In 1957, Porsche released the 718 RSK, a lithe little roadster that was primarily used for racing. Built with a spaceframe chassis, the two-seater weighed a paltry 570 kg and was powered by a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre 4-cylinder boxer engine that developed 142 horsepower. Yet despite its seemingly meagre specifications, the Porsche was a very serious challenger in some of the toughest races of the day.
A year after its debut, an RSK piloted by Jean Behra and Hans Hermann finished third overall and first in class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A year after that, Porsche captured the infamous Targa Florio with a 718 RSK shared by Edgar Barth and Wolfgang Seidel. Then, in 1960, a variation of the RSK with a slightly larger engine called the 718 RS 60, took victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring and at Targa Florio again.
Long story short, there’s history in the name “718 RSK”—and that history has been brought back to life in the form of the 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster S. Like the RSK, the latest roadster from Porsche (now) features a 4-cylinder boxer engine; in this case, though, it’s a turbocharged 2.5-litre that punches out 350 horsepower. Despite having two fewer cylinders than the outgoing Boxster S, the new model boasts more horsepower, more torque, better acceleration, and better fuel efficiency.
In terms of straight-line performance, the top version of the 718 Boxster S, fitted with the optional Sport Chrono Package and the 7-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission, completes the sprint from 0–100 km/h in 4.2 seconds. This represents a gain of three-tenths over last year’s Boxster S and its naturally aspirated 3.4-litre 6-cylinder. Impressive.
Aside from the move to a smaller engine, the latest Boxster S spotlights a number of other changes, many aimed at improving the handling, balance and real-world response, which were already strengths of this mid-engine roadster.
The Boxster uses the steering rack from the current Porsche 911; it’s more direct than ever. The rear tires on both the standard 19- and optional 20-inch packages are 0.5 inches wider than the front tires; this helps the 718 carve corners. For the first time ever, the Boxster S is available with the Porsche sport suspension system and its 20-mm lower ride height; a lower centre of gravity is, thus, ensured. And the brake calipers have been plucked out of the 911-parts bin to generate increased stopping force.
In advance of the Porsche 718 Boxster S seeing the light of day, hardcore purists were concerned that this would not be an authentic Porsche. They worried openly about the new engine, its performance, and its sound. This is a different car, to be sure, compared its immediate predecessor. It has a different tone, different qualities, and a different feel. But in this case, different is better.