’s going in on the new Porsche 718 Boxster a bit hard, but having attempted to convince us that turbocharging was the way forward for the 911, Porsche took an even bigger step with the Boxster and Cayman’s 2016 update.
The world’s greatest roadster (since 1996, at least) now has a turbocharged 4cyl engine in place of the old naturally aspirated flat-six. Out goes the tuneful harmony that’s been a trademark of Porsche’s dinkiest cabrio for the past two decades, in comes something more normally associated with Subaru Impreza Turbos.
And yes, the badge is new, too. Porsche 718 was the name emblazoned across a series of mid-engined, flat-four racecars that competed in the late Fifties and early Sixties, so what better way than attach some emotion to an engine riling up the purists than tacking on a bit of motorsport heritage?
There has been something of a U-turn, though. As before, there are several tiers of Boxster ownership, echoed by the 718 Cayman range, with a very welcome surprise at the upper echelons.
Once again there are standard, S and GTS versions, while there’s a Boxster T for the first time, too. Plenty to digest, so buckle in.
The Boxster and Boxster T use a 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo, producing 296bhp and good for 0-62mph anywhere between 5.3 and 4.7 seconds, depending on whether you’ve specced Sport Chrono and gone for the six-speed manual or seven-speed PDK gearbox, though all top out at 170mph. (You want the manual, by the way, excellent though PDK is.)
The T is the lighter, slightly harder cored variant, but largely at a superficial level. We’re talking fabric door pulls like in a 911 GT3 RS and the ability to bin your stereo and air con, but there’s no fire extinguisher or suchlike in here. Think of it instead as a value-for-money raiding of the nicest bits of the Boxster’s options list, with the suspension, wheels and locking differential all added for a smidgen over £7,000.
Then there’s the Boxster S, which use a larger 2.5-litre 4cyl turbo with 345bhp, dipping the 0-62mph sprint down to 4.6 seconds and lifting the top speed to 177mph. It used to share its engine with the Boxster GTS, but that has now gained a 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine parachuted down from the Cayman GT4 to once again restore proper noise and throttle response to the world's neatest handling roadster. It also enjoys a bit of an options list haul and looks a bit meaner and more assertive than its base car, too. Boxster prices start at £46,000, the GTS dragging them past £60,000. Yikes.
An important footnote is the 718 Spyder. No longer a Boxster in name (but still very much a Boxster in principle), it’s the hardest cored of the lot and, at a touch over £73,000, is a focused old thing deserving of its own review right here.
Our choice from the range
What is the verdict?
What we have here is – still – the best roadster on sale. But rather than look down on its rivals as a dominant, reigning leader, it’s kicking them away as they snap aggressively at its heels. Just as the quality of this class has improved – a better BMW Z4 than ever, the still-desirable Jaguar F-Type – the Boxster has taken an unfortunate dip in character that makes it more vulnerable to attack.
Sure, we’re grumpily wishing for an increasingly bygone age when cars revved higher, sounded better and didn’t have to tackle an assault course of regulations during their development. Porsche’s engineers must have been as heavy-hearted as anyone to learn the glorious old flat-six was outmoded.
Especially when a car is otherwise so close to perfection. The chassis really is one of the very best in the business, and until the lovely little lightweight Alpine, there was nothing to touch the Boxster and Cayman pairing when it came to a sports car offering a wonderfully judged mixture of everyday ability and otherworldly handling. It may be wounded, but the Boxster’s still brilliant. And now the six-cylinder engine is back for the GTS 4.0, it's more brilliant still if you spend the right money.