In fact, such a unit is in keeping with the German firm’s heritage, being used to power its first production car, the mid-engined 356 sports car.
In 1960, after more than 10 years in production, Porsche launched a revised 356, powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine.
The less powerful of the two derivatives, the Super 75, was the subject of an Autocar road test, which said: “Any 1600cc coupé which can accelerate from a standstill to 90mph in appreciably under 30 seconds must be considered a sports car, yet in many respects this Porsche has a Jekyll and Hyde character, being almost ideal day-to-day transport for two, in or out of town.”
During the testing, we found that the engine, which developed 75bhp and 88lb ft, offered strong performance, particularly when accelerating in third gear from 60-80mph, when the Super 75 “takes only two seconds longer than between 30 and 50mph, the figures being 8.9 and 6.9sec respectively”.
The 356 set the precedent that Porsche products would be not only capable sports cars but also usable everyday tools.
“The Super 75 is completely docile, has light and precise controls and is endowed with most of the creature comforts demanded of a strictly touring car,” we said.
“A traditional virtue of the Porsche is its easy running at high cruising speeds, brought about by a combination of high overall gearing and the quietness with which the streamlined body cleaves through the air. The Super 75 can maintain a constant 100mph with remarkably little commotion.
“The combination of the 1.6-litre engine and a kerb weight of just over a tonne meant we returned average economy of 29.2mpg over 1114 miles."
Today, Porsche claims its new 2.0-litre turbo engine in the 718 Boxster returns a combined 38.2mpg.
Performance has improved by leaps and bounds, as shown by the comparative acceleration times of 5.1sec to 62mph (718 Boxster) versus 11.4sec to 60mph (Super 75).
Our testers added that Porsche had developed such a good handling set-up that the car would need no modifications to successfully compete in rallies.
They also discovered that “when travelling fast, the ride is soft by sports car standards. Whatever the terrain, there is a wonderful sense of unity about the car’s whole structure, with no apparent flexing or rattling.“
For really fast cornering, the absence of roll and almost uncanny individual wheel adhesion displayed by the new car combine to make it outstandingly fast and safe on winding roads.”
The road test’s conclusion was that the 356 “has an almost animated personality and is a car with which one could never become bored”.
In 1960, a 356 Super 75 cost a little over £2215, although another £32 was needed for the radio.
At the time, the average price of a house in the UK was £2530. In today’s money, the Porsche would cost around £46,000.
As it did with the 356, Porsche continues to give us cars that are full of character and seem to have their own special personalities. Perhaps the reintroduction of a flat four isn’t such a bad thing after all.