If you can stretch to a six-cylinder the Boxster is a sublime sporting soft-top
For 25 years the Porsche Boxster has been at the head of its class, the machine by which all others are judged, and in fourth-generation 718 guise this remains the case… with one caveat. Every generation of Boxster before the 718’s debut had featured a characterful and punchy Porsche flat-six, but for the 718 Porsche followed the global trend for downsizing and opted to fit the Boxster with a four-cylinder engine for the first time. And it’s not one of Porsche’s best.
Just about everything else is typically brilliant and its world-leading chassis is still just as balanced and accessible as it ever was. Stung by criticism that its four-pot engine was a bit of a dog, Porsche reacted and slotted in a 4-litre flat-six from the 911 and the resulting GTS 4.0 sees the Boxster back on form – it’s a sublime car to drive.
> Porsche 718 Boxster review
Replacing the 981 Boxster was always going to be a hard gig, but the evolutionary styling hit the right balance between keeping the familiar and adding some modern cues, while the underpinnings helped the Boxster to retain its handling poise and fluidity. The flat-four was altogether less remarkable, even if it did deliver the power and performance expected from a Boxster.
The 718 Boxster went on sale in 2016 with the entry-level model being powered by a 2-litre turbocharged flat-four that delivered just shy of 300bhp, while the more powerful S model had a swept volume of 2.5 litres for roughly another 50bhp. Both models were available with either Porsche’s slick six-speed manual or seven-speed PDK set-up.
There were further updates for the GTS which made its debut late in 2017, and while the flat-four was retained, it did produce more power, and along with some chassis revisions and a host of additional equipment, it became the pick of the 718 range. At the other end of the scale, 2020 saw the introduction of the 718 Boxster T which was based on the 2-litre machine and added a significant number of driver-focussed options to create a more sporting prospect.
> Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 review
The 718 finally received the engine it deserved in 2019 with the launch of the Boxster Spyder and the mechanically identical Cayman GT4. With a 4-litre naturally aspirated version of the 992’s 3-litre turbocharged six, a GT3-inspired chassis set-up and more aggressive styling it was a cracking package. Developing the engine obviously wasn’t a cheap exercise, so Porsche elected to drop it into the standard Boxster body to create the 718 Boxster GTS 4.0. It’s not perfect, but minor nitpicking aside it comes pretty close to automotive nirvana. And if you want it in an even more exclusive package the Boxster 25 Years celebration model was also produced in limited numbers.
The 718 Boxster might have a sub-£50k price tag but it’s woefully equipped straight out of the box, and once a few options have been added the Boxster S looks like a far more enticing prospect. Both have superb build quality, and their chassis prowess is unrivalled, but there are a couple of alternatives to consider.
Audi’s TT RS offers up an engine that knocks spots off the four-pot in the Boxster. However, even though the latest model offers more driver involvement than previous generations it lacks the Boxster’s scalpel-sharp handling. It is beautifully built though and comes with significantly more standard kit, too. BMW’s Z4 M40i majors on the same plus points as the Audi – superb engine, punchy performance, plenty of equipment – but like the TT RS it can’t hold a candle to the Boxster’s dynamics.
Alpine’s A110 comes closest to the Boxster in terms of offering a supple yet involving chassis, but like the Boxster its engine isn’t overly inspiring (although it is better than the Boxster’s) and it’s really more of a rival for the Cayman thanks to its coupe-only configuration.
Engine, gearbox and technical highlights
In the quest for lower emissions and better economy Porsche took the big step of developing a bespoke turbocharged flat-four for the 718 Boxster that’s also shared with the 718 Cayman models. While the horizontally opposed configuration brings packaging benefits and results in the low centre of gravity so vital for the Boxster’s deft handling, it just isn’t a very inspiring engine and loses the spine-tingling wail of the previous generation’s flat-six.
There’s nothing wrong with the four-cylinder 718 model’s vital statistics, with the entry-level 2-litre developing 296bhp and 280lb ft of torque, while the S adds half a litre of capacity and a variable-geometry turbo for 345bhp and 310lb ft of torque.
The best engine, unsurprisingly, is the one with six cylinders, and in this guise it develops 394bhp. All engines can be paired with either a six-speed manual or the seven-speed PDK, and each has its merits. In the four-cylinder cars the manual works best, but the PDK dual-clutch set-up doesn’t gel particularly well, with the torque-rich turbocharged engines leaving you with a feeling of a bit of a drivetrain mismatch. The manual works well in the GTS 4.0, but the gearing is overly long, and some will find the PDK more to their liking with the flat-six.
Performance and 0-60 time
While the lacklustre four-cylinder might not deliver on an emotional level, there’s no getting away from the sheer performance of both the standard 718 and the S. Even the 2-litre will accelerate from 0 to 62mph in 5.1sec (4.9 with PDK), with the S dropping those figures to 4.6 and 4.4sec respectively. If fitted with the optional PDK and Sport Chrono package, an S can knock a further 0.2sec off that time when using the launch control.
The six-cylinder machines manage the same increment in 4.5 and 4.0sec depending on gearbox, and while it might not be significantly quicker on paper from the driver’s seat, the GTS 4.0 does feel considerably livelier as the engine has so much more soul. The four-cylinder cars don’t have a significant step in their delivery and sound uncouth and uncultured, and lack the crisp throttle that makes such a difference to the way a sports car should feel.
Ride and handling
Porsche might have cocked up on the four-cylinder engine but the Boxster’s chassis is still sublime, offering layers of involvement and interaction that are missing from just about any competitor you could care to mention.
The electric steering isn’t the most feelsome set-up, but build some load into the front tyres and you do get a sense of what’s going on, a feeling that’s helped by its accuracy which makes threading the 718 down a challenging road a real joy. Each and every chassis set-up in the range is good, but cars with PASM or machines with the optional sports suspension feel particularly well tied down, giving a feeling of complete security in the car’s chassis.
MPG and running costs
When it comes to economy the downsizing of the 718 Boxster’s engine starts to make sense, with the 2-litre model with the PDK ’box recording over 30mpg on the WLTP cycle. Swap that for a manual S and it’s still not too bad at a combined 27-28mpg. The usual caveats apply – use the performance and you’ll get nowhere near these figures, but on a gentle cruise you shouldn’t be too far off. The six-cylinder cars aren’t quite as good, but still have official figures of between 26 and 28mpg, the long gearing certainly helping here.
Overall servicing costs at Porsche main dealers will be pricey, but there are a plethora of specialists who can attend to your 718’s needs. Typical costs might include a minor service at around £300 and a major one at around £450, with additional items such as spark plug replacement coming in at £150 or so. Tyres will be expensive, but along with the brakes they tend to fare pretty well on the Boxster thanks to its low weight.
VED will cost £490 a year for years two to six thanks to the 718’s £40k-plus pricing.
Interior and tech
As the 718 shares its same basic interior architecture with the 981 it’s beginning to look a little old hat, but the build quality is still up there with the best and the ergonomics are fine, even if the plethora of buttons looks rather outdated these days.
You can’t really criticise the driving position and the seats are comfortable, too, with all the controls falling readily to hand. Unlike many mid-engined machines the amount of storage space for oddments is impressive, which makes the Boxster a surprisingly practical sports car.
The Boxster’s basic silhouette hasn’t really changed all that much since the 986 was introduced 25 years ago, and as it’s retained its mid-engined configuration that’s unlikely to change any time soon. It’s perhaps slightly more cohesive and flamboyant than it used to be, in part as it no longer shares its doors with the contemporary 911, and with a bewildering array of colours, trims and options you can really change the way the car looks.
Not only is the 718 Boxster a neat piece of design, it’s practical, too, with decently sized front and rear boots that you wouldn’t expect to find on a mid-engined sports car. As an exercise in packaging, it’s brilliant.
Despite many turning their noses up at the 718’s four-cylinder engine, it’s still a very desirable sports car, and there are likely plenty of new owners who have never driven a Boxster before so won’t know that they’re missing out on a sublime flat-six. Its desirability means that there aren’t a huge number of bargains to be had, but do look out for cars that were loaded with options when new as the cost of items is rarely fully retained on the used market. Become fully conversant with the Porsche options list and decide which are must haves and then whittle the available cars down by colour and engine.
Range, specifications and options
Which 718 you fancy will depend on how deep your pockets are and how you’re likely to use it, but your main choices will no doubt revolve around four- or six-cylinder cars and manual versus PDK. The latter was far more popular with buyers, so if it must be a manual you might have to wait for the right car.
If your prime concern is owning a rapid yet practical sports car but you’re not too worried about the finer nuances of its chassis, then a 2-litre 718 will be fine. If you’re looking for a more involving drive then the S would be a better bet thanks to a sharper chassis set-up. For the ultimate in 718s you’ll need to look at the six-cylinder cars, but they are considerably more expensive.
Problems and checks
The 718 is still pretty new and so far it doesn’t appear to have too many faults. There have been some reported turbo failings and faulty actuators, but this is by no means common and not a reason to stop you buying. There have been some issues with condensation in the rear light clusters and cracked headlight lenses, so give them a good check. Obviously look for consistent panel gaps and a good colour match between panels.
Examine service history carefully – skipped services or stretched intervals will have an effect on value, and potentially, engine longevity. Lastly, make sure the tyres are a known brand, preferably N rated, and have plenty of tread. For peace of mind, buying from a Porsche main agent could be the way forward – it’ll be more costly but the extended warranty cover could well be worth it.
There have been a couple of recalls, the first to do with a possibly faulty airbag capacitor which only affects early cars. The second is for 2020 cars which may have a loose high-pressure fuel line. This only affected 74 cars but concerns con rods which may not have been installed to the correct specification.