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2021 Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman: Photos, Specs & Review

2021 Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman: Photos, Specs & Review

2021 Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman: Photos, Specs & Review

Looming at the top of the lineup are the 718 Cayman GT4 and 718 Spyder vehicles, models that eschew most of the creature comforts for more on-road aggression and track-readiness.  Porsche

As Porsche’s flagship car, the 911 sets the standard by which all other vehicles in the lineup are judged. From the Cayenne SUV to the Taycan EV, the performance dynamics of every vehicle from the luxury automaker must embody the same uncompromising versatility the brand’s signature sports car, while delivering on their own distinct specialties. 

As the mid-engine younger siblings to the 911, the 718 Boxster convertible and Cayman coupe could easily get lost in the shadow of such a legacy, but their stellar rides and refined fundamentals make the sprightly pair shine on their own merits.

Forbes Wheels Overall Rating: 73/100

The 718 style is unmistakably Porsche and the more aggressive front fascia gives the long-standing Porsche style a modern update.

 

The 718 offers solid handling, responsive inputs, loads of palpable feedback and excellent control. Paired with the flax-six engine, it delivers plenty of usable power. 

Comfort & Convenience: 16/20

A slim-fitting interior in the Boxster conforms to the passengers with little breathing room when the top is up. The 718 is light on features but covers the basics. The ride also might feel too stiff for buyers that want more “luxury” from their luxury sports vehicle. 

The 718 models have yet to be crash-tested by the NHTSA or IIHS. They also have not been rated by Europe’s crash-test authority, the Euro NCAP or Australia’s ANCAP. All 718s come with eight airbags, which gives it an extra point for safety, but there are no standard driver-assistance features that Forbes Wheels considers mandatory, which hurts it’s overall score. All 718s do have optional blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control.  

Combined fuel estimates vary between 22 to 24 mpg due to the various engine and transmission pairings. An automatic base 718 will score better than a manual GTS, but either way it’s an average-to-slightly-less-than score for a sports car. 

Pros:

  • Flax-six engine in the GTS is top-notch
  • Solid, communicative handling
  • Minimal interior setup that feels just right

Cons:

  • Lackluster infotainment. Stick to the now-standard Apple CarPlay (still no Android Auto)
  • Mechanical noise permeating through the cabin can sound grating
  • Stiff ride that’s great for performance but rough for cruising

In terms of the Boxster, it’s not hard to find a comparatively luxurious drop-top but cross-shopping for a convertible that delivers the same fizz-and-pop is slightly more difficult. On one end of the spectrum, the Mazda MX-5 is a quality back-to-basics roadster with exceptional car control and easy for daily use. It’s also far more affordable than even the base Boxster, though it won’t have nearly as much power or any of the luxurious touches. Nearer to the mark would be the BMW Z4 and Jaguar F-Type, both of which have solid performance chops and a high fun factor. 

The same goes for the Cayman challengers, though there are a few more contentious coupes to battle through, like the Toyota GR Supra, the modestly-powered-and-priced Subaru BRZ, or at this price point, the new mid-engine Chevrolet C8 Corvette. 

2021 Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman: Photos, Specs & Review
Some notable features of the 718 GTS include an upgraded braking system, sport exhaust, 20-in satin black wheels and a sport suspension that is 20 millimeters lower than the standard 718 models.  Alex Kalogiannis

2021 Porsche 718 Performance

The 718 Boxster is Porsche’s two-seater drop-top and mechanical twin to the 718 Cayman coupe. Of the three engines available, two of them are turbocharged flat-four boxer engines that are included in the base 718 and “S” models, respectively. The 2.0-liter engine whips up 300 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque while the 2.5-liter produces 350 horsepower and 309 pound-feet of torque. A naturally aspirated flat-six is reserved for the 718 GTS 4.0. This four-liter power plant gins up 394 horsepower and 308 pound-feet of torque. All three are mid-mounted and route power to the rear wheels. 

The 718 uses either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed double-clutch automatic transmission. How much of the performance drivers can tap into depends on the Sport Chrono Package, optional for all 718 models other than the GTS, where it is standard. Broadly speaking, the package includes a host of features for the performance-minded driver, with some contingent on the choice of transmission. 

PDK-laden 718s receive launch control and Sport response, a push-button burst of power where the engine and transmission are pushed to their limits for 20 seconds. (PDK stands for Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe, which translates to Porsche double-clutch transmission.) Manual transmission users instead receive a rev-matching function for smoother downshifts, making focusing on the task at hand easier for drivers in the heat of a spirited session. All cars with the Sport Chrono Package net additional drive select modes, analog and digital chronograph for lap timing and active driveline mounts that stiffen when in sport or sport plus drive modes. 

2021 Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman: Photos, Specs & Review
The 2021 model year brings several standard features to the 718 Boxster including Apple CarPlay (bot no Android Auto), heated seats, dual climate control and bi-xenon headlamps.  Alex Kalogiannis

Apart from the engine, the GTS distinguishes itself from the rest of the 718 lineup with a lower sport suspension, 20-inch black sport wheels and an updated braking system. Looming at the top of the lineup are the 718 Cayman GT4 and 718 Spyder models that eschew most of the creature comforts for more on-road aggression and track-readiness. The GTS splits the difference, sharing several components such as the (de-tuned) engine and exhaust, but still at the ready for daily use. 

Putting the Boxster GTS 4.0 to the test, the 718’s confident performance prevails. The car, unladen, weighs around 3,100 pounds and though nimble, it doesn’t feel overly light, and its movements are deliberate. There is very little sensation of the car being floaty or loose, even when not in a suspension-tightening sport mode. 

With the engine directly behind the driver’s head, the 718 can be loud, and the distinct rattle of the boxer engine isn’t going to be as sonorous as a V8s, which might turn off those with misplaced expectations in that department. Between that and the extremely solid manual gearbox, the 718 GTS 4.0 feels like a proper collection of engineered machinery and not a fly-by-wire videogame-like car with a detached sensation. Driver and machine are in a synchronous union, and at speed the relentless feedback is excitingly palpable. 

Sitting right in front of the mid-mounted engine further connects the driver with the momentum of the car, as being that connected to the center of gravity means the car literally revolves around them. Power delivery is crisp and encouraging, and with the manual, it’s very gratifying to fly through the gears as the car roars to a crescendo Both stick and clutch pedal are easy to handle, but they aren’t too light as to feel insubstantial. Each shift hits just as hard as it needs to, delivering substantial feedback confidently to the driver.   

2021 Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman: Photos, Specs & Review
A slim-fitting interior in the Boxster feels open with the top down, but leaves little breathing room for passengers when the top is up. A 7-inch touchscreen is standard.  Porsche

2021 Porsche 718 Comfort & Convenience

On the inside, the 718 is spartan but refined. The form-fitting cabin is light on frivolity and provides all the accouterments we expect from a luxury performance car. A 7-inch touchscreen is handily available in the dashboard, the home of many functions such as optional navigation and entertainment, but wired Apple CarPlay is available to use. Unfortunately Android Auto support is available. This is supplemented by a 4.6-inch screen nestled in the otherwise analog gauge cluster. The tiny screen can be flicked through to display a few at-a-glance menus like music track listings, lap timer and tire pressure while the main 7-inch display does the heavy lifting. 

As it goes with roadsters, the pea-pod cabin doesn’t have much extra room to accommodate any bags that can’t sit in the passenger seat or at the feet of anyone accompanying the driver, but thankfully, there’s enough “frunk” space (5.3 cubic-feet) for a day bag, and even a bit of extra room in the back (9.7 cubic-feet). 

All told, the 718 keeps things simple but refines things with modern touches like the selectable drive modes and rev-matching. It’s also quite easy to live with, too, able to move around town and up driveways that would otherwise cause sports car owners to sweat nervously.

2021 Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman: Photos, Specs & Review
The Porsche 718 Boxster GTS shares its flat-six engine with the 718 Spyder and GT4 vehicles. It produces 394 horsepower and 308 pound-feet of torque. Alex Kalogiannis

2021 Porsche 718 Safety Systems

The 718 models have yet to be crash-tested by the NHTSA or IIHS. It also has not been rated by Europe’s crash-test authority, the Euro NCAP, or Australia’s ANCAP. All 718s come with eight airbag, seat belt pretensioners and park assist in the front and the rear. A side impact protection system (POSIP) places thorax airbags in the seat backrests and curtain airbags in the A-pillar. Blind spot monitoring (Land Change Assist) can be added as part of the Premium Package ($4,050), which also buys dynamic light system, Bose surround sound, ventilated seats, keyless entry (Porsche Entry & Drive) and a heated wheel. The blind spot system can be added a la cart for $700. Adaptive cruise control is also available as a $1,670 option on all models. 

2021 Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman: Photos, Specs & Review
 New for 2021 is an available 4.0-liter flat-six cylinder for 718 GTS 4.0 that gins up 394 horsepower and 308 pound-feet of torque.  Porsche

2021 Porsche 718: Our Verdict

Drivers longing for the Porsche experience may dream about 911 ownership, but the 718 is a lineup of daily use sports cars that are stellar in their own right. They deliver superb handling and plenty of usable power to go along with it. Having the option to drop the top in the Boxster is a great bonus and sets a high bar for the luxury convertible set while the Cayman sets a similar pace for sporty mid-engine coupes.

Porsche 718 Generations

First Generation: 1996 to 2004

The Boxster debuted in 1996 with a mid-mounted 2.5-liter flat-six, replacing the air-cooled front-engine 968, a descendant of the 924. With its design inspired by the iconic 550 Spyder, the Boxster was the only other Porsche initially built as a roadster. Like its front-engine predecessor, the Boxster continued to carry the torch of the entry-level Porsche.

Second Generation: 2005 to 2012

The second-generation Boxster debuted in 2005, followed by the Cayman, its coupe brother in 2016. Both received a 2.7-liter flat-six as base-level engines, and by 2007, each respective S model would sport 3.4-liter flat-sixes. This generation also benefited from styling more akin to the Porsche GT halo car.

 

Third Generation: 2013 to 2016

Moving on to the third generation, the 718 Boxster-Cayman duo once again borrowed its design influence from the concurrent 911, and while it increased in length, Porsche managed to drop some weight from the base model while also adding horsepower. The entry-level Porsche gained a GTS model to the lineup, sitting above the S trim level as well.

Fourth Generation: 2017 to Present

A new performance-focused 718 GTS model made its stateside debut in 2020. Early reports indicate it will include Porsche’s PASM Sport suspension with adaptive dampers, launch control, a limited-slip differential, brake-based torque vectoring and dynamic engine and gearbox mounts, as standard equipment.

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