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| 718 Boxster
Time flies. The original Boxster was born exactly
20 years ago. People said it saved Porsche from bankruptcy and laid the
foundation for the company’s rebound. It was also the first Porsche to
break the tradition of triple-digit model numbers. Since then, you get
Panamera and Macan. To me, these names sound silly
rather than romantic. I would rather have the good old numeric
codenames, because they are not only more relevant to tradition but
you a sense of progress, such as from 924 to 944 to 968. If you talk
about “Boxster”, pardon, which one? In the end, you still need the
internal codenames 986, 987 and 981 to distinguish different
iterations. Only non-enthusiasts would prefer the marketing names.
Another confusing thing about the old car was its relationship with
Cayman. You know, both cars were practically the same except the roof,
but Porsche marketed them as separate models and, even more
confusingly, positioned the hardtop coupe higher on the price list than
the soft top, which is the contrary to common sense – see what if
Volkswagen priced the Golf hatchback higher than Golf Cabriolet. To
justify the higher prices, it had to claim slightly more power for all
Cayman models, even though we know their engines were practically the
So we are glad to see Porsche finally corrects its wrongs with the new
718 Boxster and Cayman. Now the 718 name sits rationally below 911
(although its internal codename is actually 982),
while the Boxster and Cayman labels are relegated to represent the
different roofs. Everything else between Boxster and Cayman is exactly
the same, no matter power, performance figures or even kerb weight (see
spec. table below). And the roadster finally charges more than the
coupe, although the gap is small.
finally corrects its wrongs with the new 718, but by doing so it
introduces another wrong...
This is actually the second 718 created by Porsche. The first was a
race car built between 1957 and 1962 as the successor of 550 Spyder. It
was good-looking. It had racing glories – 3 Targa Florio laurels and a
Sebring 12 hours trophy. But most important to Porsche, it shared a
feature with the new 718 Boxster and Cayman: a four-cylinder boxer
engine. And that is also what separates it from the flat-six-powered
981 / 987 / 986. The relegation from 6 to 4-cylinder might raise some
eyebrows, but to me it seems to be a rational movement to add
further breathing space to the 911. In fact, traditionally the
smaller Porsches (924, 944 and 968, also the majority of 914) were
powered by 4-cylinder engines to keep cost down. Wendelin Wiedeking
decided to equip the original Boxster with flat-six just because
he had a tight budget to develop both the Boxster and 996.
From this perspective, the reversion to 4-cylinder engine is also a
It goes without saying the downsized engine is supplemented with
turbocharging, so it actually gets more power (and even more torque),
higher performance yet drinks less fuel, just as you would expect for a
“modern” engine. Unsurprisingly, this flat-4 shares many basic design
features with the 3.0-liter turbocharged flat-six of new 911 Carrera
and Carrera S so that about 40 percent parts are shared. Like the
latter, it has a 118 mm bore center. The version employed by the base
Boxster and Cayman displaces 1988 c.c., employs the same 91 mm bore and
76.4 mm stroke so that you might see it as the cut-down version of
the 911 engine (no, it is not, as you will see the differences later).
The more powerful Boxster S and Cayman S engine has its
bore enlarged to 102 mm while keeping the short stroke unchanged, so
the combustion chambers are very oversquared. Its capacity is increased
to 2497 c.c. Sounds like a 944 Turbo engine. The big flat-four needs no
balance shafts, of course.
If it was not a horizontally-opposed engine, you might think the base
2.0-liter turbo comes from Volkswagen Golf R (after all, Macan employs
mostly Volkswagen and Audi engines), since it offers identical power
and torque: 300 horsepower and 280 pound-foot. Yes, the Porsche
flat-four is no superior to VW’s inline-four! Nor its delivery more
flexible. Its maximum torque is delivered from 1950 to 4500 rpm,
completely overshadowed by the Volkswagen’s 1800-5500 rpm. The only
thing to applause is its 7500 rpm redline, which is quite high for a
turbocharged motor, but then you are unlikely to visit it often, since
peak power arrives at 6500 rpm.
The same can be said to the 2.5-liter version. It produces 350
horsepower at 6500 rpm and 310 pound-foot from 1900 to 4500 rpm. Its
specific power is actually lower than the 2.0-liter unit because it
employs lower turbo boost pressure, i.e. 1.0 bar instead of the smaller
engine’s 1.4 bar. For sure it leaves enough space for the future GTS or
GT4 derivatives. Both new motors enjoy a 35 horsepower boost from the
old car’s 2.7- and 3.4-liter flat-six, while their torque deliveries
are massively stronger, especially at lower revs. Meanwhile, their EU
fuel consumption is reduced by 13 and 11 percent respectively, now
averaging 40.9 mpg and 38.6 mpg.
Thanks to the new engines, the base 718 duo tops 171 mph, an increase
of 7 mph. Moreover, with PDK gearbox and sports chrono pack (launch
control) selected, 0-60 mph acceleration is slashed from the old car's
seconds to 4.5 seconds, i.e. a night and day difference! Meanwhile, 718
S can sprint from rest to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds, down six-tenths, and
flat out at 177 mph. In Nurburgring Nordschleife, the 718 Boxster S
managed a best lap time of 7 min 42 sec, 16 seconds faster than the old
car and only 2 seconds behind the outgoing Cayman GT4, although the new
turbocharged 911 Carrera S is still comfortably ahead at 7 min 30 sec.
flat-four is no superior to VW’s inline-four!
From engineering point of view, the flat-four turbo is not as perfect
as the 911’s flat-six turbo. While the 911 engine employs a pair of
small turbos, one for each bank in a straightforward layout, the
flat-four employs a single turbocharger located at the front of the
engine, practically taking the space left by the deleted cylinders. Why
not twin-turbo? Because the firing order of flat-four is 1-3-2-4, which
means the 2 cylinders in each bank fire in succession, then rest for
some time and fire in succession again. If they were connected to the
same turbo, the uneven exhaust pulse train would seriously reduce the
efficiency of turbo. The only solution is to connect all 4 cylinders to
a single turbo, then it will get evenly spaced exhaust pulses, one
every 180 degrees of crank revolution. Alternatively, you can connect
cylinder 1-2 to a turbo and 3-4 to another turbo, but that would
require cumbersome piping, which is a nightmare to packaging as well as
cooling. Moreover, whether the 2 or 2.5-liter displacement can feed 2
turbos with enough gas is questionable. Therefore, Porsche opted for
the single-turbo solution.
However, collecting all exhaust gas from both banks of cylinder to a
single turbo requires long exhaust manifolds running under the engine
sump (the exhaust ports located at the underside). This also needs
extra care to shield the heat from the lubrication system. More
worrying, the longer exhaust manifolds result in more turbo lag.
Moreover, the fresh air pumped out from the single turbo also needs
longer pipes to reach the cylinders, which causes further turbo lag and
delay of throttle response. Therefore, the flat-four turbo is not going
to be as responsive as the 911’s flat-six twin-turbo. Neither can it
match the straight-4 turbo engines commonly found on the market,
unfortunately. This explains the aformentioned comparison with Golf R
engine. In fact, the only other engine with a similar layout, Subaru's
flat-4 turbo, is also notorious for turbo lag.
So why does Porsche opt for flat-4 instead of inline-4? Flat-4 enables
the 718 to have lower center of gravity as well as an inherently
smoother operation hence the higher (7500 rpm) redline. But for the
most part, I would say because of tradition and image reasons. Just
like a 911 will always keep its engine at the wrong side.
worrying, the longer exhaust manifolds result in more turbo lag...
Naturally, the 2.5-liter engine needs a larger turbo, which would have
worsened turbo lag further. Fortunately, it employs VTG (variable
turbine geometry) technology as seen on the 911 Turbo. Its vanes can be
adjusted according to rev to optimize turbine response and output. It’s
quite costly, so the base 2.0 engine uses a regular turbocharger. To
lessen the turbo lag shortcoming, both engines employ “dynamic boost”
function. When the driver lifts off throttle briefly, it halts ignition
and fuel injection but keeps the throttle butterfly open for up to 2
seconds so to keep the turbine spinning. Once the driver reapplies
throttle, boost can be built up quickly.
The engine shares most reciprocating parts with 911 (though the 2.5
employs larger pistons and valves) as well as direct injection and
iron-plasma-sprayed cylinder coating, though its compression ratio is
half a point lower at 9.5:1. VarioCam Plus serves both intake and
exhaust valves, which means the exhaust side gets variable valve lift
for the first time. Porsche did not explain why, but it is believed it
uses the low-lift setting at low rpm to reduce the effect of exhaust
gas drawing back to adjacent cylinder during intake stroke, again due
to the successive firing order of flat-4 layout. The flat-6 of 911 has
no such problems, so it doesn’t need VVL at exhaust side.
As seen in the picture above, the intercooler system mounted atop the
engine is quite cumbersome. While the 911 engine has 2 air-to-air
intercoolers mounted either sides of the engine and are cooled directly
by the side intakes, the single intercooler of 718 is a 2-stage
air-to-water system. The water circuit is cooled by the 2 side-mounted
radiators, then it cools the air circuit through a heat exchanger. It
has to be packaged tightly beside the intake manifolds.
As seen, the new boxer-4 turbo has to overcome a lot of
technical difficulties not found on a flat-6 or inline-4. This
inevitably added some weight and costs. Is it worthwhile?
On the Road
Observing from outside, the 718 is not a big departure from 981. In
fact, engine aside it is still very much the same car as 981. The
styling is naturally evolved as in every iteration of Porsche. Is it
better looking? The answer is negative. A squarer nose and flatter body
panels around the tail means it loses a little bit aesthetic of the old
car. The Porsche name is now relocated to the black stripe under the
fixed rear spoiler. Unfortunately, this pushes up the rear deck thus
diminishes the sense of sleekness. Inside, the cabin is the same as
before except the semi-circular air vents, updated infotainment system
and a new driving mode switch on the steering wheel. In other words,
the driving position and visibility remain excellent, while build
quality has nothing to complain about. The power hood of Boxster
continues to offer good sealing and quick operation.
Press the start button, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer fires up with
a subdued noise. It is rougher, bassier and much less dramatic than the
spine-tingling bark of the last naturally aspirated flat-six. Yes, it
sounds more Subaru Impreza than a Porsche. The disappointment grows
further once you engage 1st and ask the engine to deliver. Our
technical analysis is unfortunately correct. Below 2000 rpm, the engine
shows considerable turbo lag – not to the extent of 944 Turbo, of
course, but noticeably more than most modern turbocharged engines we
saw in the last couple of years. Give it 3000 rpm, however, the turbine
is fully spooled up and the throttle response is crisped. Yet the sound
quality doesn’t improve. As rev rises, the Subaru off-beat burbles
morph into a smooth drone, which is hardly engaging. Comparatively,
Jaguar F-Type V6 does a far better job in sound tuning.
rougher, bassier exhaust note sounds more
Subaru than Porsche...
In the mid-range, the turbo four feels a lot stronger than the old
flat-six. Undoubtedly, its real-world performance is elevated to a
higher league. However, as I always think, modern sports cars become
too powerful to be enjoyable on normal roads. The case of 718 is
especially obvious when you compare the driving experience with what we
remembered for its predecessor. Because the engine delivers its best in
the mid-range, you are not encouraged to rev it beyond 6500 rpm, even
though it is free to spin to 7500 rpm. Neither does the droney exhaust
note encourage you to do so. In the old car, you always wanted to
engage a lower gear, stretching the engine all the way to 7800 rpm to
get maximum power and aural rewards, or prod the throttle just to enjoy
its sharp response, wondering how fast its rev rises and falls. On the
new car, you spend half the effort yet returns faster acceleration. Any
more commitment would just overwhelm the road conditions and risk your
license. Losing a large part of the old car's emotion and character, it
is a more effective tool but not a better companion.
The base 2.0-liter engine has a smoother power delivery while its
exhaust is less gruff, but it is similarly characterless. That said, it
is now effectively faster than the old Boxster S, so with prices taken
into account (£42,000 vs £51,000) it is actually a better
option than the 2.5-liter.
As before, the car has 6-speed manual fitted as standard while 7-speed
PDK is optional. A taller final-drive ratio takes advantage of the
increased torque to allow fewer gearchanges in real-world usage. The
clutch and gearchange of the manual are just as light and accurate as
before, which is a pity as you are not going to engage them as often.
a great deal of emotion and sense of engagement is lost in the new
The chassis is largely carried over from the last generation, but it
gets a 10 percent faster steering rack and stronger brakes from the
company’s vast parts pool. Springs, dampers and roll bars get slightly
stiffer together with a reinforced rear subframe. A sportier version of
PASM adaptive damping is available, which lowers ride height by 20 mm.
The rear suspension gets components from the Cayman GT4 to increase
With these enhancements, the 718 feels more agile than ever. Its
balance is spot on, more incisive than 911 and matches the very best
Lotus Exige. Body control is remarkably tight. The Pirelli P-Zero tires
offer bags of grip and dependable traction. Its brakes are more than a
match for its performance. The electrical power steering is not as
tactile as the early Boxsters with hydraulic assistance, but it is
highly accurate, quick and well weighted. Other controls are just as
well tuned to give you a great sense of connection to the car. Push it
really hard and lift off mid-corner, the tail kicks out, but it is
progressive and easy to catch. This chassis forms a solid foundation
for the next Cayman GT4.
Most important, this car remains an everyday sports car, unlike Lotus
Exige or Alfa 4C. In all but the stiffest PASM modes, the suspension
leaves enough compliance for country roads. The body structure feels
rigid despite the open roof. The cabin sacrifices no creature comfort
for performance. It is one of the few sports cars that is truly usable
on daily basis yet being fast, fun to drive and reasonably affordable.
In fact, that is always the case of Boxster. Unfortunately, while the
718 is certainly faster, a great deal of emotion and sense of
engagement has been lost in the new turbocharged flat-four. Had we been
born in the new turbocharged era, we might be easier to appreciate it.
Once you have tasted the immense thrill of the old motor, there is no
way not to be disappointed with the new one, especially when it is not
quite as accomplished as its 911 brother. Let’s hope the next Spyder
and GT4 to keep the atmospheric flat-6.
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| 718 Cayman
As mentioned before, the
new Cayman is now officially the hardtop version of Boxster and both
are sold under the 718 moniker. It is also made cheaper than the
Boxster for the first time, although the gap is less than 5 percent.
With the exception of roof, both cars are virtually identical,
including engine, steering and suspension tuning, so their difference
is smaller than ever. Porsche even quotes identical kerb weight and
performance figures for them.
In order not to disgrace the Boxster, Porsche does not reveal how much
torsional rigidity the Cayman gains this time around. However, you
might remember that Weissach said the last generation 981 Cayman was
nearly twice as rigid as 981 Boxster. Since the 718 keeps the chassis
largely unchanged, we assume the same can be said to the new car. That
said, on the road the Cayman shows little advantage to Boxster, because
the aluminum and high-strength-steel structure of Boxster is already
very stiff, without any creaks and scuttle shakes to speak of. Both
cars steer, ride and handle exceptionally good. You need a Lotus Exige
Sport 350 to beat them.
Predictably, the 718 Cayman shares the same disappointment with its
soft-top sibling: the uninspiring engine. Losing 2 cylinders and
gaining a single turbocharger result in an uninspiring exhaust note and
a lazier tachometer needle. The turbine-smooth manner and razor-sharp
throttle response of the
old naturally aspirated motor are gone. Turbo lag is noticeable below
2800 rpm. Its 7500 rpm redline is
high for a turbocharged four-cylinder, but you are no longer encouraged
to access the very top end of the power band, blame to the thick
mid-range torque as well as the droney exhaust. The car is a lot faster
than before without question, but driving thrill actually takes a dip.
With a hard top, you hear less of the boring exhaust note, which is no
regret. But then again, having no regret to hear less the engine sound
exactly what makes the new car so regrettable!
That’s why the 718 Cayman loses the top rating like its Boxster
sibling. If you are not after open-air motoring, it should be a better
option than the Boxster, thanks to its slightly keener prices and
better looks – I always think a true Porsche should have a swoopy
fastback. It is still the most sensible sports cars in its price range,
but some of the magic of the old car has been lost.
|718 Boxster (Cayman)
|4379 / 1801 / 1281 (1295) mm
|DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
|300 hp / 6500 rpm
|280 lbft / 1950-4500 rpm
|6-speed manual or
|6M: 1335 kg
PDK: 1365 kg
|171 mph (c)
|6M: 4.9 (c) (4.3*)
PDK: 4.5 (c) / 4.0* (3.9*)
|6M: 11.3 (c) (10.5*)
PDK: 10.8 (c) / 9.9* (9.6*)
|718 Boxster (Cayman) S
|4379 / 1801 / 1281 (1295) mm
|DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
|350 hp / 6500 rpm
|310 lbft / 1900-4500 rpm
|6-speed manual or
|6M: 1355 kg
PDK: 1385 kg
|177 mph (c)
|6M: 4.4 (c) / 4.3*
PDK: 4.0 (c) / 3.5* / 3.7** (3.6*)
|6M: 9.7 (c) / 9.8*
PDK: 9.2 (c) / 8.5* / 9.3** (8.7*)
tested by: *C&D, **MT
718 Boxster / Cayman
718 Boxster S / Cayman S
by Mark Wan @ AutoZine