RE: BMW Z4 M40i vs. Porsche Boxster GTS

RE: BMW Z4 M40i vs. Porsche Boxster GTS

Friday 19th April

BMW Z4 M40i vs. Porsche Boxster GTS

Z4 versus Boxster has only been going one way for the past 15 years - what's the verdict now?



You know how this goes - right? Ever since the Z4’s introduction in 2003 - heck, since the Z3 first arrived in the mid-90s - the Porsche Boxster comparisons have been predictable almost to the point of wearisome. Whatever the BMW could offer in terms of silky straight-six performance and front-engined, rear-drive balance, the Porsche could counter; it being just as fast, more engaging to drive and with even greater brand cachet. It’s easy to see how the verdicts fell in the Boxster’s favour.

Things look a little different now, though. This third generation Z4 is better placed than any other, surely, to surpass the Porsche Boxster. After all, this 718 generation can trace a lot of its important bits back to the old 981, first launched in 2012, and there’s the still-much-maligned introduction of four cylinders to contend with. It’s not a new thing, basically. And who wants yesterday’s sports car?

Particularly when it’s this expensive. At list price a Z4 M40i (£48,535) and Boxster S (£53,714) aren’t too far apart. Only Porsche didn’t have an S available, just a GTS. Which is £62,418. And theirs has some options added to it. More options than are fitted to the BMW. So the Z4 is £51,985, while the Boxster is £74,419. Uh oh.


Moreover, against the familiar old Porsche the BMW is so of the moment that you wouldn’t be surprised if the ConnectedDrive cameras were livestreaming your commute to Instagram. The CLAR (Cluster Architecture) platform is new, the interior and infotainment are new, the design is new and, perhaps most importantly, the focus is new. The Supra/Z4 collaboration has achieved notoriety like no other joint sports car project, and promises much. Combine that with the M2-besting Nordschleife lap, the aluminium suspension bits to reduce unsprung mass and wide tracks and it’s easy to see how now could be the Z4’s moment.

That’s to discover later. First off, however, it makes sense to establish just what kind of defence the £74k Boxster can present, with the odds seemingly stacked against it in a way that seldom happens with Porsches. And even before the Z4’s Misano Blue paint and slightly-more-successful-in-the-metal styling arrives, the Boxster has a couple of problems. The interior might best have been described as sturdy and functional a little while ago; in light of cars like the 992, Panamera and Cayenne, it’s as plain as buttered bread. It does what it needs to do, and is unlikely to cause offence, but neither is it inspirational or especially memorable. When style and image are so important in roadsters, that’s a key point. The Boxster just feels a little samey, to look at and to be in, which could make it difficult to get excited about.

But if familiarity breeds something like contempt for the Boxster’s look, interior and image, then driving it is as satisfying as drinking with an old friend in your favourite pub. Nothing is revolutionary or ground breaking, but you’d happily spend hours and hours doing it. And loving it. The Boxster’s genius, of course, is in being mid-engined - and delivering all the poise, deftness and ability you’d expect as a result - with a forgiving, benign, docile edge that’s not typically a strong point for cars configured this way. It means any corner or any change of direction, from roundabouts to hairpins to long sweepers, is a joy.


In Wales the Boxster is as stellar as it’s ever been. There’s the utmost confidence in it, not simply because of the chassis’ innate ability, but because there’s such cohesion to everything the driver has to interact with. There’s no second guessing any input, just immediate faith in steering, throttle response, traction, grip and body control. You push, the car gives back, to any level required. And it’s fabulous. In contemporary Porsche fashion there’s a level of configurability in the PASM dampers, throttle response, assist systems and PDK gearbox, yet regardless of the setting the Boxster reeks of dynamic class. And sunshine in a mid-engined Porsche sports car is still to be enjoyed. Yes - even with that drab noise. Give it 20 minutes and the stoic interior is about as important as the pub décor being dated - it’s just not what you’re there for.

Swap straight from the Boxster to the Z4 and the latter initially feels a little awkward. To say the least. Where everything in the Porsche feels in perfect harmony, the BMW is disjointed. Though there’s clearly prodigious grip from the front of the car - as you’d hope from a 255-section Pilot Super Sport - the steering’s abruptness, numbness and - since this is a BMW - stupidly chubby wheel make it difficult to judge and approach. The brakes are similar - prodigiously powerful, but hard to modulate thanks to a snatchy and awkwardly sited pedal. Where the Porsche driving experience is polished to the point of unerring accuracy, the BMW’s feels a little haphazard at first contact.

That said, there’s clearly some considerable talent here. Those new underpinnings have given the Z4 an admirable level of rigidity, shrugging off imperfections in the road and not letting its composure be ruffled. That certainly wasn’t the case in the previous car. Combine the structural integrity with damping that actually does what it’s meant to do - not always guaranteed with quick BMs - and the pace that can be carried down a road is remarkable. Once your faith builds to the level where you’re convinced the car will do as you ask, that is. The mushy interfaces would be frustrating in isolation; compared with a car as honed as the 718 they’re thrown into even starker light.


There are unequivocal points of praise, however. This new 3.0-litre, turbocharged straight-six is really very good, punchy at low revs yet really energetic at high revs as well, matched to a very smartly calibrated automatic gearbox. Short ratios make it feel even quicker than the stats would suggest, and you don’t need us to tell you which engine is the more pleasant to listen to. The interior is both modern and usable. It’s probably more refined than the Boxster on the motorway. This is better sorted driver’s car than an M Performance 1 Series, and miles ahead of a TT.

The Porsche is still better, though. We wanted an upset as much as anyone, but not this time - not with this Z4 and the Boxster in this form. The fatal blow is that for all the stuff the BMW does well - and there’s plenty of it - there’s nothing (save soundtrack) that the Porsche can’t claim to match. The fact that it’s 130kg lighter, too, is an advantage that pays dividends across the board. 

It doesn’t protect it from grievances about the price difference of course, and these are entirely justified given Porsche’s failure to make its 2.5-litre four-pot any more compelling than in its previous guise. But the fact is that much of what makes the Boxster so good is found in a £45k 718 - it’s not exclusive to the flagship model nor its smorgasbord of options. The Porsche rides more plushly on bigger wheels, delivers better traction on narrower tyres, is faster, more exciting and, by the criteria we care about, the better resolved driver’s car.  What that means, therefore, is a new and much improved Z4 earns some semblance of a moral victory for coming this close at less money - but the overall verdict favours the Porsche. Sometimes the old ways really are the best...


SPECIFICATION - BMW Z4 M40i

Engine: 2,998cc, six-cyl turbo
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 340@5,000-6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 369@1,600-4,500rpm
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (electronically limited)
Weight: 1,535kg
MPG: 33.2
CO2: 193g/km
Price: £48,535 (as standard; price as tested £51,985 comprised of BMW Icon Adaptive LED headlights for £900, Technology Package (Parking Assistant, Head-up Display, Loudspeaker system, enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging) for £1,800 and Comfort package (Steering wheel heating, Comfort Access, Wind deflector and Through-loading system) for £750.

SPECIFICATION - PORSCHE 718 BOXSTER GTS
Engine:
2,497cc, flat-4 turbocharged
Transmission: 7-speed PDK automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 365@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 317@1,900-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 4.6sec (4.1sec with Sport+)
Top speed: 180mph
Weight: 1,405kg
MPG: 33.2
CO2: 195g/km
Price: £62,418 (price as standard; price as tested £74,419, comprised of GT Silver Metallic for £581, GTS interior package for £2,096, GTS interior package Carmine Red for £1,242, Headlight cleaning system covers painted for £143, Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) for £2,303, PASM sports suspension (20mm) for £168, LED main headlights including Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus (PDLS Plus) for £1,397, Automatically dimming mirrors with integrated rain sensor for £345, Cruise control for £228, ParkAssist with reversing camera for £1,086, Heated multifunction steering wheel for £329, Two-zone automatic climate control for £539, Seat heating for £294, ISOFIX child seat mounting points on passenger seat for £126, Fire extinguisher for £105, Pedals in aluminium for £185, Bose surround sound system for £834.
























Author
Discussion

Billy_Whizzzz

Original Poster:

1,124 posts

85 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
I’ll go first: manual Boxster please.

Also: disparaging comments in the piece about the Boxster’s interior or not, it’s a million miles better than the Z4’s, and pretty much perfect as it is.

Edited by Billy_Whizzzz on Friday 19th April 08:05

John Laverick

1,677 posts

156 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
It's rare I like the look of any new cars but I really like that Z4!

marksmith59

46 posts

141 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
Would always be the Boxster , but it sticks in the craw that even in the GTS you have to pay extra for such things as cruise and heated seats .
‘The most profitable car company in the World? ‘ yes it not at my expense.

nunpuncher

1,183 posts

67 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
"and who wants yesterday's sports car?"

Me please. £55k will just sneak you into a 996.1 GT3.

GTEYE

1,358 posts

152 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
John Laverick said:
It's rare I like the look of any new cars but I really like that Z4!
I’m not liking it at all. Some strange proportions and the interior looks like it fell out of a 5 Series - they haven’t made much effort there.

Would be the Porsche for me, and it’ll hold its value better which the BMW won’t.
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nunpuncher

1,183 posts

67 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
If you cover the kidney grilles the BMW looks a bit Mercedes like to me.

Robbie1400

25 posts

88 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
After spending over £74k, I wouldn't be happy with 5 blank switches on the central console........ The Boxster would still be my choice though.

Edited by Robbie1400 on Friday 19th April 07:55

Jag_NE

1,667 posts

42 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
The Porsche is almost 50% more expensive as tested!

Jag_NE

1,667 posts

42 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
Robbie1400 said:
After spending over £74k, I wouldn't be happy with 5 blank switches on the central console........ The Boxster would still be my choice though.

Edited by Robbie1400 on Friday 19th April 07:55
My first thought too! I wonder what the blanks could be...

Helicopter123

5,856 posts

98 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
Z4 starting to look a bit Halfords design wise now, and the interior same as a 3 series.

Boxster for me please.

dinkel

24,917 posts

200 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all

I really liked the GTS and recently drive the 718 Boxster T. Hard to beat and very enjoyable.

Colonel D

290 posts

14 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
Never been a Boxster fan but it's far better looking than the Z4.

Johnd52

92 posts

58 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
I am not a fan of the current BMW external styling. The picture from the rear 3/4 looks really messy. The 718 looks neat and functional in comparison. Same goes for the interior as well.

panholio

634 posts

90 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
I have issues with the front end of the z4, but the eye watering price different here can’t be ignored.

Big GT

618 posts

34 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
Z4

However I would never justify paying this amount of money on these cars. Because;

1) 6month ago a friend purchased a tidy 2003 2.5 (sketchy history) for just over £4K. Its lovely, great engine, solid and is a joy to drive.
I know, wow old car cheaper than new car etc etc who da thunk it.
But my point is older Z4's are great value and 2003 2.5 or 3.0 is not that different from a new one. Looks just as good, drives just as good and certainly not 10 time worse.

2) - Boxster. I guess similar point to above. Porsche got these cars near perfect from day 1 so a good 2nd hand one is great value + you get a much more characterful engine.

3) I had the a 968 with a the 4 pot 3ltr so I know they perform. (mine went pop though) But Paying £50-70K for a 4pot engine, sorry no

4) - I believe the boxster is a better car than the 911. But they don't do anything for me. So at this money could you look passed an Alpine, lotus, a nearly new 911, or Aston Martin, F - Type sorry I couldn't.








Brian Fallon

19 posts

13 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
I think the massive price difference here comes from adding expensive options to the Boxter that do nothing for the driving experience. The GTS requires very few options. Frankly, though, I'd take a used GTS with a 3.4 litre naturally aspirated engine over either of these cars.

Flumpo

811 posts

15 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
Jag_NE said:
Robbie1400 said:
After spending over £74k, I wouldn't be happy with 5 blank switches on the central console........ The Boxster would still be my choice though.

Edited by Robbie1400 on Friday 19th April 07:55
My first thought too! I wonder what the blanks could be...
This times one billion. Also if you specced one of those missing buttons and it was the second up from left I think that would drive me mad. One random button in the blanks!

Mac Sinclair

36 posts

33 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
When I was getting my Evora serviced I had a look at the Z4, tragic looking thing in the flesh IMO which is such a shame, nothing refined about the design, then there’s the monster grill.

I’ve done the Boxster thing which was great, but £74k that’s nuts. Especially for a car that sounds like a Dyson. For that money money a nice V8 R8 would be possible, better in every way.

For £70k it would have to be something from the Lotus stable, far more subtle handling on a B road. More satisfying in every way and surprisingly my Evora is way more comfortable than my Boxster S ever was on a 300 mile day out.

While the Z4 and Boxster are obvious competitors, sadly neither really now qualifies as a true PH car, then again maybe they never did. Anyway back to the salon 💇‍♀️

Tim bo

1,367 posts

82 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
Billy_Whizzzz said:
Also: disparaging comments in the piece about the Boxster’s interior or not, it’s a million miles better than the Z4’s, and pretty much perfect as it is.
Yes, I too found the disparaging comments about the 718 interior a little off. After 12 months ownership of a 718CS, I thought from the start through to the end of ownership the interior to be excellent. Modern, ergonomic, intuitive, unobtrusive, superb seating position, great visuals, great tech, great build-quality.

Having had many BMWs over the years I too like their interiors which are of top quality, but I would not rate them over Porsche's.

beanoir

976 posts

137 months

Friday 19th April
quotequote all
The ZF8 would put me off buying any sports car, it’s over before it started for me.