Yes, we’ve all heard that this new generation of Boxster and Cayman is fitted with four cylinder engines exclusively. But before you think even for a second that these are somehow less than the outgoing six cylinders, well, you’re in for big a surprise.

The exteriors have received the most restyling work and it’s a little bit of a nip here and a tuck there. The look is more modern and crisp than before. Inside, the most obvious change is the new seven-inch infotainment touchscreen that comes along with my favourite feature, Apple Car Play. The cockpit’s first level controls remain ergonomic perfection, but Porsche’s trademark excessive button count might spoil the experience for those new to the marque.

In the 718s, Porsche may have also perfected the modern sports car interior with the optional fabric seat inserts. It’s the first time I’ve seen anything other than leather or Alcantara from Porsche and this Sport-Tex is pure sports car excellence. Leather has never made any sense to me in any sports car, but a high tech fabric like this is pure perfection.

 

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However, this sort of perfection comes at a price – an eye watering $2,880, as a matter of fact. In a just world, this Sport-Tex would be the base seat covering or at least a no-cost option, but that’s antithetical to all things Porsche today because they know customers will gladly pay for the Sport-Tex option without batting an eyelash.

 

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I wanted to drive the manual because the PDK is so Germanic perfection that it works brilliantly with a turbocharged motor, but the manual will unmask this turbocharged four cylinder for what it really is. Before jumping behind the wheel, I’m thinking that the engine will lose boost between shifts and show a little lag here and there.

Instead, I’m totally mistaken and delightfully surprised. Porsche has done an enviable job managing boost pressure and ensuring that it’s pretty much always available. Despite my best efforts, not once during my drive do I experience any discernible turbo lag. I tried all of the tricks, from slow shifts to low RPM pulls, and nothing tripped up this new turbo four. Turbo lag basically doesn’t exist in the 718 Boxster and Cayman S. You gotta love modern Porsche technology.

 

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In S spec, the 2.5-litre turbocharged flat four makes 350 horsepower and 309 pounds of torque, with peak torque available from 1,900 to 4,500 RPM. With peak horsepower occurring at a high 6,500 RPM, this motor is pure Porsche sports car, but now with the bottom end of the rev range filled in with a pile of torque.

Similar to the Boxster Spyder (my favourite Porsche in recent memory) and Cayman GT4, the bump in torque changes the drivability of the 718 S. With that flat torque curve (we should call it a plateau, I think), each gear is more flexible than before, plus you can always run gears up to 6,500 RPM and engage all 350 horses.

 

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The manual is so good that unless you’re physically incapable of working three pedals or have that strange fetish for seamless and ultra-quick automated shifts, forget about the PDK. Just get the manual, enjoy the delightful shifter and clutch actuation, and thank me later.

If you tick the box for the PASM suspension, it sits 10mm lower than before, plus if you tick the PASM Sport suspension option box, it sits another 20mm lower. In addition to handling great, it looks proper. Look at this image of our silver 718 Cayman S test car to see what I mean.

 

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Brakes are sports car perfection in terms of power, bite, feel, and modulation, and are larger than before – a good idea because these 718s are faster than the old models – but the really cool update that I especially enjoy is that the steering is even better. Adapted from the 911 Turbo, its ratio is 10% quicker near center. That makes the steering even more alive than before. Behind the wheel, all I’m thinking is that it’s razor sharp. As well, there’s also a GT Sport steering wheel that’s 15mm smaller in diameter and it’s definitely the one to get.

For you enthusiastic drivers, there’s a new twist to PSM. Now there is a PSM Sport mode that allows some slip angle, and who doesn’t love oversteer, right? It’s cleverly engineered in that as speed increases, it behaves more like full PSM, keeping you and your car safe. Very clever and very useful for those who take their 718s to the track and get their slip angles on.

 

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While I didn’t get to try them, I do have a word about the non-S models. These, my friends, might be the best deal going in sports cars today. Yes, the engine is slightly smaller in displacement – two litres versus 2.5 in the S; same stroke, larger cylinder bore – the base cars aren’t down that much on usable power.

The base two-litre engine makes 50 horsepower less than the S engines, but torque is still mega – 280 pounds, which is just 29 lb-ft down on the S, and is available from 1,950 through 4,500 RPM.

Capable of a top speed of 275 km/h, the base 718 Boxster and Cayman are also said to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in a tick over five seconds for the six-speed manual and 4.7 for the PDK-Sport Chrono combo. And if you know anything about Porsche’s self-reported performance data, those numbers are a bit pessimistic. With pricing that starts at $61,500 for the 718 Cayman and a couple grand more for the 718 Boxster, the new entry-level sports cars are brilliant values.

Losing the wonderful sounds of the old, naturally aspirated flat six, especially when fitted the Sport Exhaust option, should be the only thing enthusiasts will lament about this latest generation 718 Boxster and Cayman. These 718s are quicker and more capable than before, and even more enjoyable to pedal. Porsche has again raised the bar for all sports cars.

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster S / 718 Cayman S
Base Price: $78,000 / $75,600
Notable Options: Sport exhaust, $2,900; PASM sport suspension, $2,390; Sport Chrono package, $2,200; GT sport steering wheel, $370
Drivetrain: 2.5-litre turbocharged horizontally opposed four cylinder, 350 hp, 309 lb-ft, 6-speed manual transmission, rear wheel drive
Performance: Zero to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds (manual transmission – but PDK + Sport Chrono will do 4.2); top speed of 285 km/h
VVUZZ Recommended: Unequivocally. The gold standard in sports cars.

 

Images courtesy of the author.

Published on Oct 08, 2016