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Time for turbocharging

business Updated: Jun 04, 2016 05:59 IST

This is the mid-life facelift for the current-generation Porsche Boxster, a car we at Autocar India have a big soft spot for. We love its quick, sharp, communicative steering and we love how easy it is for you to get comfortable when driving it seriously fast. But more than anything, we love the addictive wail its normally aspirated flat-six-cylinder engine makes just behind your ears, especially with the roof open.

Or rather, we did. That’s because from now on, the Boxster will only be powered by turbocharged four-cylinder motors (unless Porsche decides to do a six-cylinder special edition further down the line; we can dream). It also gets a new prefix – 718 – a number that harks back to Porsche’s mid-engine, fourcylinder race-cars from yesteryear, but that seems like a way to help justify the engine-downsizing.

The good news is that not much else has changed. You still get either a six-speed manual or Porsche’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (PDK) gearbox, the car still handles brilliantly, while the superb interior has been upgraded with better trim, the (optional) steering from the 918 supercar, and a brilliant new touchscreen system. The changes on the outside are far subtler, with new LED treatment at the front, including optional full-LED lamps, a similar update at the rear, and a black band that now runs across the tailgate with the ‘Porsche’ badge on it. The rear tyres are also one inch wider each, which should improve grip levels.

But the story is in the new powertrain, which is what we aim to find out as we drive the new 718 Boxster in road and racetrack in Abu Dhabi.

The Boxster’s new 2.0-litre turbocharged engine produces 300hp and 380Nm, which is 35hp and an incredible 100Nm more than what the old Boxster’s 2.7-litre engine made. The other benefit of turbocharging is that all that pulling power comes in at just 1,950rpm, which is incredibly low. The 0-100kph acceleration is done within 5.5sec, which is 0.8sec quicker than the last car’s time, and that’s before you get to the vastly improved fuel efficiency and lower emissions. On paper then, it’s a 100% positive, but in a sportscar as highly regarded as this, the sensations are just as important. And this, sadly, is where the new 718 Boxster doesn’t quite hold up.

The 1,988cc motor feels sluggish moving off from a standstill and there’s a distinct lag between you pushing the accelerator pedal and the power coming on in earnest. It feels and sounds strained at low engine speeds, unlike the previous engine that felt smooth throughout its rev-range. However, opening the engine up a little reveals a much better experience, with the automatic gearbox masking a lot of the motor’s hesitation low down with its smooth and timely shifts. Then there’s the sound from the exhaust– it’s nice in a boomy, rorty, rally car way, but call me nostalgic, it’s just not the same as a screaming, normally aspirated flat-six.

The good news is that it’s much better on the race track. Here the car tends to be right at home, as it is in the thick of its powerband most of the time, so you barely notice the engine’s weak bottom-end responses. The sound too is equally entertaining as you hear pops and bangs following you as you lift your foot off the throttle. Trouble is, here in India, owners don’t drive on race tracks much. The 718 Boxster experience, for them, will be on the road, and though it’s by no means a bad car, the new motor is just not as evocative as the one on its predecessor.

The thing is, I’ve also driven the new 718 Boxster S, which is powered by a larger 2.5-litre flat-four-cylinder turbocharged engine. It makes 350hp and 420Nm, and can do 0-100kph in 4.2sec, but more than all that, it just feels more effortless to drive than the regular 718 Boxster. The sad news is that this is not the one we’re going to get in India; we will get the standard car, but I do hope Porsche reconsiders and offers the S as well later on. There is one rather big upside, though.

Because this new motor is below 3,000cc in displacement, it now has to be homologated for India (a reason the old 2.7-litre car was never sold here and only the 3.4-litre version was) and so, it falls into a lower duty bracket. Further more, because it is less than 2,000cc, the homologation costs will be lower too. Porsche intends to pass this benefit on to buyers, and the result is it will cost around Rs 85 lakh (ex-showroom), or about Rs 20 lakh less, when it goes on sale in September. One of the world’s best sportscars has just become far more accessible.

In partnership with Autocar India

First Published: Jun 04, 2016 05:59 IST