Inigo S. Roces / Inigo S. Roces | May 19, 2017 17:27
Stepping out of the 911's shadow
Like many lesser known siblings, the Porsche Boxster, being little sister to the more popular and desireable 911 is fighting an uphill battle. The 911 has practically defined Porsche's identity as a builder of performance cars with exceptional handling, in spite of the unusual rear engine, rear wheel drive layout, its distinctive profile and reputable reliability. As such, any Porsche that does not possess any of these characteristics has always drawn the ire of the brand's fiercely conservative fans.
Such tangents from the brand's successful formula have always drawn flack: whether it's the 914 built upon a VW platform, the 924, 944 and 928 range that nearly killed the 911 line, and later, 'blasphemous' creations like the Boxster, Cayenne and Panamera.
Yet even brands as rigidly conservative as Porsche have begun to realize that the 911 alone cannot keep the company afloat. And as its recent supercars, the Carrera GT and 918, have demonstrated, the mid-engine layout is a far superior design. Which brings us to the latest generation of the Boxster, now with the 718 prefix and styling inspired by the 918. The numerical prefix is actually a tribute by the company to the 1957 718 sports car that won several races in its hayday.
The 718 Boxster still retains its simple styling with subtle tweaks to update it. Its headlights take on a more triangular shape, with a DRL strip in the inner corners. The S variant gets the more distinctive four LEDs. The creases of its hunches are sharper both in front and behind. Perhaps the most appreciated improvement are the new LED tail lights joined by a faux grille under the spoiler.
The interior has been redesigned, with elements from the 991.2 911 and Macan. It gets the 911's new three-spoke wheel, while the rest of the dash looks more like the Macan. It has just a three-dial layout, as opposed to the 911's signature five, yet the rightmost dial has configurable displays, able to show trip info, entertainment settings, or even a stopwatch for track days. The aircon vents are beautifully raised from the dash, sporting cowling like the Carrera GT's engine covers. The center stack, looking like a Panamera's, now features the flushly fit touch-screen LCD. Satin silver accents are finished in gloss and nicely contrast the cabin.
Like the rest of the 911 line, the Boxster comes with the sports car shaped key fob. It still needs to be inserted to start the car like a traditional key, but is nonetheless a nice touch. From the fob itself, the driver can already raise or lower the roof in advance.
Twisting it brings the engine to life, announcing its presence with a guttural growl. Despite being a 2.0-liter flat four turbo, the exhaust note is still quite intimidating. On paper, it might not impress, but this power plant produces 304 PS and 380 Nm of torque between 1,950 rpm to 4,500 rpm. This is mated with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic that allows it to sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.7 seconds.
Porsches have had a reputation for being incredibly friendly to drive on a daily basis. This Boxster is no exception. Its electronic speed sensitive steering is light at low speeds. The throttle is much softer and easy to modulate at low speeds. And of course, there's the very reassuring brakes.
The ride on the default setting is relatively lofty, muting many of the potholes despite the fact that it rides on 19-inch wheels. Of course, as with all dual clutches, it can be a tad jerky and hunt for gears in stop and go traffic. Nonetheless, the air conditioning copes incredibly well with Philippine summers. The soft top isolates outside noises very well, and will easily take on a torrential downpour with no trouble. Consumption around the city in heavy traffic will return a satisfactory 5.5 km/L and a higher 9 km/L on the highway.
It's still best enjoyed when on more inviting winding roads. The flat four, paired with a dual clutch is eager to rev, making the turbo lag practically imperceptible thanks to its penchant for staying in the power band. Press the Sport suspension button and the damping instantly becomes stiffer, and the steering heavier but more precise. I could be mistaken, but the exhaust seems to burble more when letting off the throttle.
It's on this full sport mode where the charm of the Boxster begins to reveal itself. It is surprisingly fast, sharp, balanced, yet also quite forgiving.
Unlike the 911's, the Boxster rotates around corners much more predictably and progressively. There's some oversteer but never too much as 911s are wont to give. As a result, it's easy to keep one's line through corners and maintain it, making successive sweeping corners a practically orgasmic affair. The steel paddle shifters add to the tactile delight, returning a very mechanical click, and nearly instantaneous shift, despite the fact that it's mostly software these days.
Over the past months, I've had the fortune of taking a Ferrari California T, BMW Z4, Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8, Peugeot 308 GTi and Subaru WRX on the same road. Some were exciting, others were hair-raising, but few others felt as connected to the car and road as the Boxster did.
The Boxster may not impress when judged in the context of the 911, its hardly intimidating spec sheet, or against other similarly priced roadsters. Yet a drive with this car on twisty roads, it will quickly convince you that it is no 'entry level' Porsche. It is at the border of supercar territory. Were it not for the 911's legacy, the Boxster's feel and performance, though different, is one Porsche and its conservative fans can still be proud of.
Sure, the Boxster S gets you that larger engine, 20 inch wheels and additional driver aids, but this more spartan Boxster, with its simpler two drive modes, lighter weight and less distractions is more than enough to reach Nirvana on a weekly basis.