From the birth of the Boxster back in 1996, it’s been an interesting childhood to watch. While not instantly welcomed into the Porsche family by its diehard 911 siblings, this mid-engined playmate has proven itself popular and has slowly gained acceptance.
Sure, it’s taken a while. Like many newborns, the ‘96 Boxster was a somewhat gangly creature, kind of pudgy, perhaps not as steady on its feet as the older members of the family, and so it went through a few growing pains. Eventually, though, this youngster blossomed into something worthy of the Porsche badge.
In many ways, it grew up just like a child. With steady increases in stamina/strength, and a little time spent at the gym, it entered its teenage tearaway years culminating in the likes of the Boxster Spyder and the Cayman GT4.
In 2016, we see this evolution take its next logical step. Just as youngsters today grow up and start to take notice of the environment that surrounds them, the Boxster is looking to stamp its mark in this area, too. Out goes the 6-cylinder engine, and in comes a more efficient 4-cylinder.
What at first might appear to be a step backward is in fact a huge leap forward. That’s because Porsche has also managed to sneak in more power and better handling to create what is undeniably the most phenomenal Boxster ever produced.
I was recently invited to take a quick look at the new 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster, so let me share what I’ve discovered.
At some point in life, we all start to value family history, but very few of us go as far as changing their name to that of their grandfathers. The 718 nameplate comes from deep within Porsche’s history. In fact, you have to go way back to the 1950s and the birth of the mid-engined 4-cylinder Porsches.
It’s fairly safe to say that the new 718 Boxster will live up to its famous heritage. For a start, it’s just as stylish as any of those former classics. Crisp lines now run up over the hood and follow through to the rear, creating a much more sculpted appearance. The front takes on a wider, more muscular look, and the larger cooling air intakes simply add to this. Yet, it’s not all aggression as bi-xenon headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights sprinkle in an element of sophistication (LED headlights with four-point daytime running lights are also available). Stepping toward the rear, it’s difficult not to spot the redesigned side wings and sills providing a glorious, road-hugging stance. The rear then completes this overall transformation with a certain 3D quality as both the LED lighting units and the stylish centre nameplate almost jump out at you and grab your eyeballs.
Of course, this is a Porsche we’re talking about, so I’m not going to wax eloquently on appearances when the true story lies elsewhere.
The new 4-cylinder turbocharged engines are simply superb. The 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster develops 300 horsepower from a 2.0L displacement, while the 718 Boxster S develops 350 horsepower from a 2.5L unit. Like the 911 Turbo, the Boxster S uses a turbocharger with variable turbine geometry (VTG). In fact, Porsche is currently the only manufacturer to implement VTG technology in production models with gasoline engines. The result is a gain of 35 horsepower when compared to previous Boxster models, while fuel economy is up by 13%. All good news, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Obviously, removing the 6-cylinder and replacing it with a 4-pot sounds simple enough, but this is Porsche, remember. In order to maintain the perfect balance its products are famous for, a fairly comprehensive retune of the chassis was needed. Bracing was added to certain areas to take full advantage of the additional power, and although the new engines are somewhat lighter, some modifications were performed purely to enhance overall balance. This was also an opportunity to revisit the steering: The electromechanical system has been configured to be 10% more direct, which improves not only the car’s agility on a track, but also its maneuverability in everyday use.
The Porsche Active Suspension Management system (PASM), with its 10mm lower ride height, is available at an extra charge for the roadsters. However, for the first time, the PASM sport chassis is also available as an option on the 718 Boxster S.
But wait, there’s more. As is the case with the 911, the optional Sport Chrono Package now brings Individual programming to the three settings (Normal, Sport, Sport Plus). On models equipped with the PDK transmission, a Sport Response button has also been added.
What this all means in terms of performance is that the new 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster (with PDK and the Sport Chrono Package) sprints from 0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds ― 0.8 second faster than the previous model. Meanwhile, the 718 Boxster S (with the same equipment) now performs this sprint in 4.2 seconds ― 0.6 second faster than before.
At the end of the day, what we have here is a youth which has grown up and become a respectable member of the family and of society. While it pays reverence to its ancestry, it also looks to the future and demonstrates that it is not afraid of change. The Boxster is now faster, more nimble, and better in so many ways. Yet, it achieves this via a mature, well-considered plan rather than purely juvenile exuberance.
Unfortunately, as the vehicles on hand were pre-production models, we weren’t permitted to drive these for ourselves. However, I was given the opportunity to ride shotgun alongside a former Austrian national rally champion on a borrowed tire performance track. To say I was impressed by the performance and handling characteristics of the new Boxster would be an understatement of epic proportions. My skilled chauffeur put the vehicle through its paces and then some, and I came away with a total new respect for the Porsche Boxster.
Yes, while it has been a delight to watch this 20-year-old grow from a newborn to an adult, it is equally satisfying to now stand back and admire what it has become. If it hadn’t before, it certainly now owns the right to sit alongside those 911s at the boardroom table. Well done, kid!