From £44,7589
We already know the new 718 Boxster S is as sweet as before, but for a price. Does its less powerful, but cheaper, sibling shine more brightly?

What is it?

You could call this the Porsche Boxster lite. The diet Boxster, if you please. The last time Porsche launched a car powered by an engine this small was 40 years ago; the motor came out of a VW van and went into a thing called a 924. From 2.7 litres of snarling flat six, the Boxster has been downgraded to 2.0 litres of warbling flat four.

Many who have already driven the Boxster S with the 2.5-litre version of this engine have emerged with their admiration for some aspects of this new powerplant under close control. What chance, then, for what is essentially the same car but with the one unquestioned asset of the S engine – its towering punch - removed?

Before we assess that, a quick look at the essential differences between the new 718 Boxster and its S derivative. The S has 50 additional horsepower, thanks not only to that larger engine but also a variable-geometry turbine, although you won’t need to be a maths professor to work out that it is actually the standard car that enjoys the higher specific output.

The S also comes with the same diameter brakes, but slightly thicker front discs, but as the Boxster already has the same braking system as the old Boxster S, it is unlikely to prove deficient in this regard. Boxster Ss come with 19in rims which are optional on the Boxster and have two rear exhaust pipes instead of one, unless you opt for a sports exhaust on your Boxster. And that’s about it, apart, of course, from the £8950 you’ll save if you are able to resist ticking the S box on the configurator.

What's it like?

One should always be very careful when leaping to conclusions, and never more so than when assessing Porsches. More than with any other brand I can think of, it is the modestly specified cars that so often turn out to be preferable.

And so it is again. Any slightly patronising thoughts you may harbour about the diminutive nature of this engine explode at the first prod of the throttle pedal. Small the engine may be, but turbocharged it is too, to provide not only 296bhp but also a fat 280lb ft wad of torque at less than 1950rpm. That’s more torque at less than half the revs – not compared with the previous Boxster but with the previous Boxster S. So despite having gained a few kilos, this new base Boxster accelerates just as fast on 2.0 litres and four cylinders as did the previous Boxster S on 3.4 litres and six cylinders. Add a PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission and it’s actually quicker.

But that’s not the nub of the matter. Far more important than raw data or even raw power in a car like this is the way it is delivered, and here the news is both bad and good. If the eternally optimistically minded among you were hoping Porsche had somehow managed to turn its base-spec engine into something as sharp, sonorous and rev-happy as the old flat six, when it had been unable to do so with the S, you will prtobably be disappointed. This is a turbocharged flat four, and that is precisely how it sounds from idle to limiter.

But it is a sweeter engine than that in the Boxster S. Its voice is less gruff, its power delivery smoother. It seems no less eager to head for the red, and if you play about at low or medium engine speeds on part throttle, it will emit a purposeful and decidedly pleasant burble. No, it won’t silence its detractors and, yes, of course I wish it still had a flat six, but I’d say this engine at least makes up in manners what it loses in power over the S motor.

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Happily, the engine also has enough torque for its follow-on benefits to remain intact. It can be used to bring the chassis alive at the flex of a foot rather than first requiring a couple of downchanges, and it still doesn’t feel as overgeared as all previous-generation Boxsters save the Spyder. This remains a fabulous car to drive, offering a riot of entertainment on the right road.

And say what you like about the engine, but it has had the effect of elevating the Boxster into an altogether more senior category of performance. If anyone used to consider the cheapest Boxster the poor relation you’d only buy because you couldn’t afford a proper Boxster, that, emphatically, is no longer the case.

Should I buy one?

If I were in the market for a car like this, I’d value the 718 Boxster's considerably lower price and more melodious engine above the extra slug of power that seems to be the only substantive advantage offered by the Boxster S. In the world of Porsche sports cars, less is more once again.

Remember, too, that whatever the limitations of the new engine, they have no effect on the Boxster’s position in its class. It was the most desirable car in its category with six cylinders and so it remains with four, regardless of whether there is a little 'S' on the bootlid or not.

Porsche 718 Boxster

Location Pitlochry, Scotland; On sale Now; Price £41,739; Engine 4 cyls, 1988cc, turbo, petrol; Power 296bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 280lb ft at 1950-4500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1410kg; 0-62mph 5.1sec (4.9sec with PDK); Top speed 170mph; Economy 38.2mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 168g/km, 30%

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Add a comment…
simon001 17 June 2016

Looking at the wider picture

As much as I like a nice engine note, I think the overall feel of a car is more important. Although the 981 Boxster 2.7 sounded amazing, I found the long gearing frustrating. I love revving the nuts off a car (I owned an Integra Type R, Honda S2000, and Subaru BRZ) but it is not always possible to drive in this manner on public roads, and when it becomes a necessity to make rapid progress uphill, it can become tiring. Perhaps the new car with its extra torque will be more rewarding to drive uphill on mountain roads.
As for turbo lag, if you keep the revs up then lag is dramatically reduced. Exiting a slow corner in the previous base Boxster in anything other than 1st or 2nd gear produced a kind of torque lag anyway.
I must admit that I'm worried about the sound of the new engine, and I hope it doesn't sound as bad as all the car magazines suggest. I think, in time, nerds will move on from bashing the new engine sound, and focus on the driving feel. I guess we can listen to music via the new iPhone connectivity instead.
RaduARX 20 May 2016

A question

Does anyone understand why a Porsche Boxter 718 2.0l is so expensive compared to the Audi S3 ? >>> S3 is
- 10.000 Euro cheaper,
- 10bhp more powerful,
- 0-60 0,4s faster,
- 10% better fuel economy
- and has 4wd.
Don't tell me it is in a different category.
Tornadorot 16 May 2016

"the motor came out of a VW van and went into a thing..."

Not this again... FYI, the EA831 was designed by Audi (based loosely on the original Audi "Mitteldruckmotor" from the '60s) and installed more or less simultaneously in the C2 Audi 100 (in 113PS carburetted form), the VW LT van (detuned to 75PS), and the 924 (fitted with K-Jetronic to give 125PS). In highly-tuned form it reached 375PS for the 924 Carrera GTR!