Sporty German soft-tops: BMW M240i vs. Porsche Boxster GTS
Life’s good when a spell of pleasant northern Michigan fall weather coincides with road tests of two special German sporty convertibles.
With the fall colors starting to show, a 2018 BMW M240i convertible was the ideal companion. That pairing was followed closely by a spell in a 2018 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS.
Driving to Empire to watch the small town’s recently revived and highly entertaining hill climb competition, the Porsche showed off its performance and handling qualities, not to mention its curb appeal.
Sadly, the stock Boxster GTS test car lacked the requisite roll bar and safety equipment to compete in the Empire Hill Climb. I suspect its responsive 365-horsepower turbo-four rear-drive powertrain would have recorded a swift time up the short course. As it turned out, the fastest entrant was a full-blown TLX-GT race car brought by Acura.
Meanwhile, I was content to exercise the Boxster on the sinuous charms of Michigan 22, the scenic road that snakes its way along the northwest coast of Michigan. With its fast shifting seven-speed transmission, the GTS delivers the sort of explosive acceleration to make short work of overtaking tourist traffic.
At $91,000 (as equipped — with $9,000 of options), my test Boxster seemed pricey even by Porsche standards, and there were questionable elements, the most problematic being the harsh and discordant engine sounds. The previous generation Boxster had that signature Porsche high-pitched rasp from its naturally aspirated flat-six motor. The latest version switches to a forced induction 2.5-liter four; it’s more powerful, but generates odd, wheezing sounds from the turbocharger, and crude pops and bangs when you lift off the throttle. Given the lofty price, there are some creature comfort niggles, too, such as the basic climate-control system.
With those caveats, the Boxster remains a compelling companion. It is finely crafted and provides the solid chassis feel, flat cornering sensation and superb steering feedback that have become Porsche specialties.
That said, the BMW M240i convertible gives the Porsche a good run for its money. For a start, it is much less expensive, at $56,345 as equipped (base price, $50,050). The diminutive 2 Series body design looks best as a convertible, losing the awkwardly truncated proportions of the fixed roof version. And despite the open-top chassis naturally having less body rigidity, the M240i convertible manages to keep the fine handling qualities of the coupe version. Compared to the Boxster, the M240i is down on power, but not by much — 335 horses versus 365 — and its free-revving, straight-six, 3.0-liter engine delivers a more satisfying aural accompaniment.
The BMW’s cabin is comfortable for front-seat occupants and the controls are simple, but overall the dashboard appearance is dated and standard equipment is limited. In terms of practicality, the BMW does offer a back seat, whereas the Porsche has none, but the rear compartment of the M240i is virtually useless for anyone much over the age of 5. The space is useful for cargo, however, which is good as the trunk shrinks noticeably when the power top is folded.
Speaking of trunks, the Porsche has two: one at the front and one behind the mid-mounted engine. Combined, the boots provide a surprising amount of cargo room.
The number of convertible models on the market is shrinking fast, so it’s good to enjoy them while they last. And for touring Michigan’s spectacular fall colors, this brace of German soft-tops are hard to beat.
John McCormick is a columnist for Autos Consumer and can be reached at email@example.com