2020 Porsche 718 Boxster T review: Back-to-basics brilliance
The Boxster T is 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.
All put together, the Boxster T is a peach on the road. The perfect mid-engine balance and relatively light 3,120-pound curb weight make this car an eager beaver when it comes time to dive into a corner or quickly run through a series of switchbacks. There's no dive under braking, no body roll while cornering. The limited-slip diff shuffles power between the rear wheels while the Pirelli P-Zero summer tires cling to the pavement. Add in some of the best steering available in any sports car at any price and the end result is an enthralling little roadster that never, ever gets boring. Great as the Boxster's new 4.0-liter engine option may be, you don't need big power when everything else is this good.
Arguably the only sour note in the whole Boxster T experience is the sound. The sport exhaust is great, but the 2.0-liter flat-4 is... not great. This aural experience is subjective, I know, and I'll admit I don't hate the 2.0-liter's sound as much as some Porsche purists do. But man, give this thing the sonorous wail of a proper flat-six and it'd be a winner winner chicken dinner.
Inside, the Boxster T has the neat nylon door pulls you'll remember from the 718 Spyder and Cayman GT4. Weirdly, though, if you want them in any color other than black, you have to select the $2,770 718 T Interior Package, which adds some vibrance to the door pulls, contrast stitching and cloth seat inserts (Guards Red, in the case of my test car). I'm all about the Sport-Tex fabric on the seats -- it feels as good as it looks. You can add heated seats, too, for $530, which is a relatively cheap upgrade, even by everything's-a-la-carte Porsche standards.
The 718's interior isn't as modern or luxurious as Porsche's newer cars, so you won't find things like expansive digital gauge clusters or a widescreen infotainment system. That's not to say the last-generation Porsche Communication Management tech is bad, necessarily -- it's quick to respond and the menu structure is simple. It's just not as feature-rich or beautiful as the latest PCM software, and the 7-inch touchscreen is a little small for an infotainment display in the year 2020. Luckily, the standard Apple CarPlay is an easy enough override, though Android Auto continues to be a no-go across Porsche's lineup. If you want driver-assistance tech, lane-change assist costs $700 and adaptive cruise control is another $1,670, though you can only get ACC with the PDK transmission.
At $69,850 to start (including $1,350 for destination), the Boxster T is one of the least-expensive ways to get into the Porsche 718 range. Ideally, I'd splurge for the $2,580 Miami Blue or Python Green exterior colors and go easy on the other options. The $3,600 Premium Package will add things I want like a heated steering wheel, Bose audio system, LED headlights and a few other bells and whistles. That brings me to $78,530 out the door, which isn't too bad for a perfectly spec'd 718 Boxster. For reference, the more powerful 718 Boxster S I tested earlier this year cost $10,000 more.
As an everyday sports car, the 718 is a great choice. Its suspension is compliant enough to handle city commuting, it's got two trunks and it's not a total gas-pump glutton, either, returning a semi-respectable 24 miles per gallon combined. You can definitely make the argument that the more powerful Boxster S and super-sweet 4.0-liter GTS and Spyder variants are the real performance kings. But if all you want is a simple, rewarding sports car that prioritizes behind-the-wheel happiness above everything else, the new Boxster T allows that core goodness to shine bright.