No one is more concerned than this writer about the Porsche Boxster/Cayman duo’s switch from naturally aspirated flat-six engines to turbocharged flat-fours. In their current guise, these mid-engine purebreds are arguably the best sports cars money can buy. Nothing comes close to their poetic balance, refinement and perfectly tactile controls, all underscored by linear, free-revving 2.7L, 3.4L and 3.8L six-pots that sing for their supper with God’s own soundtrack.
But the times they are a-changin’. Manufacturers are moving to smaller-displacement turbo engines in the quest for better fuel economy and reduced emissions. Porsche recently launched the 2017 turbocharged 911 sports car (still six-cylinder, thank you), and here comes act two – the turbo’ed four-banger 718 Boxster.
Guaranteed, the Boxster faithful are wringing their hands and squirming in their Pilotis. I know I am. Has the darling of the sports car world been emotionally eviscerated by its two-pot-ectomy? Lending some credibility to this conceptual shift is the Boxster’s new 718 pre-fix, borrowed from the legendary mid-engine four-cylinder Porsche 718 racecar of 1957-62.
So I’m here at a Michelin proving ground in the south of France, at the behest of Porsche, to spread the word on the 718. No, we can’t drive them. Just a technical presentation and a shotgun ride. Sigh.
As would be expected (and with the new 911), power is up, 0–100 km/h times are down and mid-range torque is the new frontier. The base 2017 718 Boxster, with a starting price of $63,900, supplants the outgoing car’s 265 hp, 206 lb-ft atmo 2.7L flat-six with an all-new 2.0L single-turbo four that makes 300 hp and 280 lb-ft of twist from 1950-4500 rpm. That’s a jump of 35 horses and 74 lb-ft. While the old car was pretty soft on the bottom end and required some revs to find the pace, this 718 will have none of that. In fact, when equipped with the seven-speed twin-clutch PDK, the base 718 Boxster beats last year’s PDK Boxster S to 100 km/h (4.7 seconds vs 4.8).
Move up to the $78,000 718 Boxster S and a bore increase nets 2.5L, 350 horsepower and 309 lb-ft, also on board from 1950-4500 rpm. This car with PDK blows through 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds, and on to 200 km/h in 14.3 seconds (against 4.8 and 17.3 for the outgoing car).
As with the outgoing Boxster, a six-speed manual transmission is standard kit – the seven-speed PDK runs $3,660.
By the Numbers: 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster
There’s a bit more to the S’s increased grunt over the base car than just increased displacement. It also benefits from variable-vane turbo technology. At lower engine speeds, small adjustable vanes in the exhaust track just before the turbo act like a tiny venetian blind, partially closing to increase the exhaust gas flow rate, spinning the turbo up sooner. At high engine speeds they open up, allowing for max high-end power.
Both engines have an air-to-liquid intercooler – the intercooler radiator lives behind the driver’s side air intake.