Porsche 718 Boxster GTS
While Porsche’s coupé offerings trade lap times, it’s easy to overlook the old-school charm offered by a stick-shift Boxster
BARELY 2 km into my stint behind the wheel and mere moments after a slippery moment on a greasy autumn-bathed section of winding Spanish road, the nervous look on my co-driver’s face magnifies as I slow to 50 km/h before reaching for the button to lower the Boxster GTS’ roof. With the cabin exposed, I inhale a deep breath of crisp 15 ˚C air before directing heat-filled vents towards our hands and feet, and switch our standard-fitment heated seats to their maximum settings. Road-trip bliss.
Often considered the lightweight option in Porsche’s heavy-hitting line-up, the Boxster nevertheless offers a compelling combination of carefree, top-down exuberance and (relatively) lightweight precision in a mid-engine package that arguably boasts better all-round balance than the 911 family of cars.
Adding to the appeal of the current 718-generation Boxster and Cayman range are new GTS variants that offer both styling enhancements for added on-road presence, as well as a suitable increase in performance and precision.
Distinguishable by a bespoke front apron, standard black 20-inch Carrera S alloy wheels and black, centrally mounted sport-exhaust tailpipes, like the 911 GTS, these top-of-the-range 718 siblings flaunt tinted headand taillamp clusters. Alongside the inclusion of Porsche Active Suspension Management, there’s
a 10 mm drop in ride height over S variants.
A highlight of the 718 GTS package is the standard racingderived sports seats that not only look great, but also offer optimal support and comfort, even when covering long distances. A healthy smattering of Alcantara, as well as the upgrades associated with the usual Sport Chrono package, makes the Boxster GTS’ cabin, in particular, feel more special (and racier) than those of the less-powerful models in the range.
While the decision to replace the previous-generation Boxster and Cayman’s flat-six engine with a turbocharged four was always going to garner criticism, especially considering the former powertrain’s soulful exhaust note, the reality is the change will likely only be noticed by those familiar with how good the six sounds. For the rest, there’s plenty to savour in the way the uprated four-pot boxer unit in the 718 GTS range goes about its business. Featuring a redeveloped intake duct and a revised variable-vane turbocharger (with boost increased from 1,1 to 1,3 bar), the new version offers not only 11 kw more than an S derivative, but also 26 kw and 70 N.m more torque than the previous-generation Boxster/ Cayman GTS. Mated with a seven-speed PDK transmission, this translates to 430 N.m delivered to the rear wheels between 1 900 r/min and 5 000 r/min, while in the six-speed manual option there’s 420 N.m offered up to 5 500 r/min.
Undoubtedly the faster of the two (0-100 km/h in 4,3 as opposed to 4,6 seconds), it was the brilliantly slick and intuitive PDK ‘box that I most appreciated while lapping the wonderfully technical Circuit Ascari outside Marbella, Spain. Left to its own devices, or coaxed via steering wheel-mounted paddles, there’s little doubt these types of transmissions have reached a level where their workings supersede anything a manual shifter can accomplish when it comes to getting from one point to another in a hurry.
That said, if you’re prepared to get to your destination just a fraction later, and that target happens to be on the other side of a mountain pass or coastal road, there’s no doubt the manual option is the one I’d pick. Here, being able to work through a wonderfully precise (old-school) manual gearbox, complete with rally hero-like rev-matching downshifts in sport mode, all while negotiating a series of sweeps and bends, adds to the already visceral experience offered by this topdown sportscar.
In these conditions, there’s enough performance and precision for the Boxster GTS to keep pace with performance cars boasting vastly bigger price tags. And, even if these cars eventually pull away, the superb levels of communication offered via the 718’s steering wheel and the base of the bucket seat mean you’re still likely having more fun … at a fraction of the cost. While the three-stage stability-control system allows you as much slip intervention as your driving partner condones, there’s enough intrinsic balance and poise to let you feel like a master driver each time the rear tyres gracefully lose grip under harder-than-usual accel- eration out of slow corners.
While driving the Audi TT RS and both this Boxster and a Cayman GTS PDK within days of each other has left me conflicted about where I’d spend my money in the VW Group if I wanted a fast two-seater, there’s little doubt a 718 Boxster GTS with a manual transmission is (still) the best open-top sportscar money can buy.
clockwise from right Beautifully crafted sports seats are standard fitment; as is a Sport Chrono package; and 20-inch Carrera S wheels; signature 718-generation air intake; GTS models gain a bespoke front splitter. opposite Boxster’s roof can be stowed at speeds of up to 50 km/h.
clockwise from top GTS rides 10 mm lower than S derivatives; tinted headlamps distinguish all Porsche GTS models; neat detailing abounds, such as this third brakelamp that’s set in a scalloped section in the rear deck.