Currently reading: Porsche's four-cylinder roots, 15 April 1960 - Throwback Thursday
Porsche purists have raised their eyebrows at the Boxster's new engine, but a four-pot powerplant originally appeared in the firm's first production car

There have been many rumblings in recent weeks from purists appalled that Porsche has installed a four-cylinder engine in the new 718 Boxster.

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.”


Read our review

Car review

Does Porsche's decision to introduce turbochargers across the 911 range damage its heritage? Or is the foundations of a new era for the supercar you can use everyday?

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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.

Matthew Griffiths

Previous Throwback Thursdays

16 January 1985 - The launch of the Sinclair C5 

15 March 1986 - Renault builds a Porsche rival

2 April 1986 - Figuring the MG Metro 6R4 rally car

26 April 1986 - Rover's sleek CCV concept

18 October 1989 - VW's vision of a 21st century Golf

10 March 1979 - A Rover SD1 with a difference

4 September 1996 - The original Porsche Boxster driven

5 April 1986 - Audi Quattro vs Porsche 944 Turbo

16 May 1987 - Ford Escort XR3i Cabriolet

17 October 1981 - The £12,000 baby Aston Martin

Individual copies of Autocar with free next-day delivery can now be bought through Magsdirect.

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david RS 28 April 2016

All aguments are good to sell

All aguments are good to sell a Porsche at £50000-60000 with a soulless engine.


I think many people have no ears...
You can't resist to the charm of good multicylindres engine (6, even 5 cylindres, and more).
It's not a question of power or mpg.

The come back to a 4 pots induces a big lack...

eseaton 28 April 2016

Totally ridiculous. Ferrari

Totally ridiculous. Ferrari made 4 cylinder racing cars. Rolls and Bentley have both made 4s. Really not the point of the criticism though is it? And it doesn't stop this being mutton, however efficient, dressed as lamb.
voyager12 28 April 2016

Progress is also...

drive in the newest 718 2.0 as fast as in the iconic 993 RS with 3.8 liter flat-six of two decades ago, and pay less for gasoline as well as purchasing the cars.