It’s all change for the Porsche Boxster: out goes the fine naturally aspirated flat-six, in comes a turbocharged flat-four. It's the big news on the Porsche stand at the 2016 Geneva motor show.
Purists might wince but those seeking maximum performance won’t complain – the latest Boxster is more powerful, quicker and faster. Predictably, it’s also far more efficient than the naturally aspirated Boxster of old.
This new Boxster gets a different moniker, too. Gone is the 981 denomination, replaced by ‘718’. It’s lifted from the Porsche 718, a mid-engined, four-cylinder sports car that was campaigned in the ‘60s – see, your affordable four-pot Porsche can be fast and has racing relations, too!
Adopting 718 additionally brings the Boxster range’s numerical ID more in line with Porsche’s other sports car identifiers, namely the 911, 918 and 919 Le Mans racer.
The entry-level Boxster now packs a 2.0-litre, single-turbo four-cylinder boxer engine. It cranks out 220kW and a stout 380Nm. That represents a gain of 25kW compared with the outgoing 2.7-litre naturally aspirated flat-six and, more notably, a hike of 100Nm.
It’s plain to see, then, that the turbocharged engine will likely make the Boxster far more tractable on the road; the new engine produces its peak torque from 1950rpm–4500rpm, whereas the old engine required winding out to 4500rpm.
The new 718 Boxster S hits home even harder. Its larger 2.5-litre engine benefits from a variable-vane turbocharger, allowing for higher boost levels without compromising low-speed performance or efficiency.
This, in conjunction with its extra displacement, grants it an output of 258kW and 440Nm. That’s an extra 25kW and 60Nm, compared with the old 3.4-litre Boxster S. Its peak torque, like the conventional Boxster, is also produced over a wider 2600rpm range, from 1900rpm to 4500rpm. The previous Boxster S, for reference, churned out its peak torque much higher up the rev range, at 4500rpm.
Not all of the technical details have been announced yet but the pictures show a 7400rpm redline for the S – that's only 200rpm shy of the indicated redline in the old naturally aspirated version.
You’d imagine that such substantial increases in output would result in quicker acceleration – and you’d be correct. With PDK and the Sport Chrono pack, the new Boxster can sprint from 0-100kph in 4.7sec. That’s a reduction of 0.8sec compared with the equivalently specified 981. The Boxster S, on the other hand, is capable of 0-100kph in 4.2sec – 0.6sec faster than the outgoing verison.
With enough room on hand, the newly turbocharged Porsche will hit 275kph, while the more potent S will nudge 285kph. Downsizing also equals better economy. As is the way with most downsizing exercises, fuel consumption has decreased noticeably. Porsche claims that the turbo Boxster – with PDK – will average 7l/100km. Similarly, the Boxster S is reputed to average in the region of 7.5l/100km. Time will tell as to whether the claims translate into real-world improvements.
While some may be unsettled about the concept of a four-cylinder, force-fed Boxster, there is one enthusiast-pleasing facet that remains – the standard-fit six-speed manual gearbox. Porsche’s dual-clutch PDK is available as an option, however, and comes with the company’s recently introduced ‘virtual intermediate gear’ system.
This allows the PDK to partially engage two adjacent gears, slipping the clutches to blend the ratios, creating an intermediate gear that allows for optimum efficiency when cruising – helping avoid labouring the engine too much, or having it spinning at a louder, less efficient, higher RPM.
Porsche has sharpened up the exterior, bringing the looks in line with more recently launched models in the company’s range. It’s got a wider, more aggressive look to it, for starters. Reputedly, the only elements that are unchanged are the windscreen, convertible roof and luggage compartment lids.
Visual changes are evident if you look closer. Key tweaks include larger front air intakes, new headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights, new arch and sill panels and new 19-inch wheels for the Boxster S. There have been updates round the back, too, with an accent strip featuring an integrated Porsche badge and redesigned tail-lights. You can opt for 20-inch wheels, as well as LED headlights with four-point daytime running lights – à la 918 Spyder.
Inside, the dash has been changed – primarily to allow for fitment of the latest generation of Porsche’s PCM infotainment system, which will come as a welcome upgrade over the creakier, old system. Unlike the outgoing Boxster the PCM is standard fit and comes with Bluetooth and audio interfaces.
Porsche says the suspension has been retuned to suit the new engines and weight distribution. Usefully, the brakes have also been uprated to rein the punchier drop-top in.
Porsche claims the electro-mechanical power steering is now ‘10% more direct’, improving the Boxster’s agility, while optional Porsche Active Suspension Management knocks 10mm off the ride height. Those who want to err on the side of hardcore can alternatively specify a PASM Sport Chassis for the Boxster S, which cuts 20mm off the ride height.
A Sport Chrono Package, like that offered in the 911, is also available. It offers Normal, Sport and Sport Plus modes, and if you’ve opted for the PDK you also get a ‘Sport Response’ button. This, a mode also seen in the 911, delivers the sharpest possible engine and gearbox responses for a period of 20 seconds.