One should always be very careful when leaping to conclusions, and never more so than when assessing Porsches. More than with any other brand I can think of, it is the modestly specified cars that so often turn out to be preferable.
And so it is again. Any slightly patronising thoughts you may harbour about the diminutive nature of this engine explode at the first prod of the throttle pedal. Small the engine may be, but turbocharged it is too, to provide not only 296bhp but also a fat 280lb ft wad of torque at less than 1950rpm. That’s more torque at less than half the revs – not compared with the previous Boxster but with the previous Boxster S. So despite having gained a few kilos, this new base Boxster accelerates just as fast on 2.0 litres and four cylinders as did the previous Boxster S on 3.4 litres and six cylinders. Add a PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission and it’s actually quicker.
But that’s not the nub of the matter. Far more important than raw data or even raw power in a car like this is the way it is delivered, and here the news is both bad and good. If the eternally optimistically minded among you were hoping Porsche had somehow managed to turn its base-spec engine into something as sharp, sonorous and rev-happy as the old flat six, when it had been unable to do so with the S, you will prtobably be disappointed. This is a turbocharged flat four, and that is precisely how it sounds from idle to limiter.
But it is a sweeter engine than that in the Boxster S. Its voice is less gruff, its power delivery smoother. It seems no less eager to head for the red, and if you play about at low or medium engine speeds on part throttle, it will emit a purposeful and decidedly pleasant burble. No, it won’t silence its detractors and, yes, of course I wish it still had a flat six, but I’d say this engine at least makes up in manners what it loses in power over the S motor.
Happily, the engine also has enough torque for its follow-on benefits to remain intact. It can be used to bring the chassis alive at the flex of a foot rather than first requiring a couple of downchanges, and it still doesn’t feel as overgeared as all previous-generation Boxsters save the Spyder. This remains a fabulous car to drive, offering a riot of entertainment on the right road.
And say what you like about the engine, but it has had the effect of elevating the Boxster into an altogether more senior category of performance. If anyone used to consider the cheapest Boxster the poor relation you’d only buy because you couldn’t afford a proper Boxster, that, emphatically, is no longer the case.