2020 Porsche 718 Boxster T First Drive Review

The 2020 Porsche 718 Boxster T and its Cayman T sibling are unlikely to satisfy those still hoping for a return to six-cylinder power for Porsche's entry-level sports cars. They still have a turbocharged four, and the smaller one at that. Yet, while we have a strong suspicion that a boxer-six return will eventually come, Porsche is at least doing plenty to make the four-cylinder 718's more attractive. First was the 718 GTS, based on the 2.5-liter four of the 718 S, and now come the 718 Boxster T and 718 Cayman T, based on the entry-level 718 with its 2.0-liter four. Unlike the GTS, the T gets no extra power, but it's still a real performance version. Let us explain.

That's because it comes with all available performance goodies that are otherwise only available at extra cost. This includes 20-inch alloys, the PTV mechanical rear differential and torque vectoring system, the PASM electronic damper control and the Sport Chrono Package, whose most important ingredient are the magnetorheological active powertrain mounts that stiffen the car considerably. Sport Chrono also includes a Sport Plus setting, which is especially effective when the PDK dual-clutch automatic is chosen.

All of the options included in the 718 T — either Cayman or Boxster — would together cost more than the $9,500 premium that Porsche will be asking. But there's more: The 718 T gets exclusive stickers on the flanks, retro-style fabric strap door pulls, and in Europe, the purists can delete the PCM infotainment system to save weight.

So if you were going to spec your 718 for dynamics anyway, it makes sense to go for the 718 T straight away, particularly since it also has the right ingredients to become a collector's item down the road.

As mentioned above, the 300-horsepower 2.0-liter flat-four doesn't have any extra power over the base model, but it is a fantastic powerplant that moves the 718 with real authority. The sprint from 0 to 60 mph takes 4.9 seconds with the slick-shifting manual, 4.7 seconds with the seven-speed PDK and just 4.5 seconds with the PDK in Sport Plus mode. That's not earth-scorchingly fast, but it moves through gears rapidly, and in many ways, it provides more joy than those 600-horsepower supercars that'll have you in jail by the time you are shifting from second to third. (Which actually can happen in the 718 as well). Top speed is a nice and even 170 mph.

The engine has a character of its own, with a characteristic throb at idle and low rpm, and a reasonably sporty soundtrack when you rev it up to its lofty 7,500-rpm redline. This single-turbo engine operates with very little lag; the whistle of the turbocharger is clearly and pleasantly audible. Maximum torque is 280 pound-feet, available on a plateau from 1,950 to 4,500 rpm. And by the way, it will sound better in the U.S. than the European-market version that we drove in the mountain roads of Andalusia, Spain, because it won't have the gasoline particulate filter that Porsche is forced to stick into the exhaust system in Europe. No particulate filter also means lower consumption. Combined fuel economy should be 24 mpg for the manual and 25 mpg for the PDK version.

With a very solid take rate for the manual transmission, said to be around 50 percent, Porsche continues to give its customers a choice between the six-speed manual and the seven-speed dual-clutch PDK. The manual comes with a rev-matching function, but unfortunately, it can't be switched off — a shame, because for me, it distracted from what a slick, joyful thing the manual is. The PDK, of course, is a nearly perfect automatic that adds a full 66 pounds to the curb weight but still manages to shave off acceleration time thanks to its seamless shifts. It can be manipulated with shift paddles on the steering wheel or with a shifter in the center console that operates as God intended: pull to upshift, push to downshift.

Pushing the 718 T on fast country roads is an absolute joy. The suspension, with its adjustable damping, offers a truly perfect compromise of comfort and sporty handling, with limits of adhesion that are sky-high. For a mid-engine car, it is remarkably easy to control at the limit, the electric power steering is nicely weighted, and even severely bumpy roads fail to upset this car's chassis. No one has more experience tuning sports cars than Porsche, and the Boxster T is so easily maneuverable that you virtually have to drive it off the road on purpose.

The decision between the 2020 Porsche 718 Cayman T with its closed roof and the 718 Boxster T with its electrically powered fabric top won't be guided by driving dynamics: Both models weigh exactly the same. The open-top version, however, is more expensive, in an interesting reversal of Porsche's initial Boxster/Cayman pricing strategy. When they come to market in the United States in early 2020, still for the 2020 model year, the 718 Cayman T will cost $66,400, and the 718 Boxster T $68,500.