Review: 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster S
– Austin, Texas
I recently spent meaningful hours fussing with a spreadsheet, in an effort to see which convertibles measure out best for drivers of large stature. It’s fair to say that I dig cars with a roof-free mode.
As has been the case in years past, Porsche’s most affordable sports car (though not its most inexpensive model) is effectively wonderful as a coupe or a convertible. The version you opt for has everything to do with personal inclination, and shouldn’t be based on dynamic superiority one way or the other.
- Porsche engines aren’t typically eye-watering in terms of simple output figures. The 350 horsepower and 309 pound-feet of torque manufactured by the new, turbocharged 2.5-liter boxer-four seems a little light as the $60,000-, 460-hp Corvette Convertible winks from across the room. But the fact is that this is a wildly effective power unit. Runs to 60 miles per hour take as little as four seconds, but the car feels quite a bit quicker with the wind galloping madly through your hair and a growling exhaust note tickling your gas-pedal foot. I was especially impressed with the available torque in casual passing situations: top gear, 70 mph, and overtaking the slowcoach in the lane ahead doesn’t even necessitate a downshift. Let alone the really massive feeling of thrust when pulling onto a straight after a third-gear sweeper.
- The PDK transmission that I sampled in the Cayman is marvelous; it’s also a $3,200-option, and not at all needed if your goals aren’t track-based. The standard six-speed manual gets the job done with short, precise shifts, but it also helps to round out an engaging driving experience. I wouldn’t buy my Boxster any other way.
- The 718 Boxster has higher limits and better outright handling than its predecessor. But I was happy to find that the car is still pretty playful to drive and not the least bit intimidating or challenging despite its higher ceiling. Steering is super direct, and full of feeling. The Porsche is never so happy as when it’s bounding from one fast corner to the next, stringing complex sections of road together effortlessly. I can’t think of many purer “handling cars” than the 718 Boxster, and mighty few that match this in terms of both price (sorry McLaren) and performance (sorry Miata).
- It’s far more subjective than the driving experience, but I just love how this 718 looks on the road. Especially from the rear view, it has a unique presence. The pod-like lighting elements and full-width bar that connects gives the car a low, purposeful look that is elegant, nevertheless.
- As was the case with the Cayman, I wasn’t overly impressed with the Boxster interior for the money it’ll take to sit in one. Interior quality, as well as fit and finish, does seem high. But the design isn’t as emotional or boundary-pushing as new cabins from Mercedes and Audi. There’s not as much surprise and delight as I would hope for in a car that’s so joyful to drive.
- One simply must be judicious with the options list or the 718 Boxster, like every other Porsche, can get massively expensive. Glancing around at build sheets for the cars on this launch program, I saw more than a few in the $80k and $90k range. It’s true that, in terms of MSRP, the Boxster price has stayed pretty steady from its launch back in the early 2000s, when adjusted for inflation. Still, I’d have a hard time wrapping my head around a 718 build that crests the (admittedly high) 911 entry barrier.
- There’s not a lot of storage space… okay, okay, I’m reaching. Yeah, you can’t throw a lot of luggage or groceries in here. If that’s what’s holding you back from buying a Porsche though, I’d direct you to the Macan aisle.
Photos: Porsche USA