The Porsche 718 Boxster S has been beefed up to meet the demands of the urban environment

Along with Christmas and my birthday, I also get excited whenever a new Porsche model is launched. Thankfully, it happens more than once a year too. This time it was the turn of the new Porsche 718 Boxster S. Having driven its predecessor, I was eager to see what updates the Germans had made to this little pocket rocket supercar.

I was keen not to get bogged down by the fact that the engine is now smaller. Instead, I was pretty confident the new 718 Boxster S would still be one of the fastest machines on Singapore roads. While most people consider the 911 as the first Porsche model they have heard of, the 718 deserves some attention too. It has a rich heritage like the more famous 911, going back to the 1950s and 1960s.

My test-drive model (718 Boxster S) is memorable for one main reason — the previous six-cylinder engine has been replaced by a four-cylinder “Boxster” one. It is tempting to say “downgraded to” rather than “replaced by” but that would be misleading, having spent 24 hours test-driving this beast.

Not only has the power plant changed, but the shape and appearance of the new 718 Boxster S has as well. It looks wider, more muscular and all-round beefier — almost as if it had overdosed on steroids. Other changes see the rear badge now strategically placed under the spoiler, blacked-out taillights and an altogether more menacing look to the 718.

Rest assured the cabin has the same familiar Porsche design. There are even selector knobs that allow you to toggle between four drive modes — Normal, Sport, Sport+ and Individual — on the steering wheel, which is borrowed from the 911. Once you have absorbed the 718’s new body design and appearance, the burning question remains about the drive itself. Is the new turbocharged flatfour engine as good as the old naturally aspirated flat-six?

Let us start with the spec sheet. The 2.5-litre power plant produces 350bhp and 420Nm of torque for starters. And it can get from a standing start to 100kph in 4.2 seconds. While these stats may be a shade slower than the 911 Turbo and the 911 Turbo S, does it really matter? At the end of the day, it is still lightning quick and will leave you king of the road at traffic lights and on less-crowded expressways.

The way the 718 gets this speed up is smooth and slick while leaving you in total control, thanks in part to Porsche’s seven-speed gearbox and precision steering. Another contributing factor is the chunky Pirelli P Zero 20in tyres that grip the road like Spiderman.

When thrown around corners, the 718 soaks it all up in one stable and powerful ride. You may get slightly frustrated driving in urban environments, as there is not much opportunity to unleash this beast. Instead, you might want to pop down the convertible roof and check out the admiring glances from passers-by. And then there is the sound of the 718 Boxster S, of course. Even at low speeds, the 718 has a growl to it that warns of its power and presence.

During my test drive, I was approached by a parking warden at Marina Bay Financial Centre as I waited in a bay for my wife. He tapped on the window for what I thought was going to be a telling-off for parking too long in the pick-up zone. Instead, he fired off a list of questions about the car, its engine and what it was like to drive it. I almost wanted to let him take it for a spin, as he was so interested in the car. But it got me thinking about the appeal of the 718 Boxster S and Porsches, in general.

As supercars go, they are very accessible to most drivers, much more than a Lamborghini or Ferrari. They are not intimidating to drive, are driver-centric and easy to park. Of course, there are a few compromises that come with driving a supercar such as the lack of boot space and being so low to the ground that some security guards cannot see you from their control rooms. But that is a small price to pay for your first supercar. The problem is, once you get a taste of all that speed and power, there is no turning back.

PORSCHE 718 BOXSTER
$316,588 without COE
Engine: 2,497cc, 16V, flat 4, turbocharged
Power/torque: 350bhp/420Nm
Fuel consumption: 7.4 litres/100km
0-100kph: 4.2 seconds
Top speed: 285kph

Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast

This article appeared in Issue 788 (July 24) of The Edge Singapore.