Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces. This week, it’s the Porsche 718 Boxster T.
The Boxster needs no introduction: the mid-engined, two-seater sports car has been with us for 23 years. In the early Nineties, Porsche was in a spot of bother with falling sales, and needed a volume seller like the MX-5 was proving to be for Mazda. Purists at the time viewed the Boxster as a dumbed-down 911 that somewhat lowered the brand’s tone, but, much like the Cayenne went on to prove, you can’t argue with commercial success, particularly when it comes to saving the more expensive, more dynamic models, like the countless iterations of the 911.
The Boxster was given a naturally aspirated straight-six engine, but that changed three years ago, when Porsche replaced the unit with a turbocharged, four-cylinder affair to help lower average CO2 emissions across the fleet, and gave the model the 718 designation, in homage to the Fifties racer. The standard 718 Boxster was followed by the 718 Boxster S and then the T for Touring version, a lighter model with fewer luxuries but more dynamic appeal.
The most important feature in the T, the differentiator, is the weight, which is 1,425kg for this aluminium/steel composite car. One of the first signs you’re in a stripped-out car are the fabric pulls instead of door handles inside. Ours were bright yellow, to match the exterior paintwork, yellow clock inside, yellow roll-over bars behind the seats and yellow seat stitching. You get sports seats with elevated side bolsters and 718 stitching, a sports steering wheels, electric fabric hood which operates at 31mph, wind deflector, Apple CarPlay, wifi, tracking system, 4G phone connectivity and satnav.
You also get the Sound Package Plus, with eight speakers, daytime running lights and “welcome home” LEDs. There’s also a digital display for speed, gear, trip and clock.
We also had cruise control and parking sensors, seat heaters, IsoFix, a 64-litre tank and the Bose audio system as extras.
It’s fun. Whisper it softly, but the author of this article has never quite understood the allure of the 911, preferring instead the sweet-spot handling of the mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive Boxster. The T version proves McLaren’s point that it’s as much about light weight as power when it comes to exhilarating performance. The four-cylinder turbocharged engine develops 300 horsepower and 380Nm of torque - not startling figures, but combined with the lighter shell it equals 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds: perfect for B-road roadster kicks. You can choose the seven-speed PDK or a six-speed manual transmission - while that PDK is impressive, for the 718 Boxster we’ll take the manual. The steering is electro-mechanical, the ride height is lowered by 20mm and there’s the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) sports suspension system too. It feels pert, energetic, well balanced and full of character on the move.
This is what roadster fun is all about. It says bags about both cars that the genesis for the Boxster was in many ways the Mazda MX-5: two brilliant, different, finely judged examples of the breed. Even on a chilly winter’s day, you just want to throw down the hood, blip the throttle and head off in search of twisting country roads. OK, so there’s no naturally breathing straight six any more, but really, how many customers who enjoy this car know the difference or hanker one way or the other? It feels solid, well build, intelligently engineered, with a badge customers are proud to flaunt and some quiet humour in that sporting performance.