Is Porsche’s 718 Boxster the ultimate urban fun car?
Ah, I see that you’ve got yourself the ‘baby Porsche’,” says a friend as I roll up to the kerb at his house in Dubai’s Jumeirah Islands with the roof down. He flashes me a cheeky grin as he waits for my witty retort, before climbing into car. “Well, let’s give this ‘baby’ a spin and find out just how grown up she is,” I say.
You’d be excused for thinking that two guys hanging out in a bright red, two-seater convertible sounds like the beginning of a buddy film. Although,
if it was, the synopsis for the film would be me exploring whether the 718 Boxster is the ultimate urban fun car, or not.
Full disclosure, I am not a big car guy. Not only did I get my driver’s license after I turned 30, but upon getting it I began writing of a monthly magazine column called ‘This Man Knows Nothing About Cars’.
In order to put the this third-gen Boxster through its proper paces, I enlist the help of three car-savvy friends who all hold professional positions of authority, and have all previously owned a Porsche before. Their input is to talk me through the finer points of the motor, while I carry out everyday urban tasks.
The first to take a seat is Mike, an executive at Dubai Airports, I am giving him a lift to work. He has two questions: “Why did you go with the Porsche 718 Boxster?” and “why did you go with bright red?”
Let’s be honest, there isn’t a man among us who hasn’t thought about buying a sports car—and as a foppy–haired Tom Cruise says in the classic film Risky Business: “Porsche, there is no substitute”.
A couple of years ago, Porsche rejigged the Boxster, giving it a new name, a new look and an all-new, four-cylinder turbo engine. Removing two cylinders caused plenty of uproar with Porsche purists who bemoaned the loss of the old naturally aspirated engine’s trademark hum, but the new 718 Boxster is quicker, more agile and more fuel-efficient than its predecessor.
The addition of 718 prefix to its name is a reference to the four-cylinder 718 racing car of the Fifties and Sixties, which simultaneously gives it heritage appeal, as well as contemporary cred. Powered by a turbocharged flat four-cylinder engine, it might seem like Porsche backtracked a bit from the six-cylinder version of the late 1990s, but a loss of power is the last thing drivers should worry about with the 718—and frankly, we don’t notice it while breezing along Sheikh Zayed Road making impeccable time during Mike’s commute. Time taken: 25 minutes.
Only by getting behind the wheel can you feel the muscle and flexibility of this supposed ‘entry-level’ Porsche. After weaving our way through suburban roads, the 718 Boxster shows what it’s got on the highways of Dubai.
With the softtop down, and the accelerator flat, the jerk of the engine sinks you into the seat. Turbo lag simply does not exist. Porsche claims the 718 can do zero to 100kph in 4.7 seconds, although it feels much quicker when other cars appear as nothing more than a blur on your side and in your rearview mirror.
As for the red? Well, let’s be honest, if you’re in the market for a drive where your goal is to have fun, then bright and bold wins out every time.
A common barb aimed at the 718 Boxster (and its fraternal twin the Cayman) is that it is a cut-price
Porsche 911. The argument goes that you only buy one because you can’t afford a 911. But while it’s true that the more powerful 911 is a design icon that merits its place in the motoring pantheon, the 718 Boxster’s attributes and more manageable price point makes it its own beast with its own appealing characteristics.
“The 718 Boxster is really nice and very good to drive,” says Ingo Hesse, General Manager of Hugo Boss for Middle East and India. A renowned Porsche purist, it is fair to say that the meeting arranged with him is not by coincidence.
“I had the first Boxster twenty years ago,” he says with a reminiscent smile, “I was always happy with it. It’s a lot of fun and also great value for money.”
While the 718 Boxster is certainly cheaper (far cheaper, in fact) than a 911 Cabriolet, we contend it’s a great sports car in its own right. It’s more balanced, owing to its engine being situated between the front and rear axles, as opposed to behind the rear axle like with the 911. That makes
the 718 more forgiving and capable of making rank amateurs—like me— feel like a hero.
Sidestep the small-engine stigma and the 718 Boxster’s creds are compelling: 35 units more horsepower (for up to 350), gobs more torque and, coupled with its featherlike weight, a fully loaded 2.5-litre-engined S model can reach 100kph as quickly as the mighty V-12-powered Mercedes-AMG S65 coupe. It not only attains an autobahn-worthy 275kph but also enables you to go farther between fill-ups courtesy of a bump in fuel economy.
But there’s more to an exceptional sports car than numbers. The old, naturally aspirated Boxster endeared itself to enthusiasts with its free-flowing exhaust note, a mellifluous wail so gloriously singsongy it induced goose bumps. The new soundtrack is neither shy nor retiring (especially when spec’d with the optional Sport Exhaust package, which cranks up the bass-heavy thrum at the touch of a button). But the voluptuous song of its predecessor is gone, which will undoubtedly trigger wailing among diehards.
One of those diehards is Alain Brahamcha, the CEO of a Dubai-based digital media company. “I’m a 911 guy, personally,” he says as we negotiate the endless barrage of speed bumps on driving through the Springs/Meadows suburb on the way to picking up some groceries from Spinney’s.
“I used to drive a 911 GTS. That was an awesome car. I loved the shape of it, but it was not cheap!” he says.
But even he admits to being impressed by the way the 718’s retuned suspension glides over twisting tarmac like a sidewinder, absorbing bumps while pivoting around its centre axis. That sense of delightful maneuverability is aided by crisp steering that broadcasts a clear indication of where the tires meet the road.
The third-gen 718 has transmogrified from an innocuously cute convertible into a seriously potent yet—given its tiny engine—oddly paradoxical performance weapon. Porsche’s mission to advance the Boxster lineup into the 21st century while meeting tightening emissions standards, and this particular solution may irk the ears of its most ardent critics. But the 718 satisfies where it matters the most: the seat of the pants.
Sure, it might be the ‘baby Porsche’, but this boy this baby sure can go.