It’s hard to understate the importance of the Boxster, not just to Porsche but also to the way it and its peers have shaped the sports car market.

In the mid-1990s, if you wanted a semi-affordable sports car with a beefy engine, you’d have probably had to buy a TVR. Then, all at once, the BMW Z3, Mercedes-Benz SLK and Porsche Boxster turned up.

Instantly, the Boxster was the most serious sports car of the three. The BMW and Mercedes were boulevardiers by comparison.

Then the Audi TT arrived, immature and underpowered. Thousands of people no longer needed to buy plastic-bodied British sports cars to get their open-topped, many-cylindered fix.

And what a fix. With the Boxster began Porsche’s rediscovering of what mid-engined positioning could do for a car’s handling – a gradual development, discovery and reappraising of customer expectations that has culminated in the Cayman GT4 being better to drive, in many people’s minds, than all but the most extreme – or including the most extreme – 911s.

That all began in 1996 with the 986-generation Boxster, which arrived in 2.5-litre form and stayed that way until 2000. Then it was upgraded to 2.7 litres and accompanied by a 3.2-litre S model.

As engines got bigger, power outputs rose. The 987-generation car arrived in 2005 and the 981 in 2012, and each time you could have greater swept capacity and more power – up to 3.8 litres and 370bhp in the case of the most recent Boxster Spyder.

It’s the capacity we’re focusing on, because now there’s less. Much less. The new 718 Boxster arrives displacing barely more than half the 3.8 litres of that Spyder.

Whereas once you had six cylinders of naturally aspirated, pure Porsche sound in the Boxster’s middle, now there is a 2.0-litre turbo flat four.

It would have been unthinkable in 1996. But what do we think of it today? And does it dilute the very essence of the roadster’s appeal?

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Sports cars

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Porsche range

Driven this week

  • Jaguar E-Pace 2018 review hero front
    Car review
    20 April 2018
    Can Jaguar’s compact SUV bring flair and dynamic polish to a fast-growing class?
  • Audi TT RS Coupé
    First Drive
    20 April 2018
    The Audi TT RS has the looks, a vociferous engine and the supercar-baiting performance, but is it too uncompromising to use as a daily driver?
  • Lamborghini Urus review 2018 hero front
    First Drive
    19 April 2018
    The supercar maker's new 4x4 is massively capable wherever it goes, while being extremely conspicuous and costly while it does it
  • Skoda Kodiaq
    First Drive
    19 April 2018
    High-spec seven-seater Kodiaq begins its family life with a lot to prove — for Skoda and SUVs
  • Ford Focus RS Race Red Edition front
    First Drive
    18 April 2018
    Ford drafts in some tasty extras for this limited-run Focus RS swansong edition