The badge reads “2020 Porsche 718 Boxster T,” a modestly powered variant of Porsche’s mid-engine drop-top with an extra dose of sporting intention. You’ll recall Porsche previously resurrected its T designation for the fantastic, no-frills 911 Carrera T; if that car is any indication, we should be happy to see the company apply the same treatment to its little siblings. But should you buy a T, or would you be better off dropping a little more cash for a 350-hp Boxster S, or maybe selecting options à la carte on a base-model 718?
Think of the new 718 Boxster T as a base-engine, turbo four-cylinder Boxster augmented with racy bits from the six-cylinder 718 GTS, most of which are available on a standard 718 but come bundled together in the T at a slight discount.
Compared to a 718 Boxster, the 2020 Porsche Boxster T adds 20-inch 911 Carrera S wheels (regularly $2,730) in unique Titanium Grey, a mechanical locking differential with torque vectoring ($1,320), Sport Seats Plus ($810), Sport Chrono package ($2,090), PASM sport suspension lowered by 20 millimeters ($2,080 on Boxster S, not available on the standard Boxster), and the GT Sport steering wheel ($330). Also standard are gloss black tailpipes ($660 on the base Boxster), painted roll-hoop finishing ($640), and the model designation featured on the doors ($310). The latter two items are both done in a T-specific Agate Grey. This all makes for nearly $11,000 in standard-feature content on a car priced $9,000 above its non-T equivalent. Porsche also adds nylon interior door-pull loops like those in the 718 Spyder and Cayman GT4, plus “718” stitched on the headrests. A model-specific interior package ($2,770) adds bright contrast stitching and matching-color door loops.
The 2020 Porsche 718 Boxster T uses the 2.0-liter, turbocharged flat-four that also motivates the base Boxster. The mid-mounted growler develops the same 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, and it mates to Porsche’s seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic or six-speed manual gearbox.
Porsches come alive at the track, of course, so we armed ourselves with a pair of manual- and PDK-equipped Boxster Ts and headed to the figure-eight course and dragstrip at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, to lay down some numbers.
No surprise here: The PDK car is quicker off the line. Utilize launch control, which revs the engine to around 6,000 rpm before engaging drive to the rear wheels, and the 718 reaches 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, just a tenth slower than a dual-clutch 718 Boxster S. (The manual variant is a full second behind.) Meanwhile, the manual-only Boxster Spyder does the same deed in 4.0 seconds. Boxster T quarter-mile times read 13.1 and 12.4 seconds in manual and PDK cars, respectively, with the latter traveling 4.2 mph faster at the finish line. (The Boxster S’ power advantage is more apparent in a longer race; it clears the quarter in 12.0 seconds at 116.0 versus the manual T’s 107.4 and the PDK T’s 111.6.)
The 2020 Porsche Boxster T really shines in the figure-eight and braking exercises. Manual and automatic variants stop in 97 and 96 feet, matching or besting the 911 Turbo S, Ferrari F8 Tributo, and McLaren 600LT, among others.
Around our figure-eight track, we didn’t need to shift out of second gear, which meant the cars were neck and neck at 23.8 seconds at 0.82 average g in the manual and 23.7 at 0.83 in the PDK. We’ve tested loads of more powerful cars that can’t match those times, including but not limited to the BMW M2 Competition, Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 (sans Track Pack), Aston Martin Vantage, and Jaguar F-Type SVR.
Our test driver, Chris Walton, was downright smitten with the Boxster T. “There is so much tactile feedback from the brake pedal, from the steering, from the throttle, it is easy to do a Goldilocks lap where you get everything just right,” he said. “It’s happy to rotate into a corner under proper trailbraking, and you can easily correct slight midcorner understeer with the throttle. Traction is excellent, thanks in part to the torque-vectoring rear end. True powerslides are off the table with the base engine, but predictable oversteer can be had at corner exit if you want it. I just wanted to keep driving more laps.”
Thankfully, the Boxster T is as adept between lane markings as it is dancing around cones. Ergonomics are dead on; the seating position feels just inches from the pavement, pedals are straight ahead (and well spaced for heel-toe downshifts with a manual), and the superb, button-free three-spoke steering wheel aims directly at your chest. Porsche’s Sport Seats Plus lack adjustable bolsters, but they feel just right to my relatively narrow back and bottom.
Steering feel is granular and direct for an electrically assisted rack. The 718’s brakes feel a little grabby at first, but you get used to them quickly. In the canyons, the direct relationship between pedal pressure and stopping power inspires serious confidence.
Ride quality with the stiffened, lowered suspension is on the right side of firm; it’s informative enough to keep you engaged without rattling you to pieces over every pothole. Road impacts are one-and-done with no secondary movements. Activating the stiffer adaptive-suspension setting might be a little too firm for some drivers on the street, but it seems to shorten those impacts and settle the car a blink sooner than the softer setting, buttoning down the chassis for your most demanding backroad jaunts.
The 2020 Porsche 718 Boxster T has far more than enough grip for street driving. It feels confident and planted no matter how hard you push it; direct turn-in and the traction afforded by the differential keep things engaging.
As for the engine, all 718s are equipped as standard with a sport exhaust system, something of a consolation prize for taking away the 981 Boxster’s sonorous six-cylinder. There’s a fair amount of engine noise with the top up or down, even in the quieter exhaust mode. You won’t call this flat-four an opera singer, but it sounds fittingly purposeful and shares distinct aural familiarity with the 911’s twin-turbo flat-six.
In reality, the base engine makes the car as quick as you’ll ever need. It’ll happily press your head into that “718”-embroidered seat; it passes the floor-it-for-fun test with ease. Unless your idea of fun is 80-120-mph pulls instead of around-town quickness, you don’t need a Boxster S. (That said, if you can afford a six-cylinder Boxster GTS or Spyder, go buy one of those instead.)
You may notice some turbo lag with this base engine. If you knock on its door below 2,700 rpm or so, there’s nobody home. Torque comes on strong around 3,000 rpm, and the performance sticks around right up until redline just above 7,000 rpm.
If you’re trying to determine if you’d rather drive your Boxster T with three pedals or with shift paddles, there’s actually no obvious answer.
The PDK is an excellent transmission, with almost zero torque interruption between shifts and uncommonly smooth operation at parking lot speeds. Especially in Sport or Sport+ driving on a mountain road, it’s nearly all-knowing, shifting to the lowest possible gear under hard braking and always keeping you in the powerband. It’s so intuitive, I wondered if it was reading GPS maps like a Rolls-Royce.
Should you choose to take the reins yourself, it responds instantaneously to the handsome metal paddles mounted to the steering wheel. Easy, intuitive launch-control starts mean you can replicate our 0-60 times at every stoplight.
Opting for a clutch pedal and shift lever provides a delightfully tactile alternative. The 2020 Porsche 718 Boxster T sports a shorter, notchier shifter than the standard car, with the shift pattern embossed in red. Gearing is long, with second gear topping out around 70 mph, so you won’t be shifting all that often. But when you do, the linkage feels every bit as oily and metallic and mechanical as you’d hope.
The clutch pedal has a fair amount of travel, and the clutch engages about 40 percent of the way from the top. I’m not embarrassed to say I stalled it a couple of times, but a quick auto-restart quelled the inconvenience. Also, shifting yourself means you’re more likely to catch the engine off-boost when you aren’t revving it to the heavens.
Long answer short, the PDK feels marginally more performance-oriented and modernized, but saving a few grand and rowing your own ratios won’t see you missing out on much.
Porsche’s new Boxster T isn’t perfect. Its cabin permits more road and engine noise than I’d like, the infotainment display is mounted low and out of your peripheral vision, and even after a week behind the wheel, I struggled to figure out how to configure the Sport Individual drive mode. Meanwhile, in the manual car, you can’t turn off automatic rev-matching in Sport or Sport+. The auto stop/start system sometimes shuts off the engine at a stop and doesn’t restart it quickly enough. The car is expensive, and plenty of features you’d expect as standard on a $75,000 vehicle are optional extras. The nylon door loops feel awkward to use with the same-side hand; the release mechanism should be at the front of the loop, not the back.
These are small prices to pay. If you want luxury grand touring, go for a BMW Z4. If you want a more affordable, less focused experience, head to the Mazda dealership and pick up an MX-5 Miata.
Ah, but if you wanted one of those, you wouldn’t still be reading this. You’re after a balanced, refined, confidence-inspiring sports car packaged with all of the performance parts you need and none of the superfluous add-ons you don’t. No need to keep it a secret: You want a Porsche Boxster T.
|2020 Porsche 718 Boxster T Specs|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$74,670||$81,820|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Mid-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door convertible|
|ENGINE||2.0L/300-hp/280-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve flat-4|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed manual||7-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,036 lb (45/55%)||3,105 lb (44/56%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||172.4 x 70.9 x 49.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.8 sec||3.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.1 sec @ 107.4 mph||12.4 sec @ 111.6 mph|
|0-100-0 MPH||15.0 sec||13.6 sec|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||97 ft||96 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||1.04 g (avg)||1.04 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||23.8 sec @ 0.82 g (avg)||23.7 sec @ 0.83 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||20/26/22 mpg||21/27/23 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||169/130 kWh/100 miles||160/125 kWh/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.87 lb/mile||0.83 lb/mile|