Driven: Porsche’s new Boxster S – two fewer cylinders, but can it match its predecessor in the performance and fun department?

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To break the rules, you must first master them. Fine, that’s actually a popular tagline from a horological brand, but Porsche have been busy breaking the rules left, right and center. And over the years, few can deny the fact that Porsche have been constantly changing and evolving. As is commonly the case with progress, people tend to disagree first, then see logic later on.

Remember the time when Porsche announced the Cayenne? What in the world was a sports car maker doing, producing a humongous SUV, the world thought? Well, who would have imagined the Cayenne would be the runaway success it is today, even pulling the brand away from the brink of financial disaster.

Enter Porsche’s baby sports car, the 718-model (although internally coded 982) Boxster. At face value, it may seem like the new car is a significant facelift over its 981-model predecessor – an evolutionary yet impactful metamorphosis.  The new car is wider on both front and rear, with the gaping intakes on the front bumper an indication of the new car’s forced induction prowess. The new four-point LEDs and Porsche badge integrated between the rear light clusters are new signature traits for Porsche latest baby sports car.

However, the changes run much, much deeper than just skin deep. For the first time, motivation for the Boxster models comes from a choice of two turbocharged four cylinder engines. The base car gets a 2.0 liter turbo four-pot that makes 300PS/380Nm while our test car is the more powerful Boxster S with a 2.5 liter turbocharged motor and significant power gains at 350PS/420Nm.

So, there have been significant changes made on this new car but the question hovering in everyone’s mind rings loud; how does the new car drive? Let’s get one thing straight – the essence of the Boxster ultimately remains the same. This is still a mid-engine, two seater convertible, built so that its driver can easily maximize the car’s potential. It isn’t a tool for time attack events, nor is it made for outright straight-line speed.

No, this is the sort of car built to give pleasure, whether up twisty hill-climb tarmac on a lazy Sunday mornings or through backroads in a concrete jungle. From butt telematics alone, the new car is convincingly quicker than its predecessor. But we’ve said it before – speed is not the measure of greatness here, driving experience is. And this really, really is where the 718 Boxster shines.

The roads up Ulu Yam towards Genting Highlands is our choice of route to see how the new car really performs. And just to keep things interesting, we also have one of Porsche’s finest coming along for the ride, the 987 Cayman R.

Yes, we know the Cayman R is two generations down from our test Boxster, but on paper at least, the two have very similar outputs and performance figures. Motivation in the Cayman R comes from the fantastic 3.4 liter naturally aspirated motor which puts out 330PS/370Nm. Launched back in 2011, the Cayman R was basically a fat trimmed Cayman S with a few extra ponies from a revised exhaust system. What many also don’t realize, is that it had a power-to-weight ratio that bested the 911 Carrera from that era – certainly something you shouldn’t scoff at.

Now, you wouldn’t be wrong to imagine that the turbocharged Boxster would struggle uphill against the Cayman; after all, traditional turbos take time to spool before delivering the surge of power. It can get especially tricky up stage 2 of Ulu Yam – sharp, sweeping corners dictate the need to power off throttle. But this is Porsche we’re talking about, and their engineers have already long figured it out.

Variable Turbine Geometry (VTG) controls the flow of exhaust and recirculates it into the engine to help minimize turbo-lag at low speeds. This is tech borrowed off the 911 Turbo, and while VTG is commonly used in diesel engines, Porsche is the only manufacturer to offer this in petrol driven engines. There’s also Dynamic Boost, which leaves the throttle open for up to two seconds after pedal lift-off, so when the driver reapplies throttle, there is no delay with building boost back up.

As a result, our new Boxster S has absolutely no issues with keeping up with the Cayman R – whether on the straights or through the sharpest up-hill apexes. And boy, it remains an absolute joy to hoon on these open, curvy roads. There is only a hint of hesitation, at low gears and below 3,000 rpm, but get your gearchanges and throttle inputs right, and the car only a few can surpass it on these roads.

The new electromechanical steering has been tweaked to give sharper response. Also revised are stiffer coil springs and thicker anti-roll bars, both of which does not sacrifice ride comfort. In normal speak, this means the car is incredibly easy to place, quick to steer, and should you hit a dip on the roads while at speed, the disruption isn’t jarring enough to throw you off your intended line. No unexpected surprises here, which is always good. These aren’t new revelations, sure, but the magic here is how the new car does all this better than before and in such convincing manner.

Which brings us next to the way this car sounds. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that it sounds different. This is certainly a far cry from the old cars with the raspy, preppy flat-six zing. The in-cabin experience is engineered, almost artificial, and on the outside, you get a parpy exhaust note (louder still with double dose of pops and crackles with the optional sports exhaust engaged) – both of which work together with enabling occupants to better feel the sensation of speed.

How can we put this; all the mechanical whirrs and pops from the flat-six were a by-product that added to the overall sensation, whereas the four-pot turbos now rely on exhaust notes to fill a void.

Illustrating this in words is not easy; especially not if you’ve never driven an older Boxster or Cayman before; where is the yardstick, right? We took the time to record a quick sound comparison between the two cars and we’ll let you be the judge to which note you prefer. Oh, just to give you an idea of how sonorous the older engine can be when properly done up, we also have a flat-six Boxster S equipped with Akrapovic for your listening pleasure here.

Personally, I have to agree that the 718 Boxster S has lost a bit of the raucous soul, as is usually the case with cars that have forced induction.

More importantly –  is the new 718 Boxster better or worse? We’ve spent quite a bit of time behind the wheels of the previous 981 model Boxster S, so I think we can be a fair judge on this matter. Objectively speaking, ask yourself if there has been a ‘bad’ new Porsche. You don’t need to think for a minute because the answer is ‘no’ – with every new replacement model, Porsche has continued to push the threshold. Sure, there have been changes – changes that not everyone will agree with. But this is Porsche adapting with the times, making slight adaptations and sacrifices, to deliver what their customers are asking for.

Ask me which one I’d pick between this pair and, despite a few misgivings, the 718 is honestly the one I’d pick for a hoon sesh. That’s only assuming I have just the one sportscar. Should I already have a fleet of performance machines and I’m looking to add one more to the collection, then the Cayman R would be the next logical, soulful choice.

But let’s not forget that the Boxster is Porsche’s cheapest entry in to sportscar ownership, with most of its buyers first time owners. From this pool, many may never have sampled the flat-sixes from before, which means they have no benchmark comparison. Through it all, the basic ethos for the Boxster remains unchanged – this is still the best daily driver sportscar available on the market today.

Forget BMW or Mercedes or Audi; nothing from those camps square directly against the Boxster and all of them would lose out in terms or agility and pure drivability anyway. Only Lotus’ Elise S Roadster matches or outperforms from pure ability perspective. But can you drive a Lotus to work every day? Ok, what I mean is… do you really want to?

Yup, I said it. The Boxster S on sale today is the best, most well-rounded, open-top sportscar that your money can buy. Not only has Porsche broken all the rules, they have done so with such mastery that it is difficult not to be suitably impressed.

Prices for the 718 Boxster S begin from RM620k and the test car you see in this article (in that beautiful, optional shade of Miami Blue, Sports Chrono Pack, larger wheels together with ceramics) edges the sticker price closer towards an eye-watering RM800k. If you’re a first time buyer looking to get yourself a proper sports car; well, we strongly recommend this car, in any guise. In fact, the most important dilemma you have is this – 718 Boxster S with all the bells and whistles, or stretch your budget just a little bit more for a basic 911 Carrera?

First world problems. Ahem.

Enjoy our full gallery of the 718 Boxster S and 987 Cayman R below. Also remember to Like, Follow and Subscribe to us on our various social media platforms!

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About Author

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From supercar spotting on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Won has moved onto the realms of motoring journalism since 2011. He has a keen eye for automotive photography, a penchant for fast cars, and the occasional hunger for munching corners.

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