Test Drive: 2018 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS

The Boxster launched in 1997 as a blazing beacon of automotive value in Porsche’s Canadian lineup, at a time where Bluetooth and floor mats were still options on six-figure Porsche 911 models. With a sweet-sounding 2.5-litre flat six engine carefully placed right in the middle of the car, the Boxster instantly joined the august ranks of the best-handling cars in the world that have their engines similarly positioned.

Body roll is literally nonexistent.

Even though it was the least expensive Porsche in its lineup, and was way down on power compared to the mighty 911 Turbo, the Boxster featured handling that eclipsed the long-time icon. Even company insiders quietly admitted, in the shadows of late-night, off-the-record conversations, the Boxster handled better than its much quicker and pricier big brother.

This was a startling revelation to come from company executives, as in those days, the company didn’t sell more SUVs than cars – in fact, it hadn’t yet sold its first SUV. The German automaker therefore depended greatly on the 911 for both its sporting soul and the company’s profitability.

That sporting soul oozed out of the Boxster’s come-hither metallic pores, with a clear family lineage to that classic 911, but also inspired by Porsche’s limited production, mid-engine Carrera GT hypercar. After the smashing sales success of the Boxster led to the creation of the Cayman coupe hardtop version of the Boxster roadster, its value was further cemented by the fact that it was one of the few convertibles on the market that cost notably less than its hardtop counterpart.

The vestiges of this (relative) value in the Porsche lineup remain with this particular 718 Boxster GTS, the sportiest top trim of the 2018 Boxster lineup, but not quite to the same pronounced degree. This here well-equipped GTS starts out at $93,000, or a few grand above the 718 Cayman GTS, but adds roughly $20,000 worth of options to land at $115,470 as tested.

At that price level, it’s still a fair sporting value in the Porsche stable. But from a broader enthusiast perspective, you do start to wonder whether V8 Corvette convertibles that start at about $70K have the inside track on value. Worth noting though, that price is very near the starting MSRP of a base, 300 hp, four-cylinder Boxster.

Impressive performance, especially in curves

The four-cylinder in the Boxster GTS has now become a turbocharged four-cylinder horizontally opposed engine – it still shares the flat (versus inline or V) engine layout with the 911, and turbocharging, but not the cylinder count. Twist the permanently attached “key” on the left side of the steering column, and this flat four sounds a little diesel-like at low rpms, especially when started from cold in a reverberating parking garage with the windows open or top down.

With 365 horsepower, it really sings at higher revs, but it just doesn’t sound as silkily addictive as the former inline-six, which begged you to rev it for the sheer aural pleasure of it. With this GTS, it’s the acceleration that impresses most, more so than the sound.

Our tester’s optional PDK seven-speed transmission comes standard with the Sport Chrono package that brings Launch Control to the acceleration party. Porsche claims the GTS with this package will do the benchmark 0–100 km/h sprint in 4.1 seconds with Launch Control engaged, compared to 4.3 seconds without.

In case you’re wondering, that’s an eyelash away from the 4.4 second 0–100 km/h time of the current Boxster S, which is only down 15 ponies, at 360 hp, with the base Boxster conjuring up 300 hp available to light up the rear tires.

But it’s still the handling of this car that will bring the most joy to driving enthusiast hearts. The GTS is lowered 10 mm from the standard suspension, while an optional Sport suspension can further lower it by an additional 10 mm. Even with the standard GTS legs, tripling the suggested speed on highway ramps is easy.

Body roll is literally nonexistent in this car. And so is true ride comfort, actually, with the suspension alternating from firm to “holy teeth rattles, Batman” at the push of a console-mounted button.

Interior classy, but missing some niceties

There’s a clear continued focus on performance inside the GTS as well, highlighted by the lack of any steering wheel infotainment buttons, in favour of a marginally lighter steering wheel..

An optional full leather interior upgrade brought a touch of class to the proceedings inside, but there was a notable lack of colour or much material variety inside. But with the dark-coloured leather especially, I was happy to see that Porsche had added ventilated seats to this tester, which is a godsend when those leather seats heat up in the sun.

Speaking of options, there are many buttons on the cascading centre console overall, but still five button blanks, which for our heavily loaded ($115,000) Boxster seems a little silly. Another oddity in this price range: there are warning sensors front and rear that beep as you approach objects, but no surround camera (only rearward) to help you out of the driveway or parking spot.

Just like the original Boxster came with cues from Porsche’s 911 and Carrera GT, so too does this Boxster. The rotary sport dial on the steering wheel is similar to the one that debuted in the Porsche 918 Spyder hyper car, with Sport, Sport plus, and Individual modes.

A costly miss inside is the cupholder design. It folds out from above the glovebox, and rests precariously over the electronics-heavy centre console. Even if nothing spills, condensation from cold drinks fall directly onto the centre console, and drips onto the temperature controls – a recipe for a long-term issue.

Getting in and out is much easier with the top down, as with most convertibles, but especially one as low to the ground as this one. You want to be careful with those cement parking barriers or even high sidewalks when opening the door in this lowered car.

Then there was the mystery air conditioning condition that had this car starting without the A/C coming on, despite the active automatic climate control, needing a button push every time the car restarted to turn on A/C.

I can’t think of any other car that doesn’t turn the air conditioning on automatically when it has automatic temperature control. Especially for a car that cost over $100,000.

Design still shines

Despite those few interior niggles, there’s still much to admire in its exterior design. The car looked classy yet aggressive, with a “Chalk” liquid metal paint job in black rims highlighted by red calipers that really look the business.

The two trunks provide surprisingly generous amount of room, especially the front trunk, which is the larger (150 L), deeper, and wider of the two on this mid-engine sports car.

And despite the Boxster’s popularity, the number of looks this car received is impressive. There are shades of that classic 911 body shape, but in a much tighter and lower overall silhouette.

Conclusion

All in all, the 2018 Boxster GTS is an entertaining yet serious sports car for those who want a small and nimble-above-all dance partner for the street, or for the track. As the GTS is the sportiest and most expensive of the Boxster line, buyers looking for a little more comfort to go along with their thrills may do well to seek out a drive in the lower trim levels, where similarly responsive handling and just a little less power is available with a touch more value. But in terms of outright curb and track appeal, there are few sharper scalpels of the road than this Boxster GTS.

2018 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS
Engine Displacement: 2.5L
Engine Cylinders: H4
Peak Horsepower: 365 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Peak Torque: 317 lb-ft @ 1,900–5,500 rpm
Fuel Economy: 11.8/9.2/10.6 L/100km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 275 L
2018 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS
Base Price $93,000
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,400
Price as Tested $115,470
Optional Equipment $19,970 – Chalk Paint $2,950; Adaptive Sport Seats Plus (18-way) with Memory Package $3,460; Premium Package Plus (Adaptive Sport Seats Plus, 18-way) $2,250; LED Headlights incl. Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus $2,450; PDK $4,250; Seat Ventilation $840; Bose Surround Sound System $1,130; Connected Navigation (Wi-Fi) $2,640
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.6
9 Styling
9 Powertrain
8 Quality
7 Comfort
7 Practicality
9 Drivability
6 Usability/Ergonomics
7 Fuel Economy
6 Features
8 Value