The Porsche 718 Boxster is the roadster class benchmark. June Neary finds out why
Will It Suit Me?
The only thing I've ever had against the idea of owning a Porsche is the kind of image that goes with it, but that's more down to my perceptions being outdated than Porsche's. Thankfully, much has changed since the days of city yuppies and red braces. Today, ownership of one of Stuttgart's finest sportscars seems to be seen as rather clever. They're better built and depreciate less than rivals and they're still in all important respects superior to drive. Take the 718 Boxster roadster I've been driving here. The only real drawback is the price - but even that wasn't quite as much as I was expecting - around £42,000 for the entry-level 2.0-litre model or around £51,000 for the pokier 2.5-litre 'S' variant I tried. Both now feature a flat four turbo engine rather than the previous normally aspirated flat six, a change which seems to have had the purists crying into their beer. I couldn't care less. After all, it still sounds great, goes faster and uses less fuel. What's not to like?
You certainly don't invest in a Porsche of any kind if practicality is at the top of your priority list. That said, the car is extremely comfortable for front seat passengers (there are no rear seats) and the driving position is pure Porsche, excellence evident in every curve. I wouldn't look at the engine anyway but even if I wanted to, I couldn't in this car. The mechanical side is accessible to mechanics only - which is just the way I like it. Although the boot at first seemed a little meagre, the fact that this is a mid-engined car means that there's also a fairly deep, albeit narrow, luggage area under the bonnet. The sight of me trying to stuff the 'engine bay' with groceries in the Sainsburys car park caused more than a few raised eyebrows! Porsche say you can fit two sets of golf clubs in the rear boot: since that's not my game, I'll have to take their word for it. As far as the exterior changes are concerned, I liked the sleeker look brought about by the restyled front and rear lights. This 718 version shares only its bonnet, boot, windscreen and hood with the previous model, exemplifying the German firm's belief in gently evolving its cars, rather than trying to re-invent them every time. The electric fabric roof remains a model of efficiency, opening in just 9 seconds, so that if you're caught at the traffic lights and a shower starts, you can hopefully cover yourself before the lights turn to green.
Behind the Wheel
The four-cylinder 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre turbocharged engines of this '718' series Boxster are a very different proposition to the flat-six normally aspirated motors previously used. Some will mourn the change in engine noise, though the latest units have their own distinctive character when revved hard - and they're certainly more powerful than before. The entry-level model comes with 300bhp, good enough to see off 0-62mph in as little as 4.7 seconds if you go for the PDK seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and use the optional Launch Control system. Pick that gearbox and mate it to the 2.5-litre motor found in the Boxster S variant I tried and that sprint can be completed in just 4.2 seconds. Top speeds see the standard 718 Boxster hit 170mph, while this S version maxes out at 177mph. Even so, you can also expect to see strong efficiency returns, especially with that optional PDK auto 'box. In this guise, expect combined economy of up to 40.9mpg for the smaller capacity model, along with 158g/km carbon dioxide emissions - or 38.7mpg and 167g/km for the S version. As well as being quicker than its predecessor in a straight line, this 718 series model also benefits from quicker-feeling steering, thicker anti-roll bars and a more focused suspension set-up. It all means that the Boxster remains the best handling car in its class, with even greater reserves of balance and cornering control. You can embellish that further with optional 'Porsche Active Suspension Management' adaptive damping and 'Porsche Torque Vectoring' that maximises traction through the bends. You're probably also going to want the optional 'Sport Chrono Package' with its selectable driving modes that alter the way the engine, steering, suspension and PDK gearbox react. Pick the PDK gearbox and the 'Sport Chrono' pack comes with 'Launch Control' for Grand Prix getaways, plus a 'SPORT Response' button that aids quick overtaking by putting the engine and transmission into their most alert calibrations for 20 seconds.
Value For Money
For between £40,000 and £50,000, you can buy an awful lot of roadster elsewhere of course. A Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 or a BMW Z4 sDrive 35iS perhaps? But neither of these cars would feel as special. And a 3.0-litre V6 supercharged Jaguar F-TYPE Convertible is that bit more expensive - and not quite as sharp to drive in my humble opinion. Ultimately, I love the fact that the 718 Boxster, like it's big brother the 911 Carrera, feels like a car you could use day-in, day-out. In that respect, it's quite refreshing.
Could I Live With One?
If I also had something with more seats in the drive and my finances allowed, then I wouldn't hesitate.