When Porsche announced that the 982-generation 2017 718 Boxsters and 718 Caymans would be downsized in both engine capacity and cylinder count, there was the usual furor from the purists. It is all about managing expectations. Had it been the other way round, with the Boxster powered by a flat-four engine at launch in 1996 and the flat-six powerplant added later, there would have been cheering from the rooftops.
However, before the addition of forced aspiration, the argument is as much about engine capacity as it is about cylinder count. Personally, I have always felt that while even the 330-hp 981 Boxster GTS has enough top-end power, its 3.4-liter flat-six’s lack of low and mid-range torque compared to the 400-hp 3.8-liter six in the 2012-2016 911 (991.1) Carrera S is very apparent.
Of course, Porsche handily fixed that problem by dropping a slightly less powerful 375-hp version of the Carrera S’s engine into the Boxster Spyder, turning it into not only the quintessential Boxster but one of the best cars it has ever made. So, does the Spyder represent the Boxster’s swan song, or does the new 718 Boxster S stand half a chance of also becoming a revered classic 20 years down the line?
One of the most appealing features of the 981 Boxster Spyder to the old school purist is the fact that, like its Cayman GT4 cousin, its 3.8-liter flat six only comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. So while the stopwatch pronounces it slightly slower through the gears compared to Porsche’s blindingly fast PDK transmission, it is more demanding of driver skills, and all the more engaging for it.
This is why we decided to ask Porsche for some seat time in the six-speed manual version of the new 718 Boxster S in Germany. We wanted to see how well the traditional transmission gels with the brand-new turbocharged 9A2 family flat-four engine.
On the Road
First impressions of the new flat four are encouraging. It starts with a gruff, business-like Porsche noise, and immediately settles down to a steady idle. Like the old flat six, the flat four has good inherent balance, sans the secondary vibrations that make an inline four a comparatively plebeian device in terms of refinement and soundtrack.