Porsche 718 Boxster review - was swapping two cylinders for a turbo a good idea? - Engine and gearbox
Dynamically superior to the previous Boxster, its problems lie in the engine bay.
Engine and gearbox
The engines in all 718’s so far are brand new, Porsche-designed flat-four units. Being horizontally opposed, it is an engine unlikely to be shared outside of the Porsche brand and has been given all the latest technology to not only improve performance, but also fuel economy. The inherent advantages of the horizontally opposed engines remain, including a low centre of gravity and compact packaging capabilities.
The entry-level 2.0-litre unit in the standard 718 Boxster (and closely related Cayman) produces 295bhp at a lofty 6500rpm and 280lb ft of torque at 1950rpm as mentioned previously, 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 500cc 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 2.0-litre engine.
Both gearboxes are the same as in the previous Boxster which is no bad thing, as the 6-speed manual is a slick and polished companion, meanwhile the seven-speed PDK is amongst the best dual-clutch units on the market.
Long term tests
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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 2.0-litre Boxster suffers when it comes to response, not much of an issue on most 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’ 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.