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2017 Porsche 718 Boxster Overview
If the Porsche 911 is a “pure” performance-focused sports coupe, one of the oldest and most respected sports coupes on the market, the Porsche Boxster has always been something of a silly younger brother—albeit a younger brother that has grown up quite well in recent years. Die-hard Porsche (i.e., 911) fans were less than enthralled when the Boxster was introduced just over 20 years ago, but two decades of model evolution—not to mention the introduction of the Cayenne, Panamera, and Macan, which are far more distressing to those purists than the Boxster ever was—have brought the midengine roadster into its own. And now, the 2017 model year brings perhaps the most significant redesign the Boxster has seen, including a new model designation, “718,” that harkens back to the iconic Porsche 718 Spyder race car of the '50s and '60s.
The 2016 Boxster was available in six trims, but the 2017 model is available in only two, the 718 Boxster and 718 Boxster S. The company notes that almost every body part on the Boxster has been altered; the front is wider and more aggressive, the sides feature larger cooling-air intakes with dual fins emphasizing the dynamic side styling, and the rear is wider as well, with a distinctive bar framing the Porsche logo between the taillights. Head- and taillights have been redesigned, with optional LED headlights featuring a novel 4-point daytime-running-light setup. The roadster’s overall shape is still instantly recognizable, but the new design demonstrates a strong new take on the stylistic maturity Porsche fans would expect.
From the very beginning, the Boxster has employed differing forms of the flat 6-cylinder engine that actually gave it its name—a “boxer” engine, with horizontally opposed pistons. But the new 718 takes those 6 pistons down to 4, yet another nod to the old 718 Spyder, which itself used a series of flat 4-cylinders. And the new flat fours will be turbocharged, coinciding with Porsche’s decision to turbocharge the entire 911 range. The entry-level 718 Boxster is equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder producing 300 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque; the 718 Boxster S uses a turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder producing 350 hp and 309 lb-ft. Both trims are significantly more powerful than the previous Boxster generation (other than the performance-oriented Spyder). A 6-speed manual comes standard, in keeping with the roadster’s driver-oriented nature, and Porsche’s renowned PDK automatic is optional.
When equipped with the PDK and the Sport Chrono Package, the 718 Boxster will go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, with a top speed of 170 mph. Similarly equipped, the 718 Boxster S will do 0-60 in 4.0 seconds, with a top speed of 177 mph. Porsche also claims a 14% improvement in fuel efficiency, though exact EPA numbers have not been released at the time of this writing. For reference, the 2016 Boxster got anywhere from 22 mpg city/32 highway/26 combined to 18/24/20, depending on the trim level and transmission.
Porsche even retuned the 718 Boxster’s suspension for better performance through corners. The electric steering system is said to be 10% more direct, improving maneuverability across all driving scenarios, from crowded parking lots to the track. Drivers looking for even more capability from their Boxster can select the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management system, which lowers ride height and adds an active suspension that better adjusts its performance and stiffness. The Sport Chrono Package, mentioned above, incorporates three drive modes—Normal, Sport, and Sport Plus—along with a Sport Response Button on PDK-equipped models that heightens engine and transmission responsiveness.
If you thought the list of redesign details was over—it’s not. The 718 Boxster’s interior has been given an overhaul, too. The dash panel has been updated, with rounded air vents and a standard touchscreen equipped with the latest version of the Porsche Communication Management infotainment system. A navigation module with voice control will be optional. The interior is clean and uncluttered, presumably to be offered in the broad range of trim materials to which Porsche customers have grown accustomed, including leather, aluminum, carbon fiber, and Alcantara. Options in Porsche models tend to get expensive very quickly—the original Boxster started under $40,000, but in recent years a $100,000+ Boxster has come well within the realm of possibility.
As a premium car, the Porsche Boxster has not been safety-tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Driving fans aren’t really going to be looking to the 718 Boxster for a family vehicle or kid-hauler, so the lack of safety data isn’t likely to trouble them. But many of them could end up using it as a commuter—so it helps to know there is a list of available safety technologies like adaptive cruise control, lane-change assist, park assist with a rear-view camera, and a speed-limit indicator.
Porsche has indicated that next-generation Boxsters will reach U.S. dealers in late June 2016. Excluding a $1,050 destination charge, the 718 Boxster will start at $56,000, the 718 Boxster S at $68,400. Strange as it may seem to some, the Boxster (along with the Cayman coupe) is looking like an increasingly viable alternative to the 911 for anyone who doesn’t intend to spend the entirety of their driving life powering around the track.
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