DRIVEN: Porsche 718 Boxster GTS manual

MALAGA, Spain Fifteen degrees Celsius, the perfect outside temperature for two-seater, top-down driving. Air vents strategically directing warm air onto your hands and feet and, if you’re lucky, a set of heated seats warming your rear, working to offset the subtle bite of crisp air flowing over the windscreen and brushing the top of your head.

And, if you’re really lucky, not only do you have someone you quite fancy* seated alongside you, but you’re also behind the wheel one of the finest examples of a modern sportscar currently available – with a manual transmission.

All too easily considered the lightweight option within Porsche’s otherwise heavy-hitting modern lineup, the Boxster nevertheless continues to offer a compelling combination of carefree, top-down exuberance and (relatively) lightweight precision in a mid-engined package that arguably offers better all-round balance than the rear-engined models on which its maker continues to achieve success.

Adding to the appeal of the current 718-generation Boxster (and Cayman) range is a new GTS variant that offers both styling enhancements for added on-road presence and also a suitable increase in performance and precision.

Distinguishable by its bespoke front apron, standard (black) 20-inch Carrera S wheels, tinted headlamps clusters and black, centrally mounted sport exhaust tailpipes, the new 718 GTS siblings also ride 10 mm lower to the ground compared with the S derivatives thanks to the standard inclusion of Porsche’s (PASM) active suspension.

A highlight of the GTS package is the standard racing-derived sports seats that not only look the part but also offer optimal support and comfort (including heating), even when covering long distances. A healthy spattering of Alcantara, as well as the equipment upgrades added as part of the Sport Chrono package, make the Boxster GTS in particular feel that much more special (and racier) than the standard car.

While the decision to replace the previous-generation Boxster and Cayman’s flat-six engine with a turbocharged four was always going to garner criticism around an inevitable downgrade in the amplitude of the corresponding exhaust note, it’s a factor only likely to matter to those familiar with just how good the six sounded in the first place. For the rest, there’s still plenty to savour in the way the uprated (redeveloped intake duct and optimised variable vane turbocharger that’s now set to deliver 1,3 bar, compared with 1,1 in the S) four-pot boxer in the 718 GTS goes about its business. Some 11 kW up on the S model, there’s also 26 kW and 70 N.m more torque on offer here than in the previous-generation GTS offering. Mated with a seven-speed PDK transmission, this translates to 430 N.m delivered to the rear wheels between 1 900 and 5 000 r/min, while in the six-speed manual there’s 420 N.m offered up to 5 500 r/min.

And it’s the manual ‘box option that I’d tick for my Boxster GTS.

While I got to enjoy the brilliantly slick and intuitive PDK transmission in a Cayman GTS while lapping the wonderfully technical Circuit Ascari later the same day, out on the open road, being able to work through a wonderfully precise, old-school manual gearbox (that offers rally hero-like rev-matching downshifts in sport mode) while negotiating a series of sweeps and bends only adds to the visceral experience offered by this top-down sportscar, even if you’d likely be faster with a dual-clutch option.

Indeed, in these conditions, there’s enough performance and precision offered by a 718 Boxster GTS to likely keep pace with performance cars with vastly higher price-tags. And, even if they do eventually pull away, the superb levels of communication offered via both the 718’s steering wheel and the base of the bucket seat mean you’re likely having more fun, while not having to have your insurance broker’s number programmed into your phone. While you can ultimately opt for how much intervention (i.e. slip levels) you’d like from the 718’s stability control system, even with this safety net fully engaged, there’s enough balance and poise around the Boxster’s centre of gravity to let you feel like a super hero as the rear tyres gracefully lose grip under hard acceleration out of slow corners.

While driving the new Audi TT RS and Porsche Cayman GTS within days of one another has left me conflicted around where I’d spend my fast coupé money, there’s little doubt in my mind that a 718 Boxster GTS in manual is (still) the best open-top sportscar on offer today.

*while my driving partner, and fellow motoring journalist, for this drive is quite nice, my preferred passenger remains eminently nicer…

Fast facts

Model: Porsche 718 Boxster GTS manual
Price: R1 137 000
Engine: 2,5-litre, four-cylinder, turbopetrol
Power: 269 kW
Torque: 420 N.m
0-100 km/h: 4,6-seconds
Top Speed: 290 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 9,0 L/100 km
CO2: 205 g/km
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Maintenance Plan: 3 year/100 000 km