In the late 1990s, the Boxster saved Porsche. It kickstarted new interest in the German sports car maker and helped set the company on a successful course. The original Boxster was simple and fun, with just enough power and a pretty reasonable price tag. Twenty-five years later, the base Boxster still slaps.
Porsche gets a lot of undeserved guff for putting a turbocharged flat-four engine in the Boxster, a change that came as part of the car's 2016 overhaul, along with the addition of 718 to its name. "It needs a flat-six!" and "This thing sounds like crap!" are common complaints among purists. But write the turbo-four Boxster off completely, and you'll miss out on so much joy.
That's especially true with thethat joined the lineup in 2020. The T essentially pairs the Boxster's base engine with performance goodies found on more expensive models. You get an adaptive sport suspension, limited-slip differential and 20-inch wheels with sticky summer tires. Combine that with a punchy turbo engine and a six-speed manual transmission, and the T is a whale of a time.
Porsche recently invited me to the Santa Monica Mountains to sample a number of its Boxster models, including the hot, hotter and, yes, the humble T. The six-cylinder models are spectacular; there's no arguing that point. But what surprised me was how good the Boxster T was in comparison. Driven after the GTS and Spyder, the T in no way felt like a consolation prize.
Higher-performance versions of any car are only as good as the entry-level models on which they're based. That means every Boxster has an all-star core, with a perfect mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. Excellent balance and composure, quick steering, playful reflexes -- these are traits you'll find in every single Boxster model. The major differences across the line really come down to powertrain tuning, though I'll reserve a bold-type asterisk for the range-topping 718 Spyder, which has a front axle derived from the 991.2-generation.
So what's the beef with the Boxster's base engine? Certainly not the specs. The 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-4 produces 300 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, which is more than enough for a 3,058-pound roadster. The issue, it seems, is the use of forced induction versus a naturally aspirated setup. The latter offers a sort of predictable, linear power delivery that works really well in a sports car. You can keep these engines endlessly humming at high revs while you connect the dots between S-curves.
But what's so bad about a turbo? Porsche's used turbocharged flat-six engines in its 911 range for years now, and every time I drive one, it's a goddamn delight. In the Boxster, those same dynamics shine through: tons of low-end grunt with high-rpm horsepower if you feel like revving to redline. The 2.0-liter engine doesn't have weird power peaks and valleys, and it never runs out of steam.
I will concede to the argument that a free-breathing flat-six engine sounds a lot nicer than a boosted flat-four. But the comparisons to the 718 Boxster and Cayman sounding like a Subaru are inflammatory at best. The Boxster T comes standard with a sport exhaust that pops and burbles and crackles on overrun, and I like being able to hear the faint whistle of the turbocharger as it spools. The sound isn't bad, you guys. It's just different. And good.
Something else to consider: The Boxster is one of the cheapest ways to park a new Porsche sports car in your driveway. It starts at $63,950 including destination, and the T comes in at $73,050. The Boxster GTS 4.0? It's $17,800 more expensive, and that's before you throw in any options. That car is awesome, but for my money, so is the Boxster T.
A friend of mine says he subscribes to the belief that the best Porsche 911 is the one you can afford. And he's right: From base Carrera to Turbo S, there isn't a dud in the group. But the same is 100% true for Porsche's other models, 718 included. Get over the sound and drive one. There's no reason to complain about the base Boxster.