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First Drive: 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

Dial the must have 'Sport Chrono' to 'Sport Plus' mode, and the new “boxer” twin scroll turbo engine shows the mid-engined, convertible's sport car pedigree.

  • Porsche 718 Boxster main1

THE PROS & CONS

    • What’s Best: The kind of response from steering wheel, engine and transmission that sets the 718 apart.
    • What’s Worst: Cargo space is marginal, but that’s not what this car is all about.
    • What’s Interesting: While the engines are small and more fuel efficient, performance matches and exceeds the outgoing six-cylinder models.

AUSTIN, TX: It’s safe to say the Boxster saved Porsche when it arrived some 20 years ago.

Back in 1996, the brand was in a slump with the Boxster coming along at just the right time, filling in nicely as a semi-affordable roadster.

Now that was before the Cayenne in 2002 followed since then with winners such as the Panamera and now the easily affordable Macan — all of which have propelled Porsche into a mainstream brand.

First Drive: 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

With the advances made since then in automotive technology such as twin scroll turbocharging and direct fuel injection, it was time to build a new Boxster.

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Interestingly, it is now called the 718 Boxster, which is a homage to the wonderful little 718 racecars that swept all before them in their class in the 1950s and 1960s.

First Drive: 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

Two new “boxer” twin scroll turbo engines replace the flat-six units the Boxster relied on for two decades.

The base engine in the 718 Boxster is a 2.0-litre with 300 hp (280 lb/ft), while the 718 Boxster S gets a 2.5-litre unit producing 350 hp (309 lb/ft).

Although the engines are smaller and lighter, power is up by 35 hp and fuel consumption is 13 per cent less than the previous model.

First Drive: 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

Buyers have a choice between a standard six-speed manual transmission or the optional PDK dual clutch seven-speed automatic.

Adding the optional Sport Chrono Package and PDK to the 2.0-litre engine sees it accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds, 0.8 seconds quicker than the previous model, while the Boxster S does it in 4.2 seconds, 0.6 seconds faster.

Top speed in the 718 Boxster is 275 km/h (170 mph) and 285 km/h (177 mph) in the 718 Boxster S.

One of the reasons for the increase in power is variable turbine geometry, Porsche being the only manufacturer to use this technology.

An option worth including is Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) that now includes a 10 mm lower ride height. And for the first time PASM Sport Chassis with a 20 mm lower ride height is available on the 718 Boxster S.

As I have noted in the past, the Sport Chrono is a must have option, but now an Individual mode has been added to the three existing modes – Normal, Sport and Sport Plus.

First Drive: 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

They have been moved from the centre console to a stalk on the lower right of the steering wheel with the modes driver selectable by a rotary dial.

First Drive: 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

Adding to the fun on PDK-equipped examples is a Sport Response button in the middle of the Mode dial. Press down and it’s like a form of “push to pass” — giving the driver maximum power for 20 seconds.

Like the 911, the shape of the Boxster is something not to be messed around with, but Porsche has actually restyled the exterior, the only carryover pieces from the last model being the luggage compartment lids, windshield and power convertible top.

The front is wider and dominated by two, large functional ducts with Bi-Xenon headlights and integrated LED daytime running lights. LED headlights with four-point daytime running lights are available as a new option.

First Drive: 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

The rear is also revised with 3D LED taillights and four-point brake lights.

Inside, the main instrument cluster is virtually the same but it now has the newest Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system with state-of-the-art touchscreen and mobile phone preparation included as standard. The navigation module is available as an option. The PCM can be optionally enhanced with voice responsive navigation.

An interesting standard feature on both models is the Porsche Vehicle Tracking System Plus (PVTS+) offering the highest level of vehicle security.

First Drive: 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

At the 718 launch in Austin I drove a stock Boxster with PDK that started up with a satisfying “blap”. With the top down, despite the heat and near cloudless sky, my co-driver and I headed out into Texas hill country.

We did not have the grunt of the 2.5-litre or the Sport Chrono, but we really didn’t need it.

With the PDK in manual shift mode, with the Sport and Sport Suspension activated and using the paddle shifters brought great “blaps” from the exhaust when downshifting.

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On a road named Bittersweet, my co-driver tackled the seemingly endless tight turns with a vengeance, to the point I had to ask him to slow down at one point.

First Drive: 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

But what it proved was the 718, even in its most basic form, does not scrimp on the handling and response, which is why you buy a Porsche in the first place.

I remember a long-time Porsche competition driver telling me “once you drive a Porsche, It spoils you for anything else.”

And that couldn’t be truer than in the new 718 Boxster.

First Drive: 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster

BODY STYLE: Premium performance roadster

DRIVE METHOD: Mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive.

ENGINE: 2.0-litre twin turbo direct injection “boxer” four-cylinder (300 hp, 280 lb/ft); 2.5-litre twin turbo direct injection “boxer” four-cylinder (350 hp, 309 lb/ft)

FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium) 2.0-litre manual, 11.0/8.3/9.8L/100 km city/highway/combined, PDK, 10.5/8.0/9.4L/100 km; 2.5-litre manual, 12.1/9.0/10.7L/ 100 km, PDK, 11.0/8.4/9.9L/100 km

CARGO: 150 litres in front bin; 125 litres rear bin.

TOW RATING: NA

PRICE: 718 Boxster manual/PDK, $63,900/$67,500; 718 Boxster S manual/PDK, $78,000/$81,660

WEBSITE: www.porsche.ca

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