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Why the 2020 Porsche 718 Boxster S is a Perfect Modern Sports Car

Porsche’s roadster is as close to flawless as we’ve experienced.

Conner GoldenWriterBrandon LimPhotographer

Taken as a pure sports car, the 2020 Porsche 718 Boxster S is nearly perfect. If you time-warped a warehouse full of 718 Boxster S and 718 Cayman S models back to the mid-2000s, the duo would be hailed as the greatest daily driver sports cars the world had ever seen—and not just as entry-level Porsches playing in  the 911's shadow. The 2020 Porsche 718 Boxster S might not be as visually dramatic as an early Ferrari F430 or Lamborghini Gallardo, but this turbocharged four-cylinder roadster leaves both of those yesteryear super-athletes gasping for air when the light turns green.

2020 Porsche 718 Boxster S Performance

No, really, we mean what we just said. Equipped with Porsche's genre-defining and spooky-quick PDK dual-cutch transmission and Sport Chrono package, this Boxster S returns a stunning 3.7-second 0-60-mph time. That's a spectacular scramble for any sports car, let alone something wearing the Boxster or Cayman badge.

With the recent departure of the four-pot 718 GTS in favor of the more exotic and alluring six-cylinder 718 GTS 4.0, the 2020 Porsche 718 Boxster S is the most potent four-cylinder 718 available, and it hardly suffers for power. As is the case since the 718's introduction in 2017, a 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-four spins out 350 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque, just 15 hp and 23 lb-ft down from the turbocharged flat-six found in the 991.2 Carrera.

Peak torque is available from 1,900 rpm and sticks around until 4,500 rpm, so drink deep and often from that reservoir for skin-rippling full-throttle charges—though you might want to spec your 718 S in something other than (Arrest Me) Guards Red, since forward shove doesn't begin to fade in earnest until well beyond any U.S. speed limit. As usual, the seven-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox seems to form a neural link with the car's driver, with seamless upshifts and katana-quick downshifts that elicit little more than a gentle engagement. In a straight line, going for the best acceleration runs, leave upshifts to the genius PDK, because you just won't be able to keep up.

How Does the 2020 Porsche 718 Boxster S Drive?

Slip into a tangle of mountain roads, and shift-it-yourselfers will have a much better time zipping the needle up and down the tach. The 2020 Porsche 718 Boxster platform's balance is unparalleled when it comes to cars not crossing the six-figure pricing threshold, and even then, not many supercars can match the 718's poise on two-lane tarmac. The confidence oozing through perfectly weighted driving inputs is borderline intoxicating, particularly from impeccable steering with near-perfect weight, feedback, and sensitivity. Do be wary of your right foot; mechanical grip feels indefatigable from behind that perfect steering, but the thick torque curve is easily capable of ripping the rear-end free.

Even with all of the driver-assistance systems locked firmly on, the Boxster S was more prone to an unexpected sashay than the bigger, wider Carrera. Don't mistake this for a knife-edged, tweaked-out drift weapon; the small step-outs that did happen were controllable, imminently manageable, and led to no snap oversteer. I'm sure for a good portion of drivers looking to exercise their expensive new toy, it's part of the charm. However, what's only a cheeky tailward wiggle to some might be terrifying to others, so if you are set on a 718 of any ilk, make sure to outfit yours with the optional Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV), something this 2020 Porsche 718 Boxster S did not have. Aside from managing the aforementioned step-outs with brake vectoring, it adds a mechanical locking differential to the mix to render rearward slips into an artform.

2020 Porsche 718 Boxster S Soundtrack and Useability

You could argue that prior criticism from some corners of Porschedom regarding the noise from the four-cylinder 718 is largely unfounded, and this extended stint with the Boxster S did little to shift my stance. With the active exhaust wedged open, the 2.5-liter snorts and buzzes its way through the rev-range, accentuated by turbo whistle and sewing-machine mechanical gnash that's so characteristic of any Porsche pancake. It's requisitely rude at full song, but it's admittedly a bit dampened during normal day-to-day driving. Even cruising at 80 mph on the highway, that 2.5-liter clams up like BMW's best four-cylinder, and you have to prod it with aggression to bring out any of the satisfying mechanical thrash.

I reckon this civility isn't necessarily a bad thing. For someone without need for extra passengers or cargo capacity, the 2020 Porsche 718 Boxster S is the greatest do anything, go anywhere sports car I've driven. When you want gut-punch speed and voracious grip and handling in the canyons, set it in Sport Plus and annoy your buds driving something much, much more expensive. Got a meeting across town? Leave everything in normal mode and poodle through traffic without fraying your nerves and burning through too much gas. Stressed out from work? Drop the top and casually cruise your favorite road. Between all of these scenarios, there's more than enough room in the frunk and rear storage compartments for two people's weekend baggage, and if you're worried about sticking out in the parking garage, don't—this is a Boxster, not a 911.

Is the 2020 Porsche 718 Boxster S Perfect for the Daily Hustle?

From the inside, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between this car and a Carrera, as long as you're compare it to the recently replaced 991.2-generation 911. I'm not sure Porsche got the memo on what entry-level entails, as the materials, design, and fit/finish is absolutely on par with anything else to wear the Porsche crest. Standard equipment is a different matter altogether; other than leather, radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and air conditioning, everything else is a-la-carte. The list of extras includes power seats, navigation, automatic climate control, and Apple CarPlay.

Shockingly fast, sublimely balanced, playful, refined, usable, and chic, there isn't much the 2020 Porsche 718 Boxster S is not or can't do. Just don't tell the six-cylinder snobs—it all just means there's more for us.

2020 Porsche 718 Boxster S Quick Takes

  • Potent turbocharged flat-four
  • As quick (or quicker) than an early 2000s supercar
  • Perfect all-around sports car
  • Familiar Porsche quality and substance
  • You don't realistically need more than this
2020 Porsche 718 Boxster S Specifications
ON SALE Now
PRICE $73,550 (base)
ENGINE 2.5L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve flat-4/350 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 309 lb-ft @ 1,900-4,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed clutch automatic; six-speed manual
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine RWD convertible
EPA MILEAGE 21/28 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 172.4 x 70.9 x 50.4 in
WHEELBASE 97.4 in
WEIGHT 3,133 lb
0-60 MPH 3.7 sec (tested)
TOP SPEED 177 mph