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TEST DRIVE: Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0

David Haueter samples the six-cylinder version of Porsche’s 718 Boxster…

Photo: David Haueter

The Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 has a long name, but the most important thing to remember about it is “4.0.” That number signifies the displacement of the naturally aspirated boxer six-cylinder motor that’s behind the driver. The rest of the car is very impressive as well, but the motor is the star of this car.

You may remember that Porsche started putting turbocharged four-cylinder motors in their 718 models (both Cayman coupes and Boxster convertibles) a few years ago. There wasn’t anything particularly bad about that motor, but the fact that it was turbocharged, and a 4-cylinder was off-putting to many of the Porsche cognoscenti.

Porsche still sells Cayman and Boxster models with the 4-cylinder but move up to the GTS models of either range (or the Boxster 25 Years commemorative model) and you’ll get the fantastic 4-liter naturally aspirated flat-six, which is a bored-out version of the 3-liter six that’s in the 911, with the turbos taken off.

In 718 GTS form, the 4.0-liter engine cranks out 394hp and 309 lb.-ft. of torque, with a maximum engine speed of 7,800rpm. With a curb weight that’s 352 lbs. less than the turbocharged Porsche 911 Cabriolet (3,156 lbs. vs. 3,508 lbs.), it can also get within a tenth of the torquier 911’s 0-60 time (4.3 seconds vs. 4.2).

The Boxster GTS 4.0 has the rest of the hardware to back up the performance of the engine. Thankfully, Porsche still offers a 6-speed manual transmission in this car, which was fitted to the car I drove.

A 7-speed PDK automatic gearbox is optional. For stopping, 6-piston calipers clamp down on 350mm rotors in the front, and 4-piston calipers are mated to 330mm rotors in the rear.

Photo: David Haueter

Sticky Pirelli PZero tires are mounted on attractive 20” Satin Platinum ten-spoke wheels that measure 235/35-20 up front and 265/35-20 at the rear, and the GTS model comes with Porsche Active Suspension Management, which lowers the car by 20mm and gives it a more aggressive stance.

Porsche also offers three seat options for the car, including full bucket racing-style seats for $5,900 extra. Our test car had the optional Adaptive Sport Seats Plus ($3,030), which have larger bolsters on the seat cushion as well as the sides of the backrest for more support during sporty driving.

The 718 in both Boxster (cabriolet) and Cayman (coupe) configurations have proportions and styling cues that pay tribute to classic mid-engine Porsche sports cars like the 550 Spyder and the 718 RSK models.

The design of those cars from the 1950’s still looks great today, and the design on the modern 718’s will look good for years to come. The only thing I would change is the black lenses on the rear taillights, but I’m sure there are many who like them.

Inside, the Boxster GTS still uses a mix of digital and analog gauges (a practice I wish more manufacturers would stick to), with the tach front and center as it should be in the view through the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel.

I also appreciate the fact that Porsche has no buttons on the steering wheel, which is rare these days. The only control on the wheel is the knob on the bottom right that controls driving modes.

Photo: David Haueter

The seats, which are also trimmed in Alcantara, are very supportive but comfortable, and the gear lever falls readily to hand. The top is well-insulated and raises and lowers quickly and quietly with the push of a button.

The only chintzy part of the interior is the cupholders, which swing out from above the glovebox when you need them. They aren’t very stable with drinks in them, and you may find that drinks in the left cupholder drip onto the console. That being said, I’m not sure where else Porsche would put them in this car.

There’s not much in way of storage in the cockpit, but there is a surprising amount of cargo space available with trunks in both the front and rear of the car (5.2 cubic feet front, 4.4 cubic feet rear). As with every other Boxster and Cayman model over the years, you can’t see any of the engine. Visually, the only way you know it’s back there is from the access points to add fluids.

Driving the Boxster GTS 4.0 is a fantastic automotive experience. The motor is the centerpiece, and as naturally aspirated engines go it’s one of the best ever. With sharp throttle response, linear and strong power delivery and a free-revving nature, it’s intoxicating to find wide-open spaces and wind it up toward redline to revel in its goodness.

Photo: David Haueter

We drove the car from New Jersey to Watkins Glen for the Six Hour IMSA weekend, and a run up a long, deserted hill from our Airbnb in Hammondsport to the track was one of the highlights of our morning each day. It did a much better job than coffee of waking us up, with the intake noise and the howl of the exhaust as I took the car up to redline in the first few gears.

A great motor without a supporting cast wouldn’t be much good, but the Boxster GTS 4.0 has a perfect blend of power, handling and brakes and gives great feedback to the driver through the steering wheel and the seat. You never feel like there’s not enough brake capability for the power it has, and the handling and balance on twisty roads is as good as it gets in a road car.

The Boxster GTS 4.0 was also surprisingly comfortable on the 4-hour drive to Watkins Glen. Stick the suspension in the softer setting and its easy to spend hours on the interstate in this car, as long as your passenger doesn’t need to recline their seat and take a nap.

Porsche development driver and racer Lars Kern (who drives every production Porsche on the Nurburgring Nordschleife), said the 718 models with the 4-liter motor are the “perfect package at the moment.”

Pricing for the 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 starts at $89,500, but there’s no purer open-top sports car on the market for less than $100,000 than this one.

Photo: David Haueter

David Haueter has been an automotive writer and photographer for the past 20 years. His writing and photos have been published in Roundel, Bimmer, Forza and Excellence and SportsCarInsider as well as other automotive and racing magazines.

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