Twenty years ago, the big news from Porsche was the arrival of a new “entry level” car: the Boxster. Its mid-mounted flat six-cylinder engine made a modest 201 horsepower, but that was more than enough to quickly propel this roadster to rapid global success. With the Boxster it wasn’t so much about brawn; it was about finesse.
Initially a few naysayers blathered on about whether it was a “real” Porsche, but come on… the overwhelming response to the new car was unbridled excitement and approval. It’s largely been that way ever since.
Did I say 20 years? Yes, it’s been that long, and over those years we’ve seen an incremental evolution of the Boxster, but no need at all to mess with the fundamentals. Don’t worry, these remain intact for 2017, but there are some very significant changes for the upcoming model, especially (gulp…) the loss of two cylinders. There’s also a “completely refined” chassis, changes to the exterior design, and something of a name change, too.
First of all, about the name change… The Boxster is now the 718 Boxster. Why? It’s got to do with the new engine. Porsche dug into its past and found the flat four-cylinder powered 718 race car from the 1950s as a kind of historical antecedent. Maybe it softens the blow of losing the Boxster’s sweet flat-six; maybe it reminds people that Porsche had huge success with the original 718 and that this is expected to carry on undiminished; maybe it emphasizes the depth of the brand’s flat-four engineering competence over the decades, thus pre-emptively legitimizing the new model (not that it needs it).
Whatever the reason, there hasn’t been a four-cylinder Porsche since the 944, or a flat-four offered by Porsche since the 912 E 40 years ago, according to Porsche (the 914 doesn’t seem to be one of the family). So Porsche effectively leapfrogged from the historic 718 to the new 718 Boxster, tied a bow and has presented them as a pair. The result is the $63,900 Porsche 718 Boxster with a new 2.0 litre, horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine behind the driver that develops 300 hp at 6,500 rpm, and the $78,000 Porsche 718 Boxster S whose 2.5L flat-four makes a formidable 350 hp at 6,500 rpm.
That’s a substantial 35 hp gain for both models, but the increase in torque is even more impressive. Typical of small displacement, direct-injected and turbocharged engines, they supply gobs of torque in the low and midrange of the rev-band. The 2.0L engine makes 280 pound-feet of torque (up from 206 lb.ft) at 1,950-4,500 rpm and the 2.5L engine makes 309 lb.ft torque (up from 266 lb.ft) at 1,900-4,500 rpm. Top speeds are 275 and 285 km/h respectively. This is really quite transformative.
Tech Spotlight: 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster
And despite the prodigious output, and an unexpected (by me) increase in weight (five kg for the 718 Boxster, 15 kg for the 718 Boxster S) the PDK-equipped Boxster delivers 9.0/5.7 L/100km city/highway and the “S” returns 9.5/6.0 L/100km city/highway on the European cycle using (of course) premium fuel. Yes, you read that right. Five-point-seven L/100km. Some hybrids barely achieve that.
So, not your father’s ’97 Boxster.