The Porsche Boxster and Cayman are no more—sort of. For 2017, the duo picks up a new first name along with a new turbo-4 powerplant.
The new 2017 Porsche 718 still come in convertible Boxster and coupe Cayman form, but the 718 tag signifies the change in cylinders, while it also references the open-cockpit, mid-engine 718 of 1957 to 1962.
True to form, there’s a base 718 Boxster and Cayman, and the larger-displacement 718 Boxster S and Cayman S. In most other ways—key dimensions, packaging, etc—the 718 cars carry over the basics of the Boxster and Cayman, unchanged.
The substantial changes don’t materially change the way these cars perform, or our opinion of them. They’re intuitive, well-balanced, and incredibly fun to drive. We think they’re even better, more focused sports cars than even Porsche’s 911.
The Porsche 718 earns an 8.2 on our scale of 10, even before safety data is available. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Porsche 718 styling and performance
The 718 carries on a beautiful tradition of timeless sports-car styling. The flowing, smooth curves are still intact, as is the low nose, the muscular haunches, and the simple, tidy tail.
The light updates applied in the transition to 718 badges amount to bigger air intakes, redesigned lighting (with available LED headlights), and bigger side air inlets. Inside, the dash has a new design, with clean lines and smooth surfaces broken up only by the center stack and its button-filled controls.
The important stuff comes next. Even after the turbo-4 implant, the 718 Boxster and Cayman have thrilling acceleration and handling; they remain the king of our sports-car hill.
Base cars come with a new 300-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-4 derived from the 911’s turbo flat-6. It’s good for 0-60 mph times of 4.5 seconds and a 170-mph top speed. S models have a bored-out 2.5-liter with 350 hp, good for 4 seconds to 60 mph and a 177-mph top end. Acceleration is quicker in base models than in the old S models, but it is accompanied by a more guttural, louder flat-4 rasp amplified by an optional active exhaust.
A 6-speed manual is standard, and a delight. The dual-clutch picks up a 7th speed; it creates virtual intermediate gears by engaging a pair of ratios and slipping clutches, all in the name of fuel economy. Gas mileage isn’t a reason to turn down the Porsche 718’s lurid come-ons. Fuel economy sits in the 24-mpg range on the EPA combined cycle.
New engines aren’t the only changes. Porsche has also tuned the suspension, improved the brakes, and made the electric power steering 10 percent more direct. The Sport Chrono Package carries over Normal, Sport, and Sport Plus modes, but now adds an Individual mode that lets drivers adjust the various vehicle systems to taste. A new Sport Response button for models with the dual-clutch sharpens the responsiveness of the engine and transmission.
We don’t think the updates change the inherent goodness of these two cars at all. The powertrain may sound quite different, and power delivery is less linear than before. They’re still incredibly fun to drive, incredibly focused as street cars capable of hitting the track—where a new PSM Sport mode lets experienced drivers play with substantially higher yaw limits than before.
Porsche 718 comfort, safety, and features
The 718 has a snug and supportive cabin, and exquisite fit and finish for two, and not much else. Seats are supportive, and the cabin is well-insulated; the Boxster’s power top can be operated at speeds under 31 mph. Cargo space is slight, and the two trunks, front and back, can only hold a few soft-sided bags.
There’s no crash-test data for the Porsche 718, and it’s pretty likely there never will be. All versions get a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors, and can be fitted with adaptive cruise control.
Standard equipment includes power features, partial-leather seats, a CD player and satellite radio, and Bluetooth with audio streaming. Options are the 718’s forte: you can paint, stitch, or cover just about every interior trim piece, boosting the price into the stratosphere with each mouse click on the configuration screen. Some of the best ways to spend more on a 718 are adaptive sport seats with available heating and ventilation; a leather interior package; navigation; and a Burmester audio system with 821 watts and 12 speakers. Don’t forget the Sport Chrono package, either.
Prices start in the mid-$50,000 range; it’s relatively easy to spec out a 718 Boxster or Cayman above $125,000.