The Porsche Boxster is something of a legend here at What Car?. It’s lifted our Sports Car of the Year Award four times over the past five years, routinely giving rivals such as the Audi TT Roadster, BMW Z4 and Mercedes SLK a good pasting in the process.
There are many and varied reasons why Porsche’s cheapest drop-top has always been so brilliant, but undoubtedly one of the biggest was its 2.7-litre flat-six petrol engine. It made the Boxster feel (and sound) like a proper sports car, not just a nippy convertible with a pretty face.
We use the past tense because this latest model (dubbed the 718) is the first to lose that glorious flat-six. In its place comes a four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo – the sort of engine you’d usually expect to find in a VW Golf GTI – all in the name of improving fuel economy and CO2 emissions, which it is claimed to do by around 15%.
What’s the Porsche Boxster 718 like to drive?
More miles to the gallon is never a bad thing, but it’s hardly the point of a sports car; so it’s a good thing that Porsche has managed to squeeze a bit more power out of the new engine. Even this entry-level Boxster (rather than the more powerful 2.5-litre S version) can accelerate from 0-62mph in around 5sec. That’s quicker than an Audi TTS Roadster.
Put your foot down at low revs and there’s a small delay before the turbocharger starts to do its business and you surge forward. Above about 3500rpm, though, you barely notice that pause at all, and at that point the Boxster really starts to pile on the speed. The engine carries on revving willingly beyond 7000rpm, although there’s no performance advantage to be had much past 6500rpm.
But while the Boxster has gained pace it’s definitely lost some charm. The new engine sounds a bit coarse at low revs, and drones away loudly but not very tunefully when you rev it. The old Boxster obviously sounded better, and so do current rivals like the Audi TT.
Our test car was fitted with an optional (£1530) sports exhaust, which adds a button you can push when you want to hear more of the engine. It was a tempting option when the Boxster had a fabulous-sounding flat-six engine, but now we wouldn’t bother. There are too many other enticing extras on the options list.
Thankfully, in other respects the Boxster is still a truly great sports car. The way it glides around corners is simply jaw-dropping, and the fact the steering is so precise and streams information to your fingertips makes the whole experience that much more exciting. Put simply, no other sports car in this price bracket is anywhere near as capable or as rewarding.
Even ride comfort is surprisingly good. Admittedly, our car was kitted out with the £971 PASM adaptive suspension, but in this form the Boxster is remarkably forgiving compared with most sports cars. Even vicious mid-corner potholes don’t knock the car off line as much as you might expect, so the Porsche is at least as comfortable as an Audi TTS Roadster.
With its hood up, the Boxster is a reasonably agreeable cruiser, although there is more road noise than in many rivals. Drop the roof (which takes around 10 seconds) and, thanks to a small wind deflector that slots behind the rear seats, things don’t get too blowy inside.
What’s the Porsche Boxster 718 like inside?
The biggest improvement in here is a brand new touchscreen infotainment system – the same one that recently made its debut in the pricier 911. It’s quite low down on the dashboard, which isn’t ideal, but responds more quickly than the old system when you prod it and is altogether more user-friendly.
However, some of the on-screen icons are quite small and tricky to hit with any conviction while you’re driving, and you’ll have to stump up an extra £1052 for sat-nav and another £284 for a DAB radio. You’ll want to add both, if only to make your car easier to sell on in the future.
A steering wheel that looks a bit like the one in Porsche’s 918 hypercar is another welcome addition, but otherwise the Boxster’s interior is largely unchanged. That means high quality materials throughout and loads of different options of colours and finishes.
Two boots (a deep, narrow one in the nose and a shallower, wider one at the back of the car) combine to give 275 litres of load space – about the same as a Ford Fiesta. However, unless you’re prepared to saw your belongings up, you won’t be able to fit many of them in your Boxster. A large suitcase or a set of golf clubs, for example, is completely out of the question.
Should I buy one?
If you’re already a Boxster owner pondering whether to chop your car in for the new 718, we wouldn’t necessarily urge you to rush down to your local Porsche dealer. Yes, you’d get a better infotainment system and you’d probably just about notice the cheaper fuel bills, but we’d wager you’d really miss your car’s more characterful engine.
But given how brilliant Porsche’s drop-top remains in other key areas, and the absence of many other great sports cars around the £40k mark, the Boxster remains very much the benchmark of cars you can actually buy. It’s still an utterly joyous thing to drive, and this ‘entry-level’ model is just as rewarding as the much pricier S model. And if you’ve never driven a Boxster before you’re even luckier, because you won’t even be pining after its old flat-six engine.
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What Car? says...
2016 Porsche 718 Boxster
Engine size 2.0-litre turbo
Torque 280lb ft
0-62mph 5.1 seconds
Top speed 170mph
Fuel economy 38.2mpg
CO2 output 168g/km