The Yardstick Roadster

Porsche 718 Boxster S. By Kenny Yeo.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Porsche 718 Boxster S. By Kenny Yeo.

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ENGINE 4-cylinder turbocharged boxer engine




PRICE $316,588 excluding COE and options

If you are scratching your head at the 718 moniker, you are not alone. Apparently, it’s a reference to the Porsche 718 race car of Fifties and Sixties. I haven’t heard of it until now, but it won Porsche a lot of races. The important bit, however, is that it was powered by a four-cylinder boxer engine, the same as Porsche’s new 718 Boxster roadsters.

Porsche has boldly decided to ditch the Boxster’s signature naturallyaspirated flat-six engines for smaller turbocharged flat-fours. The same predicament has also befallen the Boxster’s sibling, the Cayman. The reason for this major change is to reduce carbon emissions, which probably won’t sit well with a lot of Boxster and Porsche enthusiasts. However, Porsche is quick to point out that it’s not all gloom and doom, and though the Boxster loses two cylinders, it is more powerful and also efficient.

The 718 Boxster I drove was the more powerful S variant. It puts out 345hp and 320nm of torque, that’s 10% more hp and 15% more torque than the outgoing Boxster S. In a straight line, the results are staggering. The new 718 Boxster S will hit 100km/h in just 4.2 seconds - almost as quick as a 911 Carrera S and a full half a second quicker than the old Boxster S. And though the new car is faster, Porsche claims that it will be up to 13% more fuel efficient.

The new motor is a beast. One of the joys of turbocharging is that there’s loads more torque and it arrives earlier in the rev band. All 420nm is available from just 1,950rpm, whereas in the old naturally-aspirated Boxster you had to wring it up to 4,500rpm to get 360nm. This makes the new 718 Boxster S feel very jumpy. The moment you put the pedal down, it’s ready to go.

There’s very little perceptible turbo lag because the 718 Boxster S has a very clever variable turbine geometry turbo. This technology isn’t new but it is quite ingenious. What happens is that the vanes inside the turbo adjust their shape depending on engine speeds. The vanes close at low engine speeds to create the effect of a small turbo, allowing the turbo to spool faster, thus also improving responsiveness. When pressure starts to build within the turbo, the vanes open to replicate the conditions of a larger turbo, improving breathing and creating more boost pressure and power. Think of it like a modern CPU that adjusts its clock speeds depending on the load it has.

However, while the new motor is very good at producing power, it does not make a nice sound. It’s loud at idle and burbles like a Subaru WRX. Once you are on the go, the burble changes into a dull drone. Applying more pressure to the accelerator only increases the intensity of the droning, but then it does crackle and pop on the overrun, which is fun at first, but gets tired quickly. Make no mistake, the new turbocharged flat-four certainly sounds less nice and expensive than the flat-six that it replaces.

If I sound harsh, it’s because the sound that the new 718 Boxster S makes is its only glaring weakness. Everywhere else, the car is brilliant. This new model is one of the best-looking roadsters available now. It’s low and wide, and cuts a really lovely silhouette, especially with the roof down. Speaking of the roof, it now opens and closes in just 9 seconds and at speeds of up to 50km/h - handy, if it should suddenly start pouring.

It’s also quite practical, insofar as roadsters are concerned. Because the engine is nestled right smack in the middle, the 718 Boxster S has two boots. The larger one under the bonnet can stow up to two pieces of carry-on luggage, while the smaller boot in the rear is perfect for smaller items like groceries or bags.

The 718 Boxster S doesn’t scrimp on creature comforts too. The aircon is capable of arctic-like temperatures, and the new Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system is a dream to use. The 7-inch multi-touch highdefinition display is responsive and the interface is user-friendly. And under the armrest is a USB port, which users can use to connect music devices or their smartphones. Apple users will also be happy to know that PCM supports Apple CarPlay.

But most crucially, the new 718 Boxster S drives like a dream. Its handling and poise can hardly be faulted. And when coupled with its rich set of features and even punchier performance, few would argue against the 718 Boxster S being one of the greatest roadster money can buy.

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The cabin is a lovely place to be. Seating position is spot on and jet-like aircon vents gives a sense of sporting purpose.

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The turbo in the 718 Boxster S borrows the Variable Turbine Geometry technology from the more illustrious 911 Turbo.

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Because the engine is nestled right behind the driver, there’s space for two boots, which makes the new 718 Boxster S pretty practical.

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Not everyone will love the new engines, but the Boxster is still one of the best roadsters money can buy.