“It’s not a real Porsche” say the keyboard warriors who don’t own 911s. Porsche’s Boxster has been winning hearts since 1997, when the 986 generation went on sale. The 924/944/968 lineup had the same cloud over their heads. The Porsche faithful knew that in order for the 911 to stay in production, Porsche needed a smaller volume seller in order to fund their racing programs and to keep their flagship vehicle competitive against Ferrari, Corvette, BMW, and so on. Now that the job of raking in the cash has been passed on to the SUV segment, the Cayenne and Macan allow Porsche to make their sports car lineup even greater. Porsche is the most profitable automaker in the world, taking in more than 3.78 billion dollars as of March 2016. The Stuttgart performance giant has completely revamped their sports car lineup to meet stricter environmental regulations, but without sacrificing performance. Case in point is the new 991.2 Carrera. For the first time, the flat-6 engines across the lineup are all turbocharged. Jeremy Clarkson predicted the future when he speculated that from now on, most performance engines will be smaller and turbocharged. At Porsche, that prediction became a reality.
There is a bit of an elephant in the room when you climb behind the wheel of the 2017 718 Boxster. The engine sounds different, and that’s because it is. Instead of the flat-6 from the 981 Boxster, the 718 Boxster now has a 4-cylinder. For some, that is a hard pill to swallow. The last Porsche to have a 4-cylinder engine was the front-engined 968, the last of the 2+2 generations that began with the 110-horsepower 924 in 1976 and continued with the 944 in 1983. Now in 2016, potential buyers of the 718 Boxster have to stomach the fact that their new European sports car has the same amount of cylinders as a Hyundai Elantra. You know what? Get that thought out of your head right now, because the 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster is a true sports car. It may be the baby Porsche, but the engineers at Stuttgart must have put jet fuel in its baby bottle, because it is a beast.
I completely expected the engine to sound like a Subaru WRX, since it is a flat-4 and all. It doesn’t. You know when you’re sloshing around mouthwash in the morning? Imagine being surprised by a kick in the ‘nads while doing so. The sound you’d make is the same sound the 718 makes when it fires up. My tester wasn’t even equipped with the optional Sport Exhaust and it still sounded feral. For this new model, Porsche focused on making the Boxster a more useable 2-seater for daily use. My 1999 986 Boxster struggled some days with being a daily driver, but this new model seems like it could be an only car with ease. I found that with Sport Mode on, the turbo four has virtually no lag like the 911. In the everyday mode which the majority of drivers will use, there is a slight delay in before the full power kicks in when you give it the beans. That is to be expected when the car isn’t locked and loaded in full performance mode. Driving in normal mode is easy and stress-free. The ride is composed over rough road surfaces and the car doesn’t feel jittery or unsteady at all. The Hold feature (PDK only) is especially nice, as it reduces fatigue in stop and go traffic. You can leave the car in Drive and it will hold force on the brakes when you come to a complete stop. Just tap the throttle to set off again.
Performance driving is a whole different world. The Boxster has always felt like the perfect track car for the street. It’s just so perfectly balanced with its mid-engine layout. It feels as if you’re wearing the engine as a backpack. It feels part of you. Corners can be eaten up at 60 MPH easily. Most expect a loss of rigidity due to the absence of a solid roof. Not so in the Boxster. From the beginning of its life, Porsche engineered the Boxster to be an open-top sports car. Every generation gets better at being stiffer and less flexible. In daily driving and high-performance maneuvering, I felt zero flex in the body and in complete control the entire time. I felt like this car is working with me, not as a separate machine.
Car people have all heard the saying “if you don’t look back at it when you walk away, you haven’t bought the right car.” The 718 Boxster is one of those cars that you’d keep looking at as you walk away, if you could even bring yourself to walk away from it. From the new front end design to that glorious new booty, the 718 is a masterpiece to behold. The front end has been completely redesigned to allow for more efficient cooling and sleeker aerodynamics. The back end is where it really gets good. The taillights are obviously inspired by the Mission-E concept that was revealed last year. Thin LED strips give the 718 a lower and wider visual profile, especially at night. The Porsche letters are now 3-dimensional underneath the ducktail-esque rear spoiler which deploys at 70 MPH. While to most, the exterior might not be that different, the interior is where the 718 shines against its competitors. Apple Carplay is now available, and a standard flat screen interface now has touch-sensitive capabilities. The driver now grips a 918 Spyder style steering wheel with multifunction controls. Overall, the 718 Boxster’s interior is much more user-friendly and less complicated even though it packs more features.
Porsche deserves a round of applause for this one. Each year, the game is changed. Somehow, Porsche has figured out a way to satisfy the petrolheads and the pedestrians. Including the latest advanced safety features, incorporating efficient dynamics and at the same time increasing the performance numbers. The 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster and Boxster S are masterpieces to behold. There has always been that separation between the 911 and the rest of the model lineup, but that gap just got a little smaller with the introduction of the all-new 718.