Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 2021 long-term review

porsche boxster gts long term 2021 784

Potent roadster faced great expectations. Did it live up to the hype?

Why we ran it: To find out if this hot rod Boxster can sustain its appeal with day-to-day use

Month 4 – Month 3Month 2 – Month 1 – Prices and specs

Life with a Boxster GTS 4.0: Month 4

Time is up with our harder-edged Boxster. Did the novelty wear off? – 22 December 2021

Does the Boxster GTS live up to the hype? That’s what we wanted to learn from living with one, and what we couldn’t know by turning up at the 2020 launch event for a brief but tantalising taste of the car in ideal conditions. Clutch pedals and thirsty engines are great fun in the moment – always have been, always will be – but they have the potential to wear thin with daily use. And ultimately, broad-battedness is what has always separated the Boxster from other smallish mid-engined cars such as the Lotus Elise and, more recently, the Alpine A110. The Boxster’s ability to remain special while also slipping into your life with relative ease is something about which Porsche thinks carefully and knows is a tenet of the car’s appeal – as is fair value. Would these attributes hold true in the face of the biggest engine yet slotted into the model, and the GTS 4.0’s correspondingly high price?

Ours was a Carmine Red car with the manual gearbox and around £9000 worth of options, including that paint (£1658), the Alcantara interior pack (£1242) and dynamic LED headlights (£1397). All in all, it was a serious machine, although not as serious as it might have been. It’s possible to have the GTS with the 918 Spyder-style bucket seats and carbon-ceramic brake discs, but those two options alone add nearly £9000 to the base price. Our car did without.

Equally, it could have been a softer proposition had it sat on the more relaxed, 10mm-lower adaptive suspension (that’s 10mm compared with the regular Boxster), rather than keeping the GTS’s standard 20mm drop. And, of course, there was the clutch pedal, the presence of which saves you the £2303 Porsche asks for the dual-clutch automatic PDK gearbox while demanding more input from the driver, even with rev- matching functionality. All in, RE20 KVH was cooked medium rare: not well done but definitely not raw.

The gearbox is the defining question of the GTS conundrum. Manual or PDK, you’re getting the best engine in the class (I strongly feel that for this kind of car, your only real alternative is to pay much more for an Audi R8 Spyder), but while the manual offers greater tactility, the longer gearing it uses, particularly for second, always makes that engine harder to enjoy. The clutch travel is also longer than I’d have liked. It gives plenty of margin for error when pulling away but does mean your left leg gets a workout in traffic.

Were I speccing one myself, I’d think very carefully about getting PDK. It’s such an epic ’box: so sharp but sophisticated, and it allows you to hit the redline more easily. Or you can just forget about it and get on with going from A to B. It’s a tough one. Ultimately, I’d have the manual.

Its shift action lacks any gritty sense of mechanical connection but nailing upshifts and smooth downshifts is still so satisfying. With the electric era incoming, we’ve got years of single-speed automatics to look forward to, so I say make hay.

There are questions over whether the 4.0 really is, as its positioning suggests, the finest-driving Boxster aside from the 991 GT3-infused Boxster Spyder. Some say the 2.5-litre turbo model, with its easy-access torque and lighter mass, is a sweeter handler and more playful. While I feel there may be some truth in that, the GTS is pretty much beyond objective criticism when you get it on the right road. Rarely if ever did I opt for the higher damper rate offered by the two-mode PASM suspension (although I did find that putting the dynamic engine mounts into Sport made a subtle but noticeable improvement).

The car’s sensational balance and weight distribution mean body roll and a little float is something it wants to work with rather than eradicate. This car also has an unusual degree of cornering-line throttle adjustability for something without double-wishbone front suspension, and excursions both on track and on Alpine passes showed just how willing it can be to rotate under power when you’re in the right environment. The steering is also ace. The Boxster, in all forms, is a stupendous driver’s car, with handling, steering and ride from the top drawer. The ‘heavier’, beefier GTS does nothing to taint that.

One of the high points was a 2700-mile European jaunt. One of my main criticisms – tyre roar on UK roads – disappeared on the Continent’s smoother roads. The GTS proved itself an unexpectedly fine tourer, thanks to its Tardis-like luggage compartments at each end and the ability to cruise comfortably at high speeds. The lower, long- legged driving position of a 911 would be better suited to this kind of trip, but for a reasonably compact convertible that’s scintillating to drive on smaller roads, the GTS hoovered up miles and struck the right balance between feeling special and being subtle. And, of course, the ability to pop the roof down comes into its own in sunnier climes. I am a convert, and having never really fallen for the Boxster, would now probably consider one before the Cayman. Shocker.

So farewell, hot-rod Boxster. The next small, two-seat Porsche to grace this section of the mag could well be an all-electric affair, and if that’s the case, the GTS 4.0 – 395bhp and three pedals of old-school fun – is some way for the combustion- engined kids to exit.

Second Opinion

Superb car, the 4.0 GTS, but maybe a bit hardcore for my liking. You have to drive it pretty damn hard to get the engine percolating up near the 7800rpm redline, and such opportunities can be difficult to come by. Given the 4.0’s 60kg penalty in weight and also its higher cost versus the 2.5-litre flat four, I reckon the latter might be a better choice for many.

Steve Cropley

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Love it:

Powertrain Nothing complicated here: pairing a normally aspirated 4.0 flat six with three pedals is an exhilarating drive.

Luggage space It never ceased to amaze just how much the Boxster’s two luggage compartments would swallow.

Handling Lovely damping and a delicate balance that gives you stability or adjustability as you see fit.

Rag-top versatility I’ve never been a convertible man, but the GTS has, er, converted me. Going top-down adds something.

Loathe it:

Small things Nothing major. Long gearing and low-load top-end rattle detract from the powertrain; no Android Auto.

Final mileage: 14,889

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Life with a Boxster GTS 4.0: Month 3

An overdue clean – 17 November 2021

I’ve just had the GTS washed for the first time in ages. I normally keep on top of these things, but it has been doing big mileage recently, and I
like some road grime on a sports
car anyway. I have to say that the Carmine Red paint – a £1658 option – looks better than ever post-wash. I didn’t like it at first, but now… I could probably be persuaded.

Mileage: 6550

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Our potent soft-top proves that it’s more than up to scratch on track – 3 November 2021

Boxsters seem unlikely track-day cars, don’t they? I’m not sure why this is. The ingredients have always been there: a low centre of gravity, innately good weight distribution, intuitive steering and, if you want, an LSD between the rear wheels, for added traction – or added neatness, if you’re going beyond the limits of the tyres. People race Boxsters the world over, yet it rarely gets mentioned as fodder for the occasional track-day goer.

Why? Tin-tops are preferred for very hard driving because they’re stiffer and more precise, so the spectre of the Cayman looms large. But the Boxster has always been better in terms of stiffness than the average soft-top, and in any case I think it goes deeper than that. I think the Boxster isn’t viewed as a potential track-day weapon because it has never shaken off the accusation of being a ‘hairdresser’s car’. And that’s absurd, because one of the very best casual track-day cars going is the Mazda MX-5, which, as I’m sure you’ve heard at some point, is a hairdresser’s car par excellence.

So just how good is the GTS 4.0 on track? I had a chance to find out while at Aston Martin’s Stowe Circuit at Silverstone to film a separate feature. It’s not an archetypal British circuit but does have one fast kink, one slow kink, a medium-radius hairpin, two straight-ettes and a bend where the track comes back on itself and cornering force builds up to revealing effect. It’s an excellent playground for road cars, and as good a chance as I’m likely to get to uncork the GTS. Just try to avoid the pre-prod Valkyries, they said.

Predictably the GTS was fun. It’s no Boxster Spyder, with lazier turn-in and less grip, but the balance of the chassis and a high communication level make any Boxster extremely satisfying to grab by the scruff on track. Or just flow through the bends, carrying as much apex speed as you can. It’s an adaptable car, and safe, too. Get it wrong and there are amazingly few pitfalls. Excellent stability and a slim but definite veneer of initial understeer at all speeds make it absurdly forgiving for something mid-engined. Equally, it’ll reward techniques like trail-braking, and any tail-led antics are so well telegraphed that you’ll find you catch the slide almost without conscious thought. It’s both a super-rewarding car and a great learning tool.

Shorter gearing and a firmer brake pedal would improve it, and an Alpine A110 is more joyful (no LSD, though), but if you want something for three or four track days a year, you’d be mad to shy away from the GTS on the basis of its folding roof.

Love it:

Wheels Our car wears the 20in ‘Sport’ wheels, which are elegant. They’d look even better in silver, mind.

Loathe it:

Gearshift Of course I don’t ‘loathe’ it, and the action is short enough, but it lacks the feeling of physically shifting rods and so seems a touch inert.

Mileage: 6390

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Old meets new – 27 October 2021

Dropped the GTS off at Ferrari’s north Europe branch office in Slough to collect an SF90 Stradale. These two represent the last of the old-school and the vanguard of the new world. The Ferrari has turbos, three electric motors and EV running capability. By comparison, the rear-driven, atmo, three-pedal Porsche is Stone Age, but I wonder which we’ll swoon over more in two decades’ time…

Mileage: 6011

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Life with a Boxster GTS 4.0: Month 2

The best way to really get to know a long-termer? On an epic continental road trip – 13 October 2021

Quite an accumulation of miles this month, with the GTS wending its way down to Lucca in Italy then bombing it back home via Munich. I try to do at least one epic trip in any long-termer, not just because I love this sort of thing but also because there’s nothing else like it for shaking out the little problems and irritations to which no car, however expensive and carefully developed, is immune. Ideally, we’d road test every car with this level of intensity, but it’s simply not possible.

So how did the GTS fare over 2700miles?For a two-seater with a soft folding roof, ludicrously well. As with most Porsches, road roar gets raucous in the UK, but the motorways in continental Europe are silky by comparison, so straight away one of my biggest reservations about touring in the GTS 4.0 evaporated. Conversation was easy and, with its gentle mid-engined spring rates, the car’s high-speed gait was as sweet as ever. The Alcantara-trimmed cabin isofagoodsize,too,soyounever feel cramped. All big plus points.

Okay, at speed you have to contend with the slight rustle from where the windows meet the roof (which you wouldn’t in the Cayman GTS), but it’s a minor gripe. For an excursion ideally suited to something like the Aston Martin DB11 or Bentley Continental GT, this ‘junior’ Porsche was an unexpected natural. Part of its effortlessness is down to the engine. While the flat-four Boxster 2.5 is perhaps a sweeter proposition on B-roads (it has more accessible torque), those turbo units drone at a cruise. The flat six in the GTS is smoother and richer at an easy 3000rpm waft and overtakes in sixth come just like that. So much cubic capacity gives the Boxster an enjoyably thickset character at speed, and the thing just devours miles.

Having moaned about the overly long gear ratios in an earlier report, this trip also gave me the chance to experience what we’re missing. North of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria, there’s a section of A-road that opens up straight into derestricted autobahn. It’s an unusual bit of road layout and it meant the engine could fully unfurl its fangs, wailing up to the 7800rpm redline in second… third… fourth… and very nearly fifth, with more than 160mph on the analogue dials. I suspect not many owners will ever get the opportunity to do that, but I can confirm that when you let it rip, the GTS 4.0 is an animal and truly vocal.

On the flip side, the not-that-tight switchbacks of the Col du Mont- Cenis, which takes you over and around the Mont Blanc Tunnel, meant dropping all the way down to first gear to work the chassis, and for all those times when you’re not on an empty autobahn, second gear in general remains frustratingly long.

Boy, the GTS is good when you get it going, though. For me, it has an almost perfect amount of castor effect and weight in the steering, and is so progressive at the rear axle. It’s also responsive to the throttle, tucking its nose in even with only marginal lifts of the accelerator pedal. This car can cruise, but it can also entertain. It has true duality.

Luggage space? Again, very good. There were two of us, each with 18 days’ worth of clobber. She had the boot, I had the frunk, and neither of us had to compromise much on what we were bringing along. Duffel bags work better than hard cases, but you’d be amazed just how much you can cram inside the Boxster, even if cabin storage is limited and the cupholders – an ingenious idea poorly executed – are far too stiffly sprung (sorry) and easily spill coffee.

Another issue is the infotainment. I like the discreet dimensions of the screen, but the software is old and sometimes slow and there’s no Android Auto compatibility (yawn).

The GTS strikes back with its dainty exterior dimensions, which meant it was no problem in medieval towns where any 992-generation 911 would have felt very tubby indeed.

I also like the GTS 4.0’s understated brand of specialness. You want to enjoy these kinds of cars on road trips, but what you don’t want is to have the experience dominated by their presence. Turning up in anything too flash risks scorn from the locals, and I can’t be bothered with everyone at the adjacent café scrutinising my parking technique. The GTS strikes a good balance in this respect and mostly blends in. It’s just a Boxster, after all, and only the cognoscenti will see the decals and the unique exhaust and know it’s probably knocking on the door of £80,000.

In the past, I’ve been lucky enough to make similar trips in an Alpina B4 S and Toyota’s 3.0-litre GR Supra. How does the Boxster compare with those machines, which are far more natural GTs on paper? Well, it gives up very, very little to either in terms of ride comfort, even if it lacks the indulgent ambience of the Alpina and the long-bonneted snugness of the Supra. It thrashes both for engagement, too. And there really is nothing quite like having the roof off while you’re rolling through rural Piedmont in the early-evening sun.

Love it:

Small car, long legs I’m not sure how often the cylinder deactivation works at high speed, but the GTS manages 33mpg while cruising. That is 400-plus miles of range with the 65-litre tank.

Loathe it:

top-end pitter patter GT-division engines get less sound insulation than regular Porsche engines, and at low speeds you can hear the cylinder banks switching, which all sounds a bit agricultural.

Mileage: 5458

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Doesn’t have to be hard-wearing – 6 October 2021

You might have heard this 4.0-litre likes oil, but I’ve had to feed it just one litre after 4100 miles. And I’ve worked out the Pirelli P Zeros are wearing at about 0.1mm per 1000 miles at the front and roughly double that at the rear, despite some track driving. Modern tyres have amazing longevity, but this is still surprising, especially at the heavier rear axle.

Mileage: 4150

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Family catch-up – 22 September 2021

Bumped into an unmissable Boxster Spyder near Reims. These special cars share their 4.0-litre engine with the GTS but the chassis is developed by the same team that makes the 911 GT3, and it shows. You can’t help but notice the greater negative camber, and the lower ride height screams road racer. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a teeny bit jealous. Enjoy it, Kevin.

Mileage: 3010

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Life with a Boxster GTS 4.0: Month 1

Why it’s harder to explore the wonders of this car’s flat six with a manual gearbox – 15 September 2021

How clichéd it is to bring up the Boxster’s gearing, but at some point you have to address it.

The issue many people have is that the gears for this car are too ‘long’ for road use, and that’s particularly true of second. With its six-speed manual ’box, the GTS 4.0 does 10.7mph per 1000rpm in second and 83mph at the 7800rpm redline. For third, it’s 115mph. Fourth is 144mph. All big speeds. So big, in fact, that to enjoy the full range of this lovely naturally aspirated engine, even if only in the first real driving gear after pulling away, you’re venturing into the crosshairs of plod.

Is it unfair to single Porsche out? I’ve delved into the road test archives and looked just at naturally aspirated engines because it’s these you really want to rev out. And, in short, the Boxster is indeed out on a limb.

The current Mazda MX-5, with the zingy 1.5-litre four-pot, gives 8.2mph per 1000rpm in second and will meet its 7500rpm redline at an entirely responsible 62mph. In a more serious realm, the ‘997’ 911 GT3 RS yields 9.0mph per 1000mph and 77mph, even though its stunning flat six has to go all the way to 8500rpm. Even the Ferrari 812 Superfast, with its 8900rpm V12, returns 9.2mph per 1000rpm and 82mph – somehow still 1mph shy of the 4.0-litre Boxster.

Is anything leggier than our GTS? I give you the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, which manages a ludicrous 14.2mph per 1000rpm and 91mph in second, but then it has to go all the way to 268mph with only seven cogs.

As for why the Porsche’s gearing is so long, you hear several reasons, including the need to meet emissions targets and that some engineers of yore liked to have second as a driving gear, out of which you never need to shift on a good bit of road. Porsche has also claimed this is simply an old gearbox and it isn’t technically possible to change anything with such limited space on the layshaft.

We might never know the truth, but I do feel there’s something in that ‘second gear for driving’ bit. This engine makes so much torque and the pick-up is beautifully crisp, so leave the ’box in second and you can just get on and enjoy the chassis balance and steering. Or you could go for the PDK, swapping some engagement for easier forays to the redline, at which point in second gear the car is going at ‘only’ 76mph. There’s just 7mph in it, but it feels much less naughty.

Love it:

Roof speed The roof mechanism works at up to about 40mph. It feels absurdly fast and means you can go from closed to open top almost anywhere.

Loathe it:

Roof crackle Can any owners corroborate this? The fabric roof often generates this crackling sound, and I can’t figure out what triggers it. Annoying.

Mileage: 2371

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The big 10K – 25 August 2021

The GTS ticked over 10,000 miles this week, although only the last 1000 are ours. Because this is an ex-member of Porsche GB’s press fleet, those will have been very hard miles. A bit like dog years, one ‘journo’ mile equates to two or three ‘owner’ miles. In light of this, the cabin is looking especially fresh – brand new, basically. This generation of Porsche interior really seems built to last.

Our mileage: 945

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Welcoming the Boxster to the fleet – 11 August 2021

Most cars join our longterm fleet with more to gain than lose. The scope of the models we test is so very broad, and the vast majority of them aren’t about instant thrills (or, indeed, any kind of thrills); we simply don’t live in that kind of world.

Homogeneous modern cars often need time to put across what subtle charms they have and give us something to grow fond of. The Skoda Octavia vRS Rachel Burgess is running is a classic example: it’s not the most enchanting thing on first acquaintance, but it has an ability to burrow beneath your skin with months-long exposure.

The Porsche 718 Boxster GTS is a different kettle of fish and arrives with an almost crippling level of expectation from the get-go. The mechanical recipe – three pedals, six naturally aspirated cylinders, rear-wheel drive – is about as juicy as it gets in 2021, and having tasted the car at launch last summer, we know how good it can make you feel when you’re chucked the keys for an hour or three.

But day-to-day usability is the Achilles heel of so many sports cars, especially mid-engined ones. So having received that initial gushing praise, the hot rod of the Boxster range (the others make do with a downsized turbo flat four) is an anomaly here in that it likely has more to lose than gain while under longterm scrutiny. So, first and foremost, fair play just for showing up.

Its tenure also begins in just about the cruellest circumstances imaginable. When I collect our new GTS – which, having been used for Porsche GB press duties for the past 8000 miles, isn’t actually that ‘new’ – I do so having spent all day in the new 911 GT3, in manual form and with the Touring pack. Bring on the impromptu twin test.

Regular readers will know that never has there been a more finely responsive 911 than the 992-vintage GT3. And, no doubt, prior exposure to such a car makes those first 10 enlightening minutes behind the wheel of the Boxster an almost disheartening experience. Despite weighing 13kg less than the GT3, it feels heavier, as well as softer on its suspension. Its longer wheelbase can be felt, too. After the 911’s superbly deep carbonfibre-shelled bucket seats, the ‘Sports Seats Plus’ in our Boxster GTS are high-set and lacking in support, while the steering response is a touch – and I can’t quite believe I’m writing this – treacly. At the two-mile mark my mind tries to fathom how this can be the same car I would have sold a kidney to own when I drove it last year.

It doesn’t last. A few more miles and, as my synapses shed the recent memory of the GT3, the Boxster GTS comes into its own. Its relative deficit of width is the most obvious benefit; after the 911, the mid-engined Boxster feels like a Mazda MX-5, and that is to its credit almost everywhere you go. The ride quality, which felt borderline gloopy at first, is in truth sensationally well judged on British roads. Tighter suspension control might give a more thrilling sense of immediacy, but as the prickly GT3 demonstrates, that added tautness would wear thin in pretty short order.

This GTS set-up – which sets the body some 20mm lower than that of the regular Boxster – is an excellent compromise, and the car oh-so easily achieves a sense of flow and finesse. Interestingly, the gearshift also has a more enjoyable heft than that of the GT3 and – whoa – the cabin is quiet on the move by comparison, even with its canvas top.

Engine note? Alas, for sheer excitement, it’s true: there’s no contest. The musicality of the 911 GT3 motor’s ascent to its 9000rpm redline is unmatched by anything other than a Ferrari V12 or Lamborghini V10.

Yet the GTS, whose engine is also found in the 718 Cayman GT4 and Boxster Spyder models, isn’t horribly outclassed. This 395bhp 4.0-litre flat six may ‘only’ be a de-turboed, bored and stroked version of the 3.0-litre unit in the regular 911, and it may not be crammed with titanium components or have trick throttle bodies, but it has oodles of character and is clearly special in its own right. The bassy, broad gurgle at idle grows throughout the first half of the rev range, and the way this engine gathers speed, the intake bellowing as the needle passes first 5000rpm then 6000rpm, is just so creamy and forceful. With 311lb ft it’s only 36lb ft short of the GT3’s total, and it delivers that peak 1100rpm earlier.

It’ll be interesting to get to better know what is, for a smallish car, an unusually large engine, not least because it’s possibly the finest motor on sale for a sub-six-figure sum. Early impressions suggest it really does return the Boxster to ‘junior supercar’ territory.

On top of its £66,340 base price, RE20 KVH totes roughly £10,000 worth of options, notably an Alcantara interior and the Carmine Red paint. Some people will baulk at the idea of a £75,000 Boxster, but in the context of a marketplace where a base 911 Carrera costs £85,000 before options and the next closest rival – probably the Audi R8 Spyder, when you think about it – costs more than £120,000, that asking price is fair cop, making this a compelling package. But a perfect package? Not quite. Next time, we’re going to talk about gearing.

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Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 specification

Prices: List price new £66,340 List price now £66,340 Price as tested £75,860

Options:GTS interior package £2096, Carmine Red paint £1658, Porsche Dynamic Light System £1397, Alcantara package with GTS interior package £1242, Park Assist with reversing camera £1086, two-zone climate control £539, roll-over bars in exterior colour £357, auto-dimming mirrors with rain sensors £345, speed limit indicator £236, cruise control £228, electric folding mirrors £210, Isofix seat £126

Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy 25.9mpg Fuel tank 64 litres Test average 27.4mpg Test best 35.5mpg Test worst 20.5mpg Real-world range 386 miles

Tech highlights: 0-62mph 4.5sec Top speed 180mph Engine 6 cyls horizontally opposed, 3995cc, petrol Max power 395bhp at 7000rpm Max torque 310lb ft at 5000rpm Transmission 6-speed manual Boot capacity 150 litres (front) 130 litres (rear) Wheels 8.5Jx20in (f), 10.5Jx20in (r) Tyres 235/35 ZR20 (f), 265/35 ZR20 (r) Kerb weight 1405kg

Service and running costs: Contract hire rate n/a CO2 247g/km Service costs none Other costs 1 litre engine oil, £12 Fuel costs £1630.86 Running costs inc fuel £1630.86 Cost per mile 25 pence Faults none

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