2017 Porsche 718 Boxster S first drive

After a turbo heart transplant, Porsche's 718 Boxster S doesn't miss a beat

Porsche’s latest roadster incrementally improves upon its predecessor in every area.

Car enthusiasts are a fickle bunch. We demand that our favorite cars keep up with the times, yet get our undergarments in a knot whenever automakers change too much. Preserving the past while embracing the future can be a tricky dance.

Now that drivers are eying gas mileage and emissions more carefully, it’s often engines that change when it’s time for a vehicle update, and not even Porsches are immune. This year, Porsche both the Boxster roadster and Cayman coupe swapped from flat-six engines to a turbo, four-cylinder power plants.

Does the soul survive? I traveled to Austin, Texas for some wheel time to find out.

Deep in the heart of Porsche

The 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster is now powered by a turbocharged flat four-cylinder engine with a displacement of 2.0 liters, giving the car 300 horsepower, or 2.5 liters for the Boxster S, which churns up 350 horsepower and 309 pound-feet of torque. These engines can be married with a six-speed manual gearbox or Porsche’s PDK seven-speed dual clutch transmission. All power goes to the rear wheels, as you’d expect.

The hard-top Cayman mirrors all the changes to the convertible Boxster. You can swap out “Boxster” with “Cayman” at any time throughout this review. They were similar before, but the latest update nullifies their disparities so much that they are practically the same car.

Box clever

For those wondering what the new 718 badge signifies, it’s Porsche’s way of paying homage to its race cars of the ‘50s and ‘60s, which also housed four-banger engines. This is proudly tagged on a body that has been resculpted for a wider, beefier appearance. As you would expect from Porsche, the packaging reflects the inner workings. For instance, the larger cooling air intakes are subtle nods to the turbocharged power plant hidden within.

The roadster also gets a new set of independently styled fenders and side skirts. A redesigned rear emphasizes width, and sports a new set of taillights. Meanwhile, the front gets fitted with the Porsche-distinct four-point running lights.

Go baby go

Inside, the layout of the Boxster is notably sleek and functional, with a driver-focused cabin that has everything placed where it’s expected to be. Running down the middle is a cascading panel of controls, starting at the 7-inch color touchscreen, flowing down to the armrest where media, air conditioning, and other controls will be found.

With the combo of Sport Chrono Package and the PDK transmission, the steering wheel gains the “sport response” button, which is like an afterburner for your car. When pressed, the engine and transmission are primed for responsiveness, delivering maximum power as quick as it can for 20 seconds, rocketing you forward faster than you can say “Doppelkupplungsgetriebe.” (That’s “dual-clutch gearbox,” to you.)

Tune time

Porsche’s didn’t just want to replicate the superior handling of the last Boxster, it wanted to improve upon on it. So the chassis received loads of tweaks like a strengthened subframe to improve lateral rigidity, and the suspension gained larger pistons and aggressive retuning.

The turbo lag everyone so fears does indeed exist, but only if you’re looking for it.

Additional options, like Porsche’s torque vectoring and an active suspension management system, are available to help things out as well. These allow the driver to change the car’s driving characteristics from comfortable to sporty, as well as improving cornering with careful application of brakes to the inside wheel on a turn. The Sport Chrono package bundles all of these features in together, making the Boxster S a part-time track car if you so desire.

With enough data to qualify for an engineering degree force-fed to my brain, I climbed in the Boxster S and hit the open road to see how it all translated to the actual driving experience.

More induction, less ceremony

For all the lamenting that the traditional flat-six engine has been replaced by a turbocharged four-pot, the numbers don’t lie: You get more with less. With 350 hp on tap, the 2.5-liter has 35 more horses in play than the engine it replaces. Those horses net the car a bit more performance, but the Boxster S’s 24 mpg combined fuel economy remains the same as what the 2016 offered. More power for the same cost is nice, but a touch more mileage would go a long way to justify the engine downsize.

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster S First Drive

Off the line, the turbo lag everyone so fears does indeed exist, but only if you’re looking for it. In fact, the focus will quickly shift elsewhere, particularly in the manual version of the car. That’s because first gear is somewhat of a guessing game. The buttery clutch is almost too smooth for its own good, reducing the feedback and making the search for the biting point like trying to find a staircase step in the dark. You might manage to feel it and progress normally, but misjudge it, and the result is an ungraceful stumble forward.

Nail it, however, and the Boxster S can get up and run from 0 to 60 in a hurry. Porsche says it can get there in 4 seconds flat with the PDK equipped, with the manual likely a half a second slower. Using both back-to-back, I sensed that the car was designed with the dual clutch primarily in mind, with the manual just being thrown in to satisfy folks who row their own gears.

One particularly windy stretch of road seemed to be perfectly designed to test out the Boxster’s capabilities, with enough bends and hairpins to keep it occupied. Through here, all the work to make the Boxster taught and controllable through bends became evident. In tighter turns, the torque vectoring pulled the car into a tighter radius, and the brakes halted the roadster with immediacy.

Porsche’s stability management has even been tweaked to be more hands-off, but still there when you need it. It now lets the driver achieve sling sideways harder and spin the wheels more before it finally jumps in to say “OK, I’ll take it from here, hotshot.”


It may be entry level, but the 718 is still a Porsche. That means it costs a pretty penny, with several more pennies for every available option – from paint, to seats, to the myriad performance assists. The 718 Boxster starts at $53,900, while the Boxster S kicks things off at $68,400. Our tester, with all the sport options ticked as well as navigation and a few style upgrades (interior, exhaust, sports seats), reached $94,310.

All the revisions to this roadster are for the better. And truthfully, it’s not that different. Every tweak is an incremental improvement towards the promise the Porsche has made to deliver a sporty cabrio befitting its badge. Those uncomfortable with change need not fear the Boxster’s transplant, either, as it delivers more without much compromise.


  • Balanced, nimble handling
  • Optional sport exhaust sounds good
  • Porsche-level attention to engineering


  • Surprisingly slushy manual gearbox
  • Minor performance improvements over last gen
Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.

The Titan RTX graphics card is nearly here. Here's what you need to know

The Nvidia Titan RTX is arguably the most powerful consumer graphics card ever made, even if it's not really aimed at consumers. It bridges the 2080 Ti and RTX Quadro cards with boat loads of power.
Product Review

The 2019 Porsche Macan S is a luxurious and quick SUV, but it's no road tripper

The roster of models challenging the Porsche Macan grows annually. The German firm updated its smallest, most affordable SUV with a new engine, more tech features, and subtle design tweaks to keep it looking fresh.

2020 Toyota Supra caught hiding in a trailer without a shred of camouflage

Toyota's plan to once again lure enthusiasts into showrooms involves bringing back the Supra, one of its most emblematic nameplates. Here's what we know so far about the upcoming coupe, which Toyota is developing jointly with BMW.

NYC mandates minimum wage for Uber, Lyft, other app-based rideshare drivers

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a rule that drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft must be paid at least minimum wage, even though they are independent contractors. The new pay rate includes operating costs.

Driving a prototype 2020 Passat at Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground

Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground is where new cars are tested to the breaking point, including the 2020 Passat midsize sedan. Ride along as the new Passat completes testing ahead of its 2019 launch.

LM Industries’ autonomous shuttles head to Phoenix, Sacramento campuses

LM Industries will deploy Olli low-speed autonomous shuttles at school campuses in Arizona and California as part of its ongoing "fleet challenge," which asks local groups to propose uses for autonomous vehicles.

Bosch’s CES-bound shuttle concept takes us on a trip to a not-too-distant future

Bosch envisions a future in which driverless shuttles occupy their own market segment. The German firm won't build the shuttles, but it wants to provide everything else, ranging from the drive system to the apps used to hail them.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Product Review

Boring takes a back seat as 2019 Corolla Hatchback mixes fun with practicality

We drive the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, the latest hatchback to bear the Corolla name. As the best-selling nameplate in automotive history, Toyota has high expectations to meet. This model mostly lives up to the legacy.

Hertz speeds up car rentals with biometric scan technology

Biometric security technology that uses face, fingerprint, and voice recognition is gaining traction, with Hertz emerging as the latest company to incorporate it into its daily operations.

McLaren puts the pedal to the metal in special-edition OnePlus 6T

The OnePlus 6T is yet another flagship killer smartphone, bringing powerful specifications to a much lower price than the competition. Now, OnePlus has teamed up with McLaren for the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition.

Aston Martin’s 1,000-hp Valkyrie will boast the Mona Lisa of the engine world

Aston Martin has released new details about its F1-inspired Valkyrie hypercar. Co-developed with Red Bull Racing, the Valkyrie will be one of the most aerodynamic production cars ever made.