Die-hard Porschephiles may still crib about the engine's exhaust note, but in every other respect the new Porsche Boxster GTS is one of the highlights of the year.
In the Metal:
You could argue that the Porsche 718 Boxster is not one of the most exciting sports cars at which to look. You could equally argue that the exterior styling additions for this GTS model have changed that styling barely at all. And you'd have a point. To become a GTS, the Boxster gets a deeper, more complex-looking front air intake and bumper, black-surround headlights (with that distinctive four-point daytime running light signature so reminiscent of the Le Mans-winning 919 Hybrid), 20-inch black-satin finish alloy wheels, GTS logos on the sides, black 718 Boxster GTS badges on the boot and black-finished central exhaust outlets. It's all pretty subtle, and a casual passer-by will think it nothing more than a standard Boxster. Then again, there's something appealingly low-key about that.
Ditto the cabin. You do get really comfortable, supportive Alcantara-swathed seats, and the same fake suede material on the (perfectly-shaped, perfectly round, steering wheel), plus some GTS logos variously embossed and adhered to some of the cabin surfaces. There's the excellent Porsche Connect touchscreen, the usual array of small, slightly fiddly (but satisfyingly tactile) buttons on the sloped centre console and the option of a body-colour finish for the centrally-mounted tachometer. Nothing that couldn't be achieved with a standard 2.0-litre Boxster and the options list, but still very pleasant. The fundamentals of this cabin are just so right. Great seats, great driving position, simple instrumentation and quality that puts most other brands well and truly into the shade.
On the mechanical front, the GTS has, again, had more tweaks than updates. Power from the 2.5-litre flat-four swells by 15hp to 365hp, thanks to a revised air intake and an upgraded turbo. Torque is also up, to 420Nm (PDK automatics get 430Nm). The suspension is 10mm lower than that of a Boxster S (and can be optionally lowered by another 10mm) and comes with Porsche's PASM adaptive damping system as standard. Also standard is the Sport Chrono pack, which includes a gorgeous analogue stopwatch on the dashboard, and the all-important sports exhaust. There's also Porsche Torque Vectoring, which aids the mechanical limited slip differential when it comes to parcelling out power. There are also active gearbox mounts, and while PCCB ceramic-composite brakes are available as an option, our test car had the standard (and hardly weakling) cast-iron 330mm discs.
On the tech front, the Porsche Track App is standard, which has built-in maps and details of 130 racetracks worldwide, and which can send telemetry and timing data to your smartphone. In fact, if you have an Apple Watch, the app will even give a vibration when you set a better lap time...
The Porsche Boxster was already one of the best cars, of any class and at any price, to drive and the GTS additions have just made it better still. The 365hp output may not sound like a lot in comparison to the horsepower war outputs of some other cars, but in a Boxster that weighs just 1,375kg it's more than sufficient. Much has been written about the noise (or lack thereof) of the flat-four turbo engine, and it's true that it cannot manage the melodies of the old flat-six. It retains the same half-Beetle, half-Impreza Turbo wobbly throb of the standard and S models, and the sports exhaust just makes it louder, rather than more tuneful. It sounds basically the same at any rpm, with the only difference being in the volume, but it's hardly a bland sound, and the constant pops and crackles of the exhaust on the overrun are enjoyable, if a little puerile.
Sound quality is subjective. Raw performance is not, and in this arena, the Boxster GTS is just exceptional. It flies, there's no other way to put it, and it doesn't, for the most part, feel like a turbocharged engine. Lag is minimal, if at all detectable, and such is the prodigious torque that you actually rarely need to extend beyond 4,000rpm to dial up some serious performance. Certainly, on the public road, having any more power than this would be an utter waste - you just don't need to go any faster than the Boxster GTS can manage. Who needs more than a 4.6-second 0-100km/h run, and a top speed of 290km/h?
What's great is that you don't have to even go that quickly. We drove the GTS in both torrential rain and dry/damp conditions and what really shines is the steering. Electrically assisted it may be, but feel and feedback are terrific, as good as any assisted system gets these days. Within a few hundred metres of driving, the Boxster GTS and you will feel entirely as one. There's no slack in the steering, but equally it never feels nervous or over-geared, and the traction available, even in the wet, takes some beating. When grunt finally does overwhelm grip, the slide arrives predictably and with plenty of time to gather it all up (with a little help from the Sports mode of the Porsche Stability Management [PSM] system).
Sports mode is actually a little redundant, really. To be honest, the gap between it and standard mode, on the road, is really just how loudly the exhaust rumbles. The adaptive dampers are seemingly as pliant and as good at keeping the Boxster's body under control in either mode, while on give-and-take surfaces the GTS demonstrates excellent control and precision.
Most of all, though, it's fun. The communication from the chassis, the tactility of the steering, the cheerful burps and farts from the exhaust and the ability to drop the roof (at speeds of up to 50km/h) and commune more closely with nature just amplifies that fun-loving nature.
What you get for your Money:
Ah. This is where the Porsche Boxster GTS's case starts to fall apart, just a little. Its headline price represents something of a bargain, if one remembers what a basic Boxster used to cost (i.e. more), so getting all that power, those chassis upgrades and the mild styling updates seems like pretty excellent value for money. And it is. The kicker is the running costs. The Boxster GTS comes with high emissions, meaning you'll pay €1,250 a year to tax it, and while official economy of 34mpg is none too shabby, the fact is that the 300hp 2.0-litre standard model has it murdered in both respects, and is hardly a slouch when it comes to straight-line performance itself. If you love Porsches, and appreciate the resonance of the GTS name, then you won't mind paying the extra, we suppose...
If we're being brutally honest, you don't need the GTS. The basic 2.0-litre Porsche Boxster does the whole speed-and-tactility thing almost as well, for a smaller price and lesser running costs. However, the GTS is just so good, so sharp, so fast and so good at reminding you why a small, two-seat convertible car is actually the thing we should all be driving, that we kinda-sorta-definitely-maybe want one.