BMW M2 vs Porsche Boxster S vs Ford Focus RS
718 Boxster the best new driver’s car? Ford and BMW might have something to say about that
The 718 Boxster is Porsche’s purest and most involving model, and it’s among the least costly Porsche sports cars. It is a two-seat convertible, with a soft roof you can lower for some wind in your hair. You get a choice of two flat-four turbocharged engines, both providing more grunt than the sixes they replaced while using less fuel. The Boxster is a very quick and rewarding car, but it is also easy to drive, very well built, and quite comfortable.
Possibly the noise it makes. If you’re coming from an earlier Boxster, you might find today’s turbocharged flat-four-cylinder engine sounds less satisfying than the howling non-turbo flat six it replaced. Dealing with a flat tyre. If you puncture a tyre on a Boxster, you must get to grips with the tyre-repair kit – or walk. There’s no spare. How much you paid for your Boxster, after selecting all the options you needed. Many features that are standard on cars much less expensive are optional at extra cost on a Boxster.
Two-door, two-seat, soft-top convertible only. (The Porsche 718 Cayman is the fixed-roof coupe equivalent). The Porsche 718 Boxster has its engine in the middle behind the seats, and drives its rear wheels. The Boxster is classed as a sports car, higher priced.
Cruise control. Dual-zone climate-control (which lets you set different temperatures for each side of the cabin). A reversing camera, and front and rear parking sensors. Windscreen wipers that operate automatically when it rains. A multimedia system with a high-resolution touchscreen, a CD/DVD player, and a hard-disk jukebox. Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming. Auxiliary and USB input sockets, and two SD card readers. A digital radio, and satellite navigation. Controls for the multimedia system on a leather-trimmed steering wheel that is power-adjustable for height and reach. Power-adjustable leather and Alcantara trimmed seats with heaters, and a driver’s seat that can remember your setting (making it easy to restore after a companion has driven the car). Very bright bi-xenon headlights, and long-lasting LED daytime running lights and taillights. Wheels made from aluminium alloy, which are usually lighter and better looking than the steel wheels with plastic covers found on some lower priced cars. A tyre repair and inflator kit. Six airbags. Electronic stability control, which can help you control a skidding car. (For more on Porsche safety systems, please open the Safety section below.) Every Porsche Boxster carries a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
There are two engines available in a Porsche Boxster, both four cylinder turbo-petrols, and neither uses much fuel – especially when you look at how much power they produce. The 2.0-litre in the Boxster consumes 6.9 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined) with an automatic gearbox, and the 2.5-litre in the Boxster S drinks about five per cent more. In real-world highway driving the Boxster and Boxster S don’t use much more fuel than they do on the test, consuming about 7.5L/100km. However if you drive hard on a twisty road, or when negotiating city traffic, a Boxster can become significantly thirstier – and more so than, say, a small hatchback with a similar official test figure. The only reason you might prefer the 2.5-litre Boxster S is that you want the extra thrust it brings. The 2.5 will feel about 10 per cent stronger under most driving conditions – and 15 per cent stronger when you ask for all that it has. Which, at 257kW, will be plenty. The bigger engine is a bit more forgiving to drive at low speeds, but there is not much in it and it is arguable the 2.0-litre sounds sweeter. Unlike most car engines, where the cylinders stand vertically in the engine bay (either side by side, or in two banks making an upright vee shape), in a Boxster the cylinders lie flat and oppose one another – two on each side. This flat layout – also known as a boxer layout – helps keep the car’s centre of mass low, which improves handling. Both Boxster engines use an automatic stop-start system to save fuel in the city. It shuts down the engine as you roll to a stop, and starts it again when you take your foot off the clutch pedal (or press the accelerator) to drive away. You can order either Boxster with a six-speed manual gearbox, or with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic that Porsche calls PDK. A dual-clutch auto works much like a manual gearbox with robotic control. It saves fuel and produces very fast, smooth gearchanges once you are rolling. But it cannot quite match the fluid, elastic feel of a conventional or CVT automatic when starting from rest or parking.
Walk past the Boxster and spend more for a Boxster S and the main thing you get is the bigger and more powerful engine. The other distinguishing feature of the S is its wheels – the rims are an inch bigger, at 19 inches in diameter, and they are wrapped in wider, lower profile tyres, which bring you a bit more grip on dry roads. You can enhance either Boxster with a host of options at extra cost. Some of these bring you the sorts of feature that come standard on many cars at well under half the Boxster’s price – such as support for smartphone mirroring on the touchscreen via Apple CarPlay, Porsche entry and drive (which allows you to unlock the car and drive away without handling a key), and active cruise control (which will slow the car automatically to the speed of a vehicle ahead). Also standard on some less costly cars but an extra-cost option on a Boxster is suspension that adjusts automatically to the road conditions. Porsche calls this Porsche Active Suspension Management, and it also allows the driver to choose from Normal or Sport modes – the latter stiffening the car’s ride so that it responds more immediately to the steering wheel and leans less in corners. PASM lowers the Boxster’s body, and therefore its centre of mass, by 10mm. It improves handling and ride comfort, and sometimes both at the same time. Another nice option for serious Boxster drivers is Sport Chrono, especially if you will take to the racetrack in your Boxster. This brings a Sport calibration for the electronic stability control that lets you have more fun subtly sliding the rear tyres in corners – while retaining a safety net. It also brings launch control, which adjusts engine revs to optimise quick take-offs. In PDK auto Boxsters, shift times are reduced. And you can boost power and responsiveness for 20-second bursts with a system that winds up the turbocharger early. Sport Chrono is signposted by a dashtop stopwatch, which lets you view, store and analyse lap times. Also optional is Porsche Torque Vectoring, which includes a mechanical rear differential lock. Torque vectoring brakes the inside rear wheel slightly as you turn into slow and medium speed corners. This sends more drive to the outside rear wheel, which helps rotate the car into the turn. The diff lock prevents the inside wheel from spinning as you accelerate out. The system works brilliantly, and contributes subtly to the satisfaction you get from driving a Boxster well. Porsche also invites you to select from a host of extra-cost cosmetic changes.
The 19-inch wheels on a Boxster S ride a bit less smoothly than the 18-inch wheels and tyres worn by a Boxster. That’s because the lower-profile tyres on the bigger wheels have less rubber and air cushioning you from the road. Of 16 colours available on a Porsche 718 Boxster, four – black, white, yellow and red – are non-metallic and come without extra cost. Metallic colours cost about $1850 extra, special colours cost about $5400 extra, and custom colours in addition to the 16 on the options list cost about $9500 extra.
The Boxster’s cabin cocoons its occupants and feels understated and classy. The design of the dashboard, instruments, door trims and centre console is elegant rather than avant-garde, and the quality of the materials and finish is high. Seat comfort and your relation to the steering wheel, pedals and gear lever are excellent, as is the placement of the infotainment unit and other switchgear. You sit low in a Boxster, with your legs stretching out in front – rather than out and down, as they would in a sedan or SUV. You certainly don’t have an SUV driver’s commanding view. However, the low seating position adds to the feeling of sportiness and connection with the road. All versions of the Boxster ride very comfortably, considering this is a highly capable sports car. On suburban streets you will hear – and to some extent feel – more thumps from the tyres than you would in, say, a typical family sedan or hatchback. The bigger wheels worn by the Boxster S make the low-speed ride comfort a bit less cushy again, especially over sharp-edged urban bumps. While the optional adaptive dampers improve comfort, they are not a must: unlike some performance cars, a Boxster can be relaxing to drive on its non-adjustable standard suspension. With the roof down, the driver and passenger in a Boxster are well protected from the airstream. You are not buffeted: there is just enough airflow and engine noise to add enjoyment. Some convertibles feel soggy on bumpy roads – and many are. Sometimes when a convertible is developed from a fixed-roof design, so much rigidity is lost that over rough patches you can see the convertible’s windscreen wobbling as the car’s body twists. There is very little of this in a Boxster: its body feels strong. To lower or raise the power operated soft roof, you press a button in the cabin or another on the key. It takes about 10 seconds and can be done while driving, as long as you’re moving at less than 50km/h. With its roof up, the Boxster – as you would expect – is noisier to ride in than most cars with fixed metal roofs. By comparison with other small soft-tops however, it feels quiet and refined.
The Boxster’s safety fundamentals are quite strong. They include a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, six airbags, and the mandatory electronic stability control. The driver and passenger each get a frontal airbag, which Porsche says inflates in two stages that seek to match the severity of the crash. Each occupant also is protected by two airbags from side impacts. One of those inflates from the outer edge of the seat and protects the chest. The other inflates upwards from the door panel and protects the head. Radar-based Adaptive cruise control is offered as an option on auto-gearbox Boxsters. It adjusts your speed automatically to maintain a safe gap to the car in front. It comes with Porsche Active Safe, which uses the radar to trigger audible and visual warnings, and then a jolt of the brakes, if you’re coming up to an obstacle too fast. It will provide braking assistance, but it won’t stop the car by itself. Porsche Active Safe is not available on manual gearbox Boxsters, and Porsche Australia says it does not amount to autonomous emergency braking. (AEB systems, which are standard on many much less costly cars, can initiate a full emergency stop automatically if the driver does not respond to a collision warning.) Also available at extra cost is Lane Change Assist. When you indicate to change lanes, the system triggers a warning light in the side mirror if a vehicle is approaching rapidly from behind, or is in a blind spot at your rear corner. The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has not rated the Porsche Boxster.
The Porsche Boxster is one of the ultimate cars – of any price or style – in which to indulge a love of driving. You get the fundamental balance and unique handling of a mid-engine layout, engineered with Porsche’s knack for making a sports car feel just right. The Boxster feels like it is well worth its price premium over lesser performance cars – while making stark the diminishing returns available from spending more on a supercar. It sets itself apart first with uncommonly feel-rich steering, which allows millimetrically precise adjustments and delivers a stream of feedback to your hands. There is a lot of tyre grip, which makes you feel like a hero and puts a big smile on your face. Subtle caressing of the accelerator or brake has an equally subtle and immediate effect on the attitude of the car – perhaps determining whether it is tending slightly to understeer (the front tyres running wide), or to oversteer (the rear tyres sliding out). Even when the suspension is loaded under hard cornering the Boxster has the capacity to absorb bumps, which makes it a fine drive on bumpy rural coarse-chip – and not just on smooth urban tar or a racing circuit, like some high-performance cars. There’s easily modulated braking power, from aluminium four-piston calipers at the front and rear. The turbocharged four-cylinder engines don’t seem to have as much character as the non-turbo six-cylinders – with their trademark Porsche flat-six howl – that powered the previous generation of Boxsters. But the turbo fours deliver plenty of upside, such as extra grunt with lower fuel consumption. And the new fours are still terrific sounding engines. They produce a low-speed burble that’s part Subaru WRX and part VW Beetle (overlaid by typically Porsche clatter), alongside an urgent mid-range rasp and a cacophony of cracks and pops during deceleration. The PDK auto is a polished, rapid-fire ally for either engine, and allows quick manually triggered shifts via steering-column paddles. The six-speed manual gearbox, a dying breed, is oiled in action and the pick for old-schoolers and purists.
Two dimensional. The Boxster does not have rear seats.
Not great. Having the engine in the middle of the car, behind the seats, might help handling but it does not leave much room for luggage. And there is a soft roof, and a tiny cabin with no rear seat. On the plus side, there are two luggage compartments: a deep, 150-litre bay beneath the snout, and a smaller, 125-litre boot at the back. The compact dimensions of these spaces – each is much smaller than the boot of a light sedan or hatchback, for example – means you can’t carry big or long items. But there is enough room for soft bags containing the essentials for a few nights away. In the cabin, there’s no throwing stuff onto the back seat like you might in a 2+2 or four seater. And that peculiar Euro knack of supplying interior storage bins and gloveboxes that are too small to comfortably swallow phones and wallets carries into the Porsche.
The Porsche Boxster is built in Germany.
Possibly the security and comfort of a hard roof. You can get that in the Boxster’s sister, the very similar Porsche 718 Cayman, for example. Perhaps a less refined but in some ways more involving sports-car experience, from a lighter vehicle. You could get this from an Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, or a Lotus Elise or Exige. Perhaps some more luggage space and the ability to carry more passengers in a sporty convertible. The Audi TT S quattro cabriolet and the BMW M4 convertible offer this, for example. Maybe the greater all-weather security of all-wheel drive. The Audi TT S quattro and Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG convertibles both drive all four wheels.
Our reviewers like the 2.0-litre Boxster’s engine note and value. But it’s difficult to overlook the more costly Boxster S and its extra performance, which doesn’t unduly affect comfort, practicality or efficiency.
The current Boxster arrived in 2016, bringing with it a new way of naming Porsche’s smallest sports car. Officially, the Boxster is the convertible version of the Porsche 718 – now designated primarily with a number like the Porsche 911. The 718 Boxster is a thorough revision of the Boxster 981 series, which arrived in 2012. The chassis and suspension were heavily reworked, and the 718’s two four-cylinder turbocharged engines are new. A new-generation Boxster is expected to arrive about 2019.
BMW M2 vs Porsche Boxster S vs Ford Focus RS
718 Boxster the best new driver’s car? Ford and BMW might have something to say about that
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