Turbo-4 heresy? Not Really.

- Berlin, Germany

What's in a name? For the 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster, the fresh numeric wedged in between the two more familiar words brings to light more than just a simple re-branding. For the current model year, Germany's most iconic sports car manufacturer has elected to do away with the traditional fleet of flat-six engines found amidships in its affordable roadster (and compact coupe cousin, the Cayman), replacing them with a pair of turbocharged 4-cylinder mills instead.

Heresy? Not really. Porsche is no stranger to stuffing high-powered fours in its entry-level offerings, with excellent results (ie. 944 Turbo). Still, the situation is a little different with the new Boxster, as not since the 912 of the 1960s has Porsche elected to take a step back in cylinder count. The realities of modern fuel efficiency requirements and emissions regulations might have lead Porsche down this particular 4-cylinder path, but the net result is a positive one for all but the most diehard of the brand's followers. Those who care about heritage more than the drive itself are most likely stuck back in air-cooled country anyway - which means they're missing out on a roadster that is undeniably quicker than the model it replaces.

 

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

Porsche is no stranger to stuffing high-powered fours in its entry-level offerings, with excellent results (ie. 944 Turbo).

A car as robust as the 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster really deserves to be run out to its very limits in order to be properly appreciated. Lucky for us, then, that when we were handed the keys to the brand-new drop-top under a deep blue sky with both feet planted firmly on German soil home turf. The unrestricted autobahn connecting Berlin to Leipzig proved to be the perfect proving ground for sampling every one of the 300 horsepower on tap from the base model's 2.0-litre engine.

For those keeping score at home, that's a bounce of 35 ponies compared to the year before, but the real bonus comes in the torque column where 74 additional lb-ft round things out to 280 lb-ft in total. If you guessed that would have a positive impact on acceleration off the line, points for you - the 718 Boxster's 4.9-second sprint to 100 km/h is nearly a full second faster than it was the year before. 

The torque bounty is immediately noticeable when shoving off, as the PDK automated manual-equipped car we drove eagerly sucked up all available traction and surged forward with authority. With the top down and a clear road ahead we cleared 251 km/h with the only drama being the rush of wind that threatened to tear off baseball hats. That's just a few clicks shy of the 718 Boxster's 272 km/h top speed, a figure which rises by another 10 km/h if you opt for the Boxster S and its 2.5-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder that spits out 350 hp and 309 lb-ft of twist. I'll repeat myself: the turbo Boxster is much, much quicker than the naturally-aspirated model it replaces.

 

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

Porsche personnel assured my co-pilot and I that our international driving privileges were at not risk should we put the hammer down.

Of course, while the Porsche 718's straight-line speed is enough to frighten even the most white-knuckled of sports car fans, the true test of the mid-engine roadster lies on the B-roads that are just an exit away from autobahn glory. Were you aware that German driving policies are so enlightened as to strike speed limits from long stretches of twisting two-lane blacktop in addition to its vaunted super-highways? We weren't either, and we didn't want to believe the signage indicating that all bets were off until Porsche personnel assured all drivers that our international driving privileges were at not risk should we put the hammer down under the tree-lined pastoral passages linking one small cobblestone village to the next.

It was here that the 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster revealed the better angles of its nature, with its almost perfectly-balanced chassis making short work of the narrow asphalt splayed out before it. While a traditional manual transmission is undoubtedly more engaging, it's impossible to argue with the swift precision with which Porsche's PDK swaps ratios, especially if you happen to carelessly shift mid-corner. Outfitted with the Porsche Active Suspension Management option, the 718 Boxster that we drove was never caught out by either a careless steering input or a sudden curve concealed by a dip in the road ahead.

 

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

Aurally, you're going to have to reprogram your expectations.

The 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster stepped into the ring as the reigning world champion of entry-level German roadsters, and certainly also holds the belt for being one of the most compelling sportscars at any price. After going several rounds with its past self through the German hinterlands it emerges with its title intact, having proven once again that there are very few situations that Porsche can't engineer into a happy outcome for all involved.

Is there anything at all amiss in Porsche's shift to its new 4-cylinder turbo template in the 718 Boxster? Dynamically, no - the powerband is sufficiently fat, the throttle response demonstrates nary a hint of lag, and the car's excellent weight distribution has been maintained. Aurally, however, you're going to have to reprogram your expectations. At low speeds the 'blatt' of the 2.0-litre sport exhaust is pleasant company, but at idle the traditional flat-six sound has been replaced by an outboard putter that's more tuner car than classic Porsche. Whether this matters or not will be a question of personal taste of course, but we recommend an autobahn blast or two before letting it influence your buying decision.

 

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster / Boxster S

 

ENGINE

2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo / 2.5-litre 4-cylinder turbo

OUTPUT

300 hp / 280 lb-ft & 350 hp / 309 lb-ft

TRANSMISSION

6-speed manual / 7-speed PDK automatic

0-100 KMH

4.9 seconds / 4.4 seconds

TOP SPEED

283 km/h (S)

FUEL ECONOMY

N/A

WEIGHT

1,338 kilograms 2,944 lbs)

SEATING CAPACITY

2

CARGO VOLUME

N/A

BASE PRICE

$63,900

AS-TESTED PRICE

$75,700

 

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