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Porsche 718 Boxster Convertible (16 on) (718) 2.5 S 2d

Parkers logo Parkers 11/01/2017 Parkers
Porsche 718 Boxster Convertible (16 on) (718) 2.5 S 2d © Bauer Media 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster Convertible (16 on) (718) 2.5 S 2d

The Porsche Boxster has long been the enthusiast’s choice of small, open-top sports car thanks to its razor-sharp handling and rousing six-cylinder engine.

During its 20-year reign, rivals from Audi and Mercedes-AMG have had time to up their game – plus there’s the arrestingly good-looking Jaguar F-Type to contend with, too.

Porsche has responded with an even more powerful turbocharged roadster, with the hope of pulling ahead of the pack again.

What’s new?

The biggest change for the 718 Boxster is under the engine cover. Previous generations used naturally aspirated six-cylinder motors. These gave the Boxster a thrilling sound and power delivery that felt considerably more exotic than the car’s relatively low price tag.

Times have moved on and in the interest of better fuel efficiency the 718 now uses a pair of four-cylinder turbocharged engines. They come in 2.0-litres and 2.5-litres for Boxster S which we are testing. Superficially it doesn’t sound as good as the old one, and that’s a shame.

Still, you can now expect 184g/km of CO2 for an annual VED bill of £230. That’s £65 cheaper than the old car would have cost you at today’s rates, although miles per gallon savings are marginal, especially during eager driving.

It’s also more powerful, with 350hp to rival the old model’s 315hp and a boost in torque too. As a result the 0-62mph time has tumbled to 4.6 seconds. To put that improvement into context, the new Boxster takes 5.1 seconds, just as fast as the previous Boxster S.

The thing is, engine power was not the dominant facet of the Boxster's appeal. Foremost was the sweet chassis and the fun it delivered on a windy road, backed up by a howling, spine-tingling flat-six engine that thrived on high revs. Compromising that soundtrack for more power effectively swaps something you want for something you don’t need.

Is it still good to drive?

That aside, the 718 Boxster S is a seriously enjoyable steer – it’s streets ahead of its rivals and even throws down a decent challenge to considerably more expensive supercars in this aspect. It really is that good.

The engine feels a lot more usable than the old one, which needed stacks of revs to get going, while the power here is much more on-tap. You could argue that it misses some of the old car’s redline chasing character, but it’s certainly much easier to live with and use every day.

The six-speed manual transmission is about as good as it gets – with a short throw and decisive action, you won’t find yourself stirring it around trying to find the gear you want. It’ll rev-match for you on downshifts too. This function can be turned off if you prefer to heel-and-toe, and the pedals are perfectly spaced for this.

However you set the car up for a corner, the 718 Boxster will delight with its superbly balanced chassis that communicates its limits through the steering wheel and seat base, inspiring great confidence on a fast drive. You can sense exactly when and how far the rear end is going to step out and the Boxster’s diminutive size – less than two metres long and just 1,430kg – means it can change direction with great agility.

Equipment

There isn’t a massive amount of standard kit included with the Boxster which sort of suits its focused nature, but it’s slightly at odds with the starting price - £41,739 for a 2.0-litre car or £50,695 for the Boxster S. Still, that’s cheaper than the equivalent Audi TT RS or Jaguar F-Type, believe it or not.

As standard you get:

  • Porsche’s updated Communication Management multimedia system
  • Sound Package Plus with six loudspeakers and a total output of 110 watts
  • Bi-Xenon headlights with integral LED daytime running lights, and LED tail lights
  • Manual air conditioning
  • Electrically operated fabric hood with heated glass rear screen – this works up to 31mph and can be raised or lowered from outside using the key
  • Wind deflector
  • Electrically adjustable heated door mirrors
  • Sports seats with electric backrest
  • Leather on steering wheel, gear lever and door handles

The £9,000 leap to the Boxster S gets you some niceties like specific 19-inch wheels, an uprated brake system and a tracker device in case it gets stolen.

There's a further £10,000 worth of options on our car and oddly none of them seem gratuitous – in fact some things like the rear parking sensors (£348), seat heating (£284), sat nav (£1,052) and digital radio (£284), feel pretty essential and it’s surprising they’re not already included.

That lairy red leather interior costs £1,680, plus £138 to have the Porsche crest embossed on the headrests. Super-bright LED headlights cost £1,344 and automatically dimming mirrors with integrated rain sensor come in at £332. The smaller GT sport steering wheel (£186) is a nice addition too.

Performance-enhancing options

On our car we’ve got the thoroughly recommendable Porsche Active Suspension Management which comes in at £971 and enables you to pick from a comfortable or sporty damping set up. In its softest mode the Boxster S cushions lumpy roads remarkably well, and switches to a more secure feeling performance mode when you want to make progress on smoother tarmac.

In addition it has Porsche Torque Vectoring with a mechanically locking differential – a bit of a mouthful for £890 – which can vary the amount of engine power going to each rear wheel. The upshot of this is greater agility in slow corners and higher stability in fast ones.

The Sport Chrono Package (£1,125) feels like its missing out a bit by our car having a manual gearbox. You still get the steering wheel mounted drive mode selector with Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual modes, but there’s no Sport Response button in the middle - this turns everything up to eleven in automatic cars for a 20 second burst of maximum performance.

Manual cars also forgo launch control and the “motorsport derived” gearshift map that the Sport Chrono Pack adds to cars with the auto 'box. You still get the dashboard mounted stopwatch and performance page in the multimedia system, plus dynamic transmission mounts to improve cornering stability.

Verdict

All-in our car costs £61,466 and still feels like it’s missing out on some key gadgets you’d want for everyday use. You’d almost be better off leaving it stock, spending your options budget on a second car, and saving your Boxster for weekend blasts.

And actually that’s where it’s most enjoyable – special drives on special roads - despite the surprising aptitude for long distance cruising and easy-to-use turbo torque. While the new engine is not as charismatic or exotic-sounding as the old one, you certainly can’t criticise its effectiveness.

Porsche enthusiasts will lament the loss of the six-cylinder engine but the Boxster still features that fabulously communicative and well-balanced chassis that makes this the best handling – and most fun – small sports car around.

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