There are two distinct moments when you realise just how good the Boxster GTS is to drive. How annoyingly brilliant it is. How, despite losing a couple of cylinders relative to its predecessor, it still manages to make all of its closest competitors look like fat, dawdling posers.
Moment number one arrives the first time you really start to kick its head in on a back road. The second, weirdly, comes after you drive it. But let’s deal with nummer eins first.
When the car first arrived, I was excited. It’s a good-looking car in this spec, isn’t it? The GT Silver finish, the satin black 20-inch wheels, the black lettering and - best of all - the red fabric roof…I’m honestly not sure it’s possible to make a 718 Boxster look better. But then all of that anticipation turned to disappointment when I twisted the key and heard that 2.5-litre flat-four clatter to life.
I had previously been something of an apologist for this engine. Yes, much of the time it sounds like a Subaru WRX that’s in a bad mood, but with so much mid-range clout it’s endlessly flexible so long as you’re above 2000rpm, and when you go hunting for that 7400rpm redline (which is admittedly a little pointless given that peak power arrives nearly 1000rpm before), it does have a pleasant, characterful zing to it.
But with powerful N/A engines seemingly dropping like flies now, the 718 Cayman and Boxster twins’ shift to smaller turbo units seems more of a shame than ever. Particularly given that this GTS with its tweaked exhaust sounds - if anything - a little more muted and less interesting than the 718 S.
The first couple of days of my week with the GTS consisted of nothing more than biffing around town, which caused my disappointment to grow. The optional exhaust system didn’t help either, with its excessive pops and bangs failing to make a positive addition to the four-pot drone. But, on day three, I did exactly what you should do when you have the keys to a Porsche Boxster. I found the nearest piece of wiggly road and flung the silver sports car down it as quickly as I dared. And, suddenly, everything fell into place.
There’s a sense of rightness to everything about the GTS. The slight bit of give in the damping to make light work of bumpy country roads. The balance. The pedal weights. The way the six-speed manual gearbox requires a surprising amount of effort to use, yet still slots into each position beautifully. And the steering, my god the steering - Porsche really needs to tell the rest of the motoring world how the hell it’s managed to make an electrically-assisted system so damn natural-feeling.
Of course, that’s all true with the Boxster S, but with a 10mm lower chassis, standard-fit Porsche Active Suspension Management and Sport Chrono pack plus a little bit more power (the 2.5 now makes 361bhp, an increase of 15bhp), the GTS is a little bit better in every area.
When you’re first getting a feel for it, a frequently occurring ‘problem’ is that you go into a corner quite hot and think you’ve asked way too much of the thing, only to realise what you’ve done is well within the capabilities of the chassis. It’s so good, that one hoon up a generic middle-England B-roll is now up there with the greatest drives I’ve ever been fortunate enough to experience in this job.
It’s the second ‘Eureka’ moment that’s more profound, however. And that happens, as I’ve already mentioned, after the drive. More specifically, when you get behind the wheel of something else. For me, that ‘something else’ was our Hyundai i30 N long-termer, which is a fine performance car. In fact it’s one of the best hot hatches you can buy right now, and considering its capabilities, it’s a ridiculous bargain.
But after being in the Boxster, everything about the i30 N felt wrong. The pedals seemed too springy. The gear shift lacked a feeling of mechanical heft. The damping didn’t seem quite right in any mode, and the steering was much too darty off-centre.
None of these are particular problem areas for the ‘Hoondai’, it’s just that the Boxster GTS skirts so close to the border of perfection that it makes even accomplished performance cars seem a bit, well…off. You have been warned.
If you’re thinking of buying one of these, though, I have come up with a solution. To prevent other fast cars from seeming rubbish, you need a palette cleanser. Or more accurately, a palette fouler. Something so hopeless to drive which you can sandwich in between each drive of the Boxster and another performance car. A first-generation Mercedes G-Class perhaps? Or at the cheaper end of the scale, how about a Mitsubishi Mirage? Alternatively if you want multiple people to share your misery, there’s always the Fiat 500L.
This sounds like quite a faff, but make no mistake, the Porsche 718 Boxster GTS is more than worth the effort…