- We previously tested the Porsche718 Boxster S – and we enjoyed it.
- More recently, I tested a Boxster GTS, the slightly more powerful version of Porsche’s popular roadster.
- I found it exhilarating and maybe a little too perfect for its own good.
My Business Insider colleague Ben Zhang is a serious fan of the Porsche Boxster. The mid-engine machine was rolled out on 1996 to shouts of “Heresy!” from Porsche loyalists who thought the brand’s 911 was perfection and shouldn’t be messed with. If you want two doors and Porsche goodness, the argument went, you buy a 911. End of discussion.
Porsche didn’t listen to those folks and has been rewarded with a ravishing success in the Boxster. After Ben drove the Boxster S in 2017, he wrote: “It’s fun, it’s capable, and it’s surprisingly easy to live with. When it’s all said and done, you can’t help love it.”
The 350-horsepower Boxster S is indeed good fun. But what if we tack on an extra 15 ponies to the turbocharged four-cylinder engine of this robust Roadster? Then we have a Boxster GTS, which as tested by yours truly came in at nearly $US100,000 – $US99,430, to be exact.
The conditions were ideal: a sunny autumn Saturday between downpours. So I dropped the top – a quick, simple, mechanised operation – broke out my driving gloves and a warm hat and scarf, and hit the road. My critical question: Is the Boxster really necessary? Or is the 911, the ur-Porsche, in production since the early 1960s, good enough?
A big initial difference between our Boxster S and GTS testers: Ben sampled the “old-fashioned six-speed manual” transmission, as he put it – the enthusiast’s choice – while I was issued the seven-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung, or PDK, manumatic. These days, I don’t have a preference for stick shifts over automatic, unless the vehicle is rather bare bones, such as a Mazda Miata MX-5. On balance, the GTS was plenty peppy minus the clutch and honestly less demanding from day to day (mileage is reasonable, at 20 miles per gallon in the city, 26 on the highway, and 22 combined).
Not like driving a 911
Let’s just cut to the chase and render a verdict on what it’s like to drive this little beast. Compared with the 911, it’s … weird. The Boxster and its sister, the Cayman, are ridiculously composed high-performance automobiles. Like all-wheel-drive versions of the 911, they inspire a stupid level of confidence. Impeccable balance. Smooth, lagless power delivery, even as the four-cylinder supplanted a legendary six in 2017.
I have no hesitation in declaring that apart from sacrificing the original roar of the engine and thereby undermining some of the Porsche ownership experience, the Boxster GTS cannot be ruffled, cannot be unsettled, cannot be made to see out of control in any way.
The thing rockets to 60 mph in under five clicks of the second hand, grabbing dollops of its 309 pound-feet of torque during the dash. Tuck into a curve and the suspension takes care of the laws of physics and the steering is bliss. Punch the throttle on the exit as the transmission reads your mind and the wind lashes your skin and an involuntary smile spreads across your face. Do it again, and again, and again.
But, the weird part. In my experience, a 911 shows you how to drive it. The platform, steadily improved over decades to contend with the engineering flaw of putting the engine over the rear wheels, anticipates your needs. It guides you. It’s a sort of an automotive guru.
But also better than the 911 in many ways
But, like all great performance cars, the 911 harbours an unsettling demeanour beneath its more didactic aspects. It can get out of hand. The rear end will wiggle and slide. You need to turn yourself over to it, because you aren’t 100% in charge.
Not so with the Boxster. In my tester’s black leather crib, sunshine pouring in, turbo whining away, I felt unfazed. What can’t this glorious machine do? Is there any way for me to detect a lack of bond between man and motor? Does this Porsche really want me to be the boss?
Certainly not where the price is concerned. The biggest extra expense in my Boxster GTS was the PDK transmission, at $US3,750. But beyond that, the costly options were cosmetic. So is the boost of $US10,000 over the Boxster S worth it? For the meager uptick in horsepower?
Well, no. But I guess if you’re in this financial territory, it’s academic. Porsches ain’t cheap. The Boxster S is magnificent. The GTS is slightly more magnificent. Maybe save the money and buy, I don’t know, a Rolex to wear in your Porsche.
The Boxster is cheaper than the 911, so take this advice: If you want a toy, a plaything, a two-seater that’s so wonderful you’ll never regret the purchase, get the Boxster GTS. If you want a nominal back seat and old-school Porsche compromises with the attendant gloriousness, go for the 911. It’s only money. And no matter what you do, you can’t lose.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.