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2016 Porsche 718 Boxster preview

Porsche's deep-breathing soft-top gets the maker's first turbo four in 40 years.

Laughing Lars the Porsche test driver pins the accelerator pedal of the 718 Boxster to the floor. We listen...

This latest version of the mid-engined open-top sports car has a turbocharged flat-four — a major development as it's the first such engine from the German brand in 40 years — so it should, in theory, sound just like another famed boxer four, Subaru's WRX.

But riding in the 718 Boxster isn't like being tailgated by some WRX-driving lout. The engine has been through Europe's finest finishing school, where hard-to-please German engineers gave it a classier accent than any Subaru.

Porsche hired a test track owned by tyre giant Michelin in the south of France for the 718 Boxster's preview before the Geneva motor show. There are taxi rides in the new car, plus workshops to quiz engineers and designers.

To emphasise the boxer four's importance, the Boxster's exterior has a new, more toned look. It's not all change for its own sake — the new engine is a deep breather so larger side air intakes were a necessity rather than a style statement.

The 718 Boxster has a different driving character from the cars it will replace in Australia from late June.

Lars runs through the engine's full play list for CarsGuide. He stages a standing start using the Launch Control, running the engine repeatedly to its 7500rpm red-line (the sound tingles the spine, as a Porsche should).

With spurts of acceleration down the main straight, Lars shows how much muscle the engine packs in the bottom half of its wide rev range.

This tidal wave of shove, especially in the S, gives the 718 Boxster a different driving character from the cars it will replace in Australia from late June. The current Boxster has non-turbo flat-six engines, displacing 2.7 litres in the base model, 3.4 litres in the S.

The replacements — 220kW 2.0-litre and 257kW 2.5-litre — may not rev quite so high but they are more powerful and simply smash the bigger sixes for low-end torque.

The leap in performance accompanies a jump in prices. The base 718 Boxster costs $113,100 ($8400 more) and the S is $143,400 (an extra $12,300) before any desirable options are added.

Porsche chassis engineers equipped the 718 Boxster with wider tyres, smarter suspension and swifter steering so the extra muscle of the new engines wasn't wasted.

You know, after driving this engine I don't miss the old ones at all

They modestly claim 25 per cent of the credit for the new car's 16-second quicker time around Germany's daunting Nurburgring circuit. The rest, they say, should go to their colleagues from the engine department.

On wet-surface circuit, Lars shows off the handling that makes the new 718 Boxster so quick around the 'Ring. He maintains the 2.5-litre S in a graceful slide, controlling the car deftly with precise movements of steering wheel and accelerator.

It's simplifying things only slightly to say Porsche's new four is the equivalent of the turbo flat-six of the new 911 with two cylinders sawn off. Many components are identical, including such vital parts as connecting rods but the 718's turbo setup is entirely different.

With four cylinders, Porsche's engineers explain, a single turbocharger works best. For the 911's closely related six, twin turbos are the right solution.

The switch to smaller displacement turbo engines is for the usual reason. The boosted engines are inherently more efficient, delivering a 13 per cent reduction in fuel consumption when combined with Porsche's superb seven-speed PDK double-clutch transmission. This pleases emission-watcher governments in Europe and elsewhere.

Turbocharging of course also brings more power and stronger performance. This pleases fun-seeking Porsche drivers everywhere.

"You know, after driving this engine I don't miss the old ones at all," Lars remarks in the middle of one long slide. Owners who trade their old Boxsters for the new 718 are bound to agree with him.

Blast from past

Why 718? The decision to add some numbers to the new Boxster's name is a marketing department idea. The 718 is a Porsche sports car from the past with a mid-mounted flat-four engine, as in the new Boxster. It was hugely successful in racing in the '50s and '60s. Like that car, the new Boxster has a unique code number. So the 718 Boxster is really a Porsche 982.

How the 911 R sheds the weight

It isn't the fastest 911 or the most expensive but the R is the car hard-core fans of Porsche's great rear-engine sportster will lust after.

Stripped of airconditioning, audio, rear seat and some noise insulation and with plastic replacing the glass in its side and rear windows, this limited-edition 911 is the lightest of all, undercutting even the track-ready GT3 RS (pictured) by 50kg.

The R has the same magnificent 368kW 4.0-litre non-turbo flat-six engine as the GT3 RS, teamed with an old-school six-speed manual instead of Porsche's PDK seven-speed double-clutch transmission.

This $404,700 version of the 911 will reach Australia late this year. Only 25 cars are earmarked for our market.

Do you think 718 will be the best Boxster yet? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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