Porsche 718 Boxster review – engine, gearbox and technical highlights

The flat-fours are fickle engines, and manuals are geared too long. Sixes are brilliant

Evo rating
Price
from £44,758

The Porsche-designed flat-four unit itself is totally bespoke for the 718, and being horizontally opposed is an engine unlikely to be shared outside of the Porsche brand. As a result, it’s been given all the latest technology to not only improve performance, but also fuel economy. The inherent advantages of the horizontally opposed engines also apply, including a low centre of gravity and compact packaging, but there are some issues.

The entry-level 2-litre unit in the standard 718 Boxster (and closely related Cayman) produces 296bhp at a lofty 6500rpm and 280lb ft of torque at 1950rpm; this is what changes the character of the 718 so acutely in comparison to its predecessor.

Compared to the standard car, the S gets an extra 509cc and a variable-geometry turbocharger. With the intention of generating crisper responses, the VTG turbo attempts to negate the natural reduction in response, with mixed results. These upgrades unlock a more generous 345bhp and 310lb ft of torque, all available at the same rpm points as the standard 2-litre engine.

Both gearboxes are the same as in the previous Boxster, which is no bad thing, as the six-speed manual is a slick and polished companion. Meanwhile, the seven-speed PDK is amongst the best dual-clutch units on the market.

But, and there was always a but coming, it is not just the fact that the scintillating flat-six has been dropped for a smaller unit that has caused us so much angst, but the fact that the engines seem to be surprisingly poorly calibrated within the car as a whole. The standard 2-litre Boxster suffers when it comes to response, an issue on lots of turbocharged cars I grant you, but all too easily noticeable when compared to the scalpel-sharp engines we have been used to in Porsches in the past.

The Boxster S’s variable-geometry turbo does a better job of sharpening up throttle response, but suffers the same issues when combined with the unusually dim-witted PDK gearbox. The immediacy of the gearbox does not compute with the torque-rich characteristics of the new engine, giving you the impression that Porsche’s calibration is not quite right.

The new engines are also completely devoid of charm, sounding like a cross section of various flat-four-engined cars, none of which Porsche would appreciate being associated with. The sound doesn’t improve under load or when the roof is lowered either, robbing the entire driving experience of a critical part of what has always made the Boxster such an intoxicating drive.

​​Things are different with the six, though. The 4-litre flat-six is based on the turbocharged unit from base 911s, only with an extra litre of swept capacity and the removal of its two turbochargers. This refreshingly low-tech modification might sound a little ham-fisted, but it’s not, because despite layer upon layer of gas particulate filter and some very long gearing (on the manual), it’s still one of the most intoxicating engines of any car on sale right now.

It’s far less extreme than the 4-litre unit in the latest GT3, and will only rev to a conservative 7200rpm, but it shares a level of precision and detail to the way it responds to the throttle with its bigger siblings. The GTS/25 Years are not particularly quick in a straight line, although the long gearing will have you touching big speeds more often than you realise, but the engine is so perfectly synchronized with the rest of the dynamic package that it makes for a captivating experience, commanding your full attention and integrating you into its core like the final cog inside a precision timepiece.

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