The 34-year-old returned to Formula 1 this year after his accident in 2011
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A new Boxster? It’s the Porsche 718 Boxster T, as the resurgence of the ‘Touring’ branding makes its way down from the 911 range and onto Stuttgart’s two-seat, mid-engined models. While it’s designed to be a harder-cored, lighter weight version of the Boxster, don’t confuse it with the new, fully Motorsport-developed Boxster Spyder. Which means no sonorous six-cylinder engine amidships, the Boxster T instead using the same, 296bhp 2.0-litre flat-four as the cheapest car in the whole Porsche range. That means 0-62mph in 5.1secs and a 170mph top speed. Isn’t that the engine that sounds pants? For want of more polite, descriptive terminology, yes. Anecdotal evidence from running a base 718 Cayman for six months suggests you do get used to the Subaru-esque thrum of its engine after a short while, soon relishing the low-down torque it brings compared to the operatic flat-six it replaced.
But after a little while away from this engine it still proved a shock to hear it thrumming away in the Boxster, an effect only heightened with the roof folded back (an operation that’s still electronic in this T, taking a matter of seconds to fold up or down at 30mph and below). A comparatively priced BMW Z4 M40i retains its straight-six and offers better real-world fuel economy than the 718, shedding further negative light on Porsche’s surely entirely CO2 test-based decision to downsize its sports cars’ engines. So what’s new for the T? Forget weight-saving measures, for they amount to removing the sat nav and stereo (before you sensibly add them back in for free) and turning the interior door pulls into contrived – albeit fun – fabric strips. Much like the GTS trim level does for the Boxster S, this is essentially a value-for-money greatest hits package of the base Boxster’s best options, one that Porsche reckons saves you up to 15 per cent compared to speccing them individually on a regular car. So your extra £7,265 over a standard 718 drop-top brings 20in alloys, 20mm-lower adaptive sports suspension, a shorter-throw six-speed manual gearbox and a mechanical limited-slip differential on the driven rear axle. A PDK paddleshift gearbox is optional, but as usual when it means spurning one of the world’s fine stick-shifts, we implore you to leave that configurator box unclicked. It’s still a proper drivers’ car then? Oh yes. The engine never charms, you just reach a point of acceptance with it, and thence use it with a similar level of emotion to the window switches or the drive mode dial. And rather like your other senses being heightened when one’s removed, by turning your attention away from wringing out every last rev you become hyper-alert to just how superlative the chassis on this car is. It always has been, and the sudden appearance of low-down torque compared to its predecessors gives it a chance to show its flamboyant side a little more often. The gearing is still heroically long, mind, and what we wouldn’t give to try a Boxster with sprint ratios and 30mph sliced from its top speed. It’d surely be wonderful. Even in the new-age of Alpine, this welterweight Porsche feels about as lithe and agile as performance cars get, with impeccable balance and just so much precision – and information – overengineered into every control. When you start getting excited by brake pedal feel you know you’re driving something that’s been developed to its nth degree. And then a mite further. Its ‘Touring’ moniker probably matches most successfully to the Boxster’s famously rich luggage space, with its boot at the front embarrassing some rivals (*cough* F-Type) before you’ve even walked round the back and found the second storage space. So it’s not hardcore to live with? A couple of days in the Boxster T reminded me of all of the lovely things that car exhibited every single day – tactile controls, a sublime suspension set-up, ergonomics to send every rival company boss to give their interior designers a stern talking to. In most regards it’s a fantastic thing. But much as it’s becoming a cliché to fall into criticism of the engine, its gruff character can’t help but feel more unwelcome when there’s some vaguely iconic badging to live up to. Our best advice? Buy a basic 718 Boxster and cherry pick some options (keep it to the essentials and you’ll pay £51k), or better yet, find an end-of-line, six-cylinder Boxster GTS and enjoy one of the very best roadsters ever made (£45k, though good luck finding a manual). This may be a brilliant car, but it’s not as beguiling as we know Porsche’s smallest can be. 7/10 Images: Mark Fagelson