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Driven: Porsche backs Boxster four-pot

Box fresh: It may have dropped two cylinders from its horizontally opposed engine, but Porsche says its smallest sports model will continue to attract customers with an unspoilt blend of dynamics and looks.

Downsized turbo engine still fits Boxster sportscar mantra, says Porsche

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Porsche logo11 Jun 2016

By DANIEL GARDNER

PORSCHE has given its mid-engined Boxster drop-top a significant mid-life makeover headlined by the discontinuation of six-cylinder power, but the German car-maker says the shift to turbocharged four-cylinder engines will not harm the model’s appeal.

Since the Boxster’s introduction, the entry-level two-seater convertible has been powered by either a 2.5-litre or 2.7-litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder or 3.2-litre and 3.4-litre versions for the Boxster S performance flagship, but for the 2016 update the naturally aspirated sixes are replaced by 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre turbos.

While the downsize to smaller engines could appear to be a reduction in potency for Porsche’s baby, the car-maker says the adoption of turbocharging has boosted performance without compromising any aspect of the model.

Speaking at the launch of the 2016 Boxster range, Porsche Cars Australia public relations manager Paul Ellis told GoAuto that a six-cylinder engine was not intrinsic to the Boxster brand, and that a majority of customers look at the complete performance package instead.

“Going to a four-cylinder turbocharged engine for this car is not a problem,” he said. “That’s just a perception some people have. The important thing with this car… is that it has to deliver against the brand promise.

“We’ve got a car now that is torquier, more powerful, faster, and has better dynamics than before. It delivers. If it’s six-cylinder of four-cylinder, I don’t think really matters a whole lot because it is delivering against the promise, which is to build the world’s best roadster.

“The end result is what we measure, not the individual pieces.”

Mr Ellis’ sentiments were repeated by Porsche Cars Australia chief trainer and product specialist Paul Watson.

“The basis of the Boxster has always been a lightweight, mid-engined roadster and I don’t think the fact that it had a six-cylinder or a flat-four is going to have a massive effect on the customer,” he said.

“The customer is more about what the car does and how it does it, than the bits that make it do it.”

As part of the four-pot branding and promotional process, Porsche has deviated from the Boxster’s progressive 9 prefix code-numbering system and has instead resurrected the 718 moniker of the company’s 1950s racer that used an engine of the same configuration.

While Porsche is clearly keen to tie the new model into the company’s rich heritage, Mr Ellis said the association was beneficial to the new Boxster, but the move to four cylinders was not primarily a nod to earlier models.

“It does, but that’s not the reason we’ve gone for four-cylinder. It’s not for sentimental value. This is for reasons of engineering, for reasons of meeting C02 regulations and economy, and performance.

“We don’t want to trade one off against the other. We’ve achieved two goals that normally are opposing. We’ve made the car more efficient and we’ve made it more powerful.

While many manufacturers continue to drop manual gearbox options across various models, Porsche is sticking with the self-serve option for Boxster even though the car is expected to sell about 90 per cent in automatic PDK form.

“Manual gearbox is important for the line-up because there are the purists that don’t necessarily want to have the fastest accelerating or quickest car around the track,” said Mr Ellis. “What stimulates them more is the fun factor.”“As long as we’ve got a demand there for that gearbox we will supply a manual, but increasingly that demand is shrinking because the alternative PDK is such a good gearbox.”

With the transition to turbo power only, the Boxster engine range may be smaller but power and torque have been given a boost from 195kW to 220kW and 280Nm to 380Nm respectively, with a corresponding nudge to performance.

In the case of the updated Boxster S, its 3.2-litre flat six has been swapped out for a 2.5-litre boxer four-cylinder, which also boosts power 25kW – from 232kW to 257kW, while torque has grown a hearty 60Nm from 360Nm to 420Nm.

Fuel economy has also benefited thanks to the inherent thermal efficiency of turbocharged engines and when combined with the company's PDK automatic transmission, has resulted in 2.0-litre versions using one litre less of fuel per 100km at 6.9L/100km, while the 2.5-litre is 0.9L/100km less thirsty at 7.3L/100km.

As previously reported, the Boxster starts from $113,100 plus on-road costs in manual guise, while the Boxster S is priced from $143,400.

Both variants are fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, which increases fuel consumption to 7.4L/100km and 8.1L/100km respectively, but for $4990 customers can upgrade to the Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Also optional is the $3990 Sport Chrono package which brings three driving modes (Normal, Sport and Sport Plus) and launch control, offering the best acceleration times, with the Boxster getting to 100km/h from standstill in 4.7 seconds when fitted with an automatic transmission – 0.8 seconds faster than its predecessor.

With the same equipment, the Boxster S does the dash in 4.2 seconds – 0.6 seconds quicker than the six-cylinder version. Keep your boot planted and the 2.0-litre will max out at 275km/h while its 2.5-litre sibling will carry on to 285km/h.

Dropping a pair of cylinders from each variant is good news for carbon emissions as well, which have fallen to between 168g/km and 158g/km for the more affordable version or between 184g/km and 167g/km for the hottest Boxster.

Despite the four-cylinder swap, Porsche says a sports exhaust maintains the “urgent” and “typically Porsche” sound. The Boxster S tailpipe is a centre exit twin arrangement, while the 2.0-litre has a big-bore single.

On the outside, the visual update may appear to be light but Porsche has revised 80 per cent of the Boxster’s body, with only the bonnet, boot and windscreen carrying over from the previous model.

In addition to the reskin, the headlights have been given the trademark four-point LED running lights, which are incorporated into the bi-Xenon headlights along with a tweak to the tail-lights that adds a similar sharp illumination in LEDs.

A full LED headlight option is available for $2530, which includes Porsche's Dynamic Light System Plus, but the PDLS is included with the standard Xenon light version.

Exteriors are now offered in a wider range of 16 paint tones and four roof colours, while a new selection of optional wheels are also on offer ranging from the standard 18-inch versions fitted to the Boxster or 19-inch for the S, up to a 20-inch 911 Turbo replica set for $6260 ($8260 for the Boxster).

Boxster cabins have also been updated with a new range of interior materials and trims, but customers not satisfied with the standard 14-way electrically adjustable seats can upgrade to a more supportive and flexible version or a hardcore carbon-fibre fixed bucket seat for $7690.

The dashboard has been redesigned for the update with a new layout that Porsche says is more ergonomic.

With no rear seats to accommodate smaller Porsche passengers, the Boxster unusually has Isofix child seat anchors for the passenger seat, and the car-maker offers a range of child seats in its original accessories range.

A new minimalist sports steering wheel is standard as is the 7.0-inch Porsche Communication Management system, but customers will have to fork out more for navigation and Connect/Connect Plus which adds more smartphone and internet versatility including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

An upgrade to a GT steering wheel is another option as is a greater number of controls, including heating and information system access switchgear.

The significant revision continues under the svelte skin, with almost all of the mechanicals from the bulkhead to the rear of the car new or redesigned, including the new drivetrains and suspension.

The new Boxster has a sharper and sportier chassis, according to the car-maker, with a recommended optional 'Minus ten and minus 20' Porsche Active Suspension Management system for $2710, that allows the ride height to be lowered 10mm or an additional 10mm when fitted to the Boxster S.

Braking is taken care of by 330mm front discs gripped by four-pot callipers and 299mm discs at the back. The only difference between Boxster and S variant is in the colouring – black for the 2.0-litre and red for the 2.5-litre.

Customers wanting the ultimate in stopping power can invest $17,990 in their Boxster and order the six-piston Ceramic Composite Brake option, which cuts half of the weight out of the standard iron disc and adds four-pot callipers to the back axle.

Storage space is unchanged with a 150-litre compartment in the nose and 130 litres at the back, which does not shrink when the fabric roof is stowed.

The defining convertible roof that differentiates the Boxster from its Cayman sibling is unchanged and opens and closes in nine seconds at speeds up to 50km/h.

Unless Boxster owners venture to Australia's unlimited Northern Territory roads, the deployable rear spoiler should not automatically extend, with only speeds in excess of 120km/h prompting the stability-boosting aerofoil to come out of hiding.

A pushbutton manual option allows owners to show the aerofoil off, framed by the new gloss black waistband, at lower speeds.

2016 Porsche Boxster pricing*
Boxster$113,100
Boxster S$143,400
*Excludes on-road costs

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