First Drive

Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 PDK 2020 UK review

Porsche’s dual-clutcher is one of the best in the business, so there were no worries that dropping it into the GTS 4.0 could end in catastrophe. But does it fundamentally affect the character of a car that’s one of the best for driver thrills and interaction?

Amble along and it’s not hard to fathom why so many customers choose not to get involved with cog swapping themselves. With the gearlever slotted into D, the Boxster pulls away smoothly with none of the occasional dim-witted dithering that can afflict many dual-clutch gearboxes, while on the move, the changes are delivered with crisp and quick efficiency. 

Get up to motorway speed and seventh offers a relaxed cruising gait. The engine’s ample mid-range muscle means you can quickly pick up the pace when baulked without the gearbox dropping down a ratio or two. Roof up or down, it’s a genuinely relaxing cruiser, especially with the dampers in their Comfort setting rounding off any sharp edges in the surface. Only the booming tyre roar on coarse surfaces disrupts the sense of calm.

So it’s easier to live with, but that’s to be expected. What about when you want to run hard and raise a smile or two? Select Sport on the Driver Mode controller that nestles on the Alcantara-trimmed wheel and you immediately sense the extra incisiveness to the throttle pedal. 

Then you notice that the transmission holds on to gears longer and upshifts are delivered with whip-crack speed and total smoothness. It creates genuinely startling performance, as the howling and yelping flat six’s muscular efforts are delivered in one long surge of relentless acceleration. This is a properly quick car in a straight line.

Brake hard for a corner (the all-disc set-up is powerful, progressive and controlled by a pedal with just the right amount of firmness) and the gearbox responds, shuffling quickly down the box to nail just the right gear for a slingshot exit. Of course, you can, and should, use the paddles to select gears yourself, just to add an extra dimension to the human-machine interface. 

On roads you don’t know well, the PDK allows you to cover ground at an astounding rate. The ability to keep both hands on the wheel and rattle down the gearbox with no more effort than an extended digit means you’re very rarely caught napping in the wrong ratio if a corner is tighter or an uphill exit steeper than you thought. 

Not that the engine can’t cope with being a gear or two higher. The deep reserves of big-displacement naturally aspirated torque can fire you down the road as if attached to the horizon by a giant elastic band. It has been said before, but this engine is a corker, from its beautifully proportional throttle response through to its yelping and howling soundtrack that takes on a gloriously hard-edge timbre as the revs race past 4000rpm and on to the heady 7700rpm cut-out.

Equally spectacular is the chassis. It doesn’t matter what gearbox you specify with the GTS: you’ll be dancing down the road in one of the most beautifully balanced and involving sports cars there is. The steering’s rate of response, weighting and feel are spot-on, allowing you progressively load the suspension as you turn, then feel the car pivoting deliciously around your hips before using the engine’s torque, the perfect throttle response and the limited-slip differential to subtly straighten your line on the exit. The body control is other-worldly too, particularly in Sport, where the dampers simply shrug off the gnarliest of the Oxfordshire roads on our test route. Only over the most viciously sharp imperfections does the Boxster’s bodyshell show any hint of scuttle shake, and even then, it’s nothing more than the merest shimmying of the rear-view mirror.

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