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.
Theis the best kind of back-to-basics approach. It's a performance car that doesn't focus on power or speed, but instead showcases the inherent brilliance of the Porsche 718 chassis.
To that point, the Boxster T uses the 718's base engine: a 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-4 with 300 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. If you stick with the standard six-speed manual transmission, the T adds a short-throw shifter, but Porsche's PDK dual-clutch gearbox is available as a $3,730 option. The benefit to going PDK is quicker acceleration; hitting 60 mph takes 4.5 seconds with the dual-clutch automatic versus 4.9 with the 6MT. But great as the super-smooth, super-quick PDK 'box is, I can't help but long for the manual in this car. Remember, outright speed is not the goal here, and the Boxster's flat-four is best stirred with a stick.
Besides, the T is all about driver involvement. It comes standard with Porsche's sport suspension setup -- something that isn't otherwise available on the base 718 -- as well as a limited-slip differential, sport exhaust, 20-inch wheels and the Sport Chrono package. That last bit adds the cool and useful push-to-pass Sport Response button on the drive mode selector, though you only get that with the dual-clutch transmission, so I guess that's another thing working in the PDK's favor.
The Good ~ Excellent chassis tuning ~ Perfect steering ~ Strong turbo power
The Bad ~ Engine sound isn't so sweet ~ Outdated infotainment tech lacks Android Auto support
The Bottom Line The Porsche 718 Boxster is one of the best two-seat sports cars you can buy, and the new T variant is an ode to the base model's inherent brilliance.
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