Exit music. Porsche’s turbocharged four-cylinder 718 Boxster is a dynamic marvel – but it’s lost its soulful soundtrack. Words Robert Coucher. IGNITION / New Cars / #Porsche-718-Boxster
The new 718 Boxster is the first flat-four-powered #Porsche
since the 914 of the 1970s. Its name references the mid-engined, four-cylinder racing ‘seven-eighteen’ that won the Targa Florio in ’59, ’60 and ’63. While most roadgoing Porsche 356s of the 1950s and ’60s were fitted with Volkswagen-derived pushrod engines – I had one and never liked the VW soundtrack that much – the 718 had the legendary Fuhrmann quad-cam that was famous for its wall of deafening sound.
The new car comes as an entry-level 2.0-litre with 295bhp (£41,739) or the 2.5-litre, 345bhp Boxster S (£50,695). Both are turbocharged, more powerful by 35bhp, and deliver 74lb ft and 44lb ft more torque respectively. Despite looking like a mere update, the design is almost entirely new (bootlids, windscreen and electric roof are carried over), yet it looks more aggressive and the 3D nomenclature on the rear lid is a lovely detail. A reprofiled upper dashboard features inside and, with the Sports Chrono Package, you get a little Ferrari-inspired manettino switch where you can dial in Normal, Sport or Sport Plus. Steering is 10% more direct, and the base Boxster employs the brakes from the previous Boxster S while the 718 S features four-piston calipers from the 911 Carrera. Its uprated suspension is combined with a beefed-up rear subframe.
The engine starts with a tough grumble. Move away and the steering immediately reveals exactly the right amount of weight and feel, the ride in Normal setting is extremely good, the six-speed manual gearbox is flick-with-two-fingers light and uber-direct, though the clutch is quite firm and long of travel. The seven-speed PDK trans is bullet-quick, now so good it makes the manual seem wrong in this bang-up-to-date package. Here in Portugal, both prove agile and taut, with superb lateral control through the slalom cones and lane-change test. Yet it’s on winding mountain roads that the 718 S really comes alive, thanks to the extra grunt provided by its turbocharger’s variable geometry. Its steering is pin-point accurate, the brakes are hugely powerful and feel some, the chassis dynamics heroic and all that power is a real rush. The perfect sports car of the moment, then?
Almost. Phasing out that wonderful flat-six in favour of these turbocharged flat-fours has ushered an elephant into the room – and it’s tonedeaf. The power and delivery of the S’s 2.5-litre engine is peerless – better than the 2.0-litre, which suffers some lag – but the soundtrack is flat and droning. At low revs it emits a hint of that gruff Subaru Impreza syncopated throb but it’s dull at a cruise and, while it revs willingly to 7500rpm, it does so with little aural joy.
For the S to crack 60mph in 4.2 seconds with a top speed of 177mph (4.7sec and 171mph for the base Boxster) is incredible, especially considering the engine capacity and new-found claimed efficiency (fuel economy is improved by 13%). But these gains come at the expense of one of the automotive world’s most evocative and heart-warming soundtracks. And that’s sad.
Left and below 718 Boxster looks familiar yet different. The big news is midmounted and rarely seen: four cylinders not six, plus a turbo.