2021 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 review (video)

Yes, it used to be a turbo four-cylinder. But Porsche has obviously listened to its fans as it has brought back the raw, naturally-aspirated flat-six for the 2021 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS.

We’ll just start off by saying this car offers one of the purest driving experiences you’ll find on the current market, especially with the manual transmission option (as tested). This is becoming a rare thing in an age that is fast-becoming intensely automated and automatic, with humans pushed to the side to let machines take over. Not this car. You drive it. Not it drives you.

The GTS 4.0 sits just below the flagship Spyder, which is the drop-top version of the Cayman GT4 track weapon. This actually shares a similar powertrain to those only it’s diluted with a dash of civilised refinement. You can get it with a six-speed manual or seven-speed PDK dual-clutch auto. Prices kick off from $178,000 and $183,390, respectively (excluding on-roads).

2021 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 – THE SPECS

Engine: 4.0-litre flat-six
Output: 294kW@7000rpm / 420Nm@5000-6500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Drive type: Rear-wheel drive, torque vectoring with locking diff
Wheels: F: 20×8.5, 235/35  R: 20×10.5, 265/35
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 1366kg
Power-to-weight: 4.64:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 11L/100km
Economy during test: 11.7L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 64L/98 RON

Power efficiency: 26.72kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 2.35 seconds*
0-100km/h: 4.59 seconds*
0-200km/h: 14.27 seconds*
60-110km/h:
2.75 seconds*
1/4 mile: 12.56 seconds at 187.3km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.931g
100-0km/h braking: 2.62 seconds at 34.14 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.325g
Decibel at idle (/Sport mode): 59/65*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 96*
Priced from: $178,000

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2021 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 – THE PACKAGE

The GTS is quite a subtle trim level, like other GTS models in Porsche’s showroom. On the outside it looks strong yet neat. Like James Bond. There’s no sharp speed-bump-snagging splitter at the front, or look-at-me wing at the back. Instead, the GTS adorns fashionable black highlights, including badges, vents, and window trims. And the bi-modal sports exhaust system is finished with black tips. Other than that it looks very similar to the regular Boxster.

A set of 20-inch alloy wheels provide further distinction, in satin black to match those other highlights. In the case of this test car the wheels provide a street-racer contrast against the vivid Python Green exterior colour, which is a $4920 option. The wheels are wrapped in 235 front and 265 rear Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres. Needless to say you have enormous grip at your disposal, especially when paired with the 718’s supremely well-balanced chassis.

Unlike some dedicated sports cars the interior of the latest Boxster GTS is really pleasant and unintimidating. There’s no weird shapes or intrusive fixtures. It’s just a nice place to settle down for a beautiful long drive. You’ll love the Alcantara trim pack. It is part of the GTS Interior Package option here, which sets you back $9910 (includes embroidered seats and carbon trimmings, among other things). But if you’ve come this far we strongly recommend ticking this option as it perfectly matches the personality of the car.

We love that the sports seats aren’t too aggressive in their bolstering. Although, some additional lateral support wouldn’t go astray on the lower cushion. The backrest portion doesn’t look that supportive but as soon as you sit down and nestle in you’ll see they are quite huggy. If you need more support Porsche does offer a Sport Seat Plus option, or even a full carbon fibre bucket setup ($10,120).

All of the controls are intuitively positioned and the driving position is of course absolutely spot on. This car features the power-adjustable steering column, which is a no-cost option on the GTS. And it’s packaged with 14-way power-adjustable seats. The GTS also features the awesome GT sports steering wheel, with an intricate drive mode selector dial on one of the spokes.

Most of the on-board functions are controlled through a 7.0-inch touch-screen central display. It is pretty small by today’s standards. However, this is designed to be a driver’s car, first and foremost, and in that sense a bigger screen might actually detract from such logic. Likewise, you won’t find much storage in here. The centre console box is very small and there’s a rather pointless little coin tray behind the gear shifter. Pop-out cup holders do help boost practicality.

Thanks to the mid-mounted engine, which sits behind the seats, the roof is stored right on top, freeing up boot space. And since there is no engine up front you also get a second boot. Both of these combine to offer 270 litres (170L in the front, 120L in the back), which is enough for a weekend away.

2021 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 – THE DRIVE

They say meditation is good for you. Well, you don’t need to sit there and try and hold your legs crossed while focusing on thinking about nothing. We’ve got a better solution. Take one of these for a drive. We guarantee you’ll completely forget about your current state of mind. From the moment you fire up the barky flat-six and engage the smooth-shifting gear lever, you’ll be transcended into another dimension.

The crispness of the engine and its response is just brilliant. In Sport Plus mode you only need to breathe on the throttle pedal to startle the engine. And that’s one of the reasons why this powertrain is better synced with the car compared to the old 2.5 turbo GTS. While the old unit was almost as powerful (269kW), it did generate more torque (10Nm more). The peak torque was also available in a much wider window (1900-5000rpm). But the way this engine works progressively, and the crescendo it plays along the way is so much more appealing as a driver.

The 4.0-litre naturally-aspirated flat-six is based on the GT4’s engine, only detuned to develop 294kW at 7000rpm, with the same 420Nm between 5000-6500rpm (6800rpm on the GT4). It’s built with a high compression ratio of 13:1, like the GT4, with an over-square stroke ratio using a 102mm bore and 81.5mm stroke. In other words, this engine is designed to rev hard and fast.

You can’t blame Porsche for coming up with the old 2.5 turbo though. It offered exactly the same 0-100km/h time of 4.0 seconds (with the PDK), yet its official average fuel consumption was just 8.3L/100km versus 11L/100km here. That translates to higher overall efficiency, too. Dividing the peak power by the official consumption results in a ratio of 26.72kW:L/100km for this 4.0, and a more impressive 32.40kW:L/100km for the old 2.5T. The bean-counters were onto something.

On a private road we ran some performance tests with the Vbox as usual to see what sort of numbers it could produce. Porsche says 0-100km/h is possible in 4.5 seconds with the manual, and 0-200km/h in 14.1 seconds. The best we could do was 4.59 seconds and 14.27 seconds. It’s bloody quick. However, we think this test car might have endured some, shall we say, sloppy testing in the past, as the clutch felt a bit sticky during our time with the car. With a better launch we think there is potential for improvement.

There is no doubting the car’s performance in any case. It feels like it does the sprint much quicker than the times suggest. First gear winds out to around 75km/h, and by the time you’re reaching for third the speedo is swinging past 130km/h. Along a nice mountain road you can leave it in second gear and it’ll provide more than enough breadth and versatility.

Peak torque might only be 420Nm, however, in a vehicle that weighs just 1366kg (tare), the torque-to-weight ratio makes it feel like a conventional car that has around 700Nm. It really pulls hard, especially above 3000rpm. Even below that the engine not only produces an addictive induction howl but a surprisingly rapid increase in speed. It’s very easy to exceed the road rules, in that sense, as there is a juxtaposition between the rev counter and the speedo needle during the lower revs.

What this car is really about is cornering. Firstly, the ride comfort is sensational for a sports car. It has no trouble absorbing Australia’s crap roads in the city and suburbs. Out on a country road, too, the car gallops along like a deer taking in whatever terrain comes by. This is a real bonus because it means you can drive the GTS to work, every day, and never feel tired or bothered. Regardless of any annoyingly dodgy road and slow traffic.

The cornering grip is incredible. Like, it will do things you never previously thought was possible. Supercars adopt a mid-mounted engine layout for a reason; pure balance. The optimum weight over the rear axle allows you to lean hard on the gas when exiting corners, with nothing but traction and flinging propulsion in return. The GTS does feature torque vectoring and a mechanical locking differential as well, just to make sure. It’s amazing.

Porsche is renowned for its superior brakes compared with rivals, and the same philosophy applies here. We ran some tests and found the car can pull up, repeatedly, from 100km/h in 34 metres. That’s nuts, particularly as it’s able to repeat this, back to back. Not only that, the optimum weight distribution and Porsche’s clever individual wheel control means you can jump on the pedal with as much force as your leg can supply and the car will rapidly wipe off speed with complete control and stability.

2021 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 – THE VIDEO

2021 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 – THE VERDICT

This is one of the best sports cars on the market. Easy. The powertrain (with the manual) is what dreams are made of, and the midship layout provides an extremely high level of balance and precision that all driving experience levels can exploit. We also like the subdued styling and subtle driver’s office inside. Especially with the Alcantara pack.

In a world that will soon be electrified and automated, driving enthusiasts need to clinch onto these raw and unfiltered snippets of mechanical perfection and enjoy them now. Because, before we know it, they will be gone.

PROS:
– Naturally aspirated flat-six is just bliss; sound, response, power
– Incredibly balanced chassis, including during extreme braking
– Supple ride around town
– Alcantara interior package is lovely
– Surprisingly fuel efficient in the rear world

CONS:
– Lacks in-cabin storage
– Test car had condensation in the taillights
– Small touch-screen

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.