It's hard to believe that 2017 marks the Porsche Boxster's 20th year of production. The German carmaker has outdone itself to celebrate, with the all-new Boxster 718 and Boxster 718 S. The mid-engine, rear-drive cars are completely redesigned, save for the rear trunk lid, top and windshield. The front end appears more muscular, with larger air intakes and new bi-Xenon headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights. LED headlights are optional.
Underneath, the chassis has been retuned for improved responsiveness, and aluminum-steel composite construction makes for a lightweight yet incredibly rigid platform. Braking comes courtesy of 4-piston aluminum calipers on internally vented and cross-drilled discs, with pad wear sensors on each corner.
Interiors have been refreshed as well, with top materials and excellent ergonomics, plus the newest Porsche Communication Management (PCM) that underlies everything from cell phone integration and audio interfaces to optional navigation with real-traffic updates, Google Street View and Apple Car Play. The electric roadster top features a wind deflector and heated glass rear window and can be operated at speeds up to 31 mph.
Porsche has forsaken the excellent naturally aspirated flat-four that powered previous Boxsters for an all new turbocharged flat-four. In the 718 Boxster, the 2.0L unit produces 300 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. In the 2.5L 718 Boxster S, output is rated at 350 horsepower and 309 pound-feet. In each car, output is up 35 horsepower over previous models, while torque is up 74 pound-feet in the Boxster and 43 pound-feet in the Boxster S. Both engines feature auto stop/start technology, and both are mated to a standard 6-speed manual transmission, while Porsche's 7-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic is optional. Top speed is rated at 170 mph for the Boxster and 177 mph for the Boxster S.
The 718 Boxster rides on 18-inch wheels and includes standard features such as an auto-extending rear spoiler, power one-touch windows, heated power mirrors, sport seats with electric backrest adjustment, automatic climate control with an active carbon filter, a 110-watt sound system, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, park assist with a rear camera and PCM. The instrument cluster features triple round gauges with the tachometer front and center, while a high-resolution TFT display monitors vehicle settings and navigation, radio, and phone information. The 718 Boxster S is similarly equipped, though it rides on 19-inch wheels and includes sport pedals.
Several options are available on either car, including a BOSE or Burmester surround sound system, navigation integrated into PCM, 18-way adaptive sport seats, a GT Sport steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated seats, and safety features like adaptive cruise control and lane change assist. The $7,400 Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) add carbon fiber reinforced discs with yellow six-piston calipers. Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) is an electronically controlled damper system with NORMAL and SPORT settings. And the Sport Chrono Package features an analog and digital stopwatch along with steering wheel-mounted controls for NORMAL, SPORT, and SPORT PLUS settings to change engine, transmission and chassis responsiveness. Launch control is also included on cars equipped with the PDK transmission.
Some cars are just so satisfying that waxing poetic does them no justice. Case in point: the 2021 Porsche Boxster GTS 4.0. It's a two-seat convertible with a 4.0-liter flat-six engine, a manual transmission, rear-wheel drive and a whole host of technologies aimed at making the driving experience as pure and sharp as can be. It's amazing. On we go.
Lifting the door handle -- blissfully not one of those electromechanical finger-pinchers from the latest 911 -- I'm met with every expensive material under our yellow sun. A $2,160 investment yields soft, flawless leather on about half the car's surfaces, with the remaining bits clad in Porsche's Race-Tex suede -- not my personal preference, but a suitably racy one. Combined with one of my favorite paint colors, Chalk ($2,580), and a blue roof, the Boxster GTS exudes sophistication. But marveling over material choice isn't the point here, so I take command of the steering wheel (also suede-wrapped), stick the six-speed manual transmission's lever into first gear and set off.
I make it about 5 feet and I'm already enamored. The clutch packs the right amount of weight and has a clearly defined and communicated bite point. Combined with a throttle that's never too sensitive no matter the mode, starts are buttery smooth every time, with successive gear shifts feeling just as satisfying. Putting through my neighborhood is an impressively sedate affair; even though I have the standard dual-mode exhaust pegged on Loud nearly constantly, low-throttle moments keep the decibels on the hushed end of the spectrum, with just a hint of that trademark flat-six rasp.
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