What is it?
You could call this the Porsche Boxster lite. The diet Boxster, if you please. The last time Porsche launched a car powered by an engine this small was 40 years ago; the motor came out of a VW van and went into a thing called a 924. From 2.7 litres of snarling flat six, the Boxster has been downgraded to 2.0 litres of warbling flat four.
Many who have already driven the Boxster S with the 2.5-litre version of this engine have emerged with their admiration for some aspects of this new powerplant under close control. What chance, then, for what is essentially the same car but with the one unquestioned asset of the S engine – its towering punch - removed?
Before we assess that, a quick look at the essential differences between the new 718 Boxster and its S derivative. The S has 50 additional horsepower, thanks not only to that larger engine but also a variable-geometry turbine, although you won’t need to be a maths professor to work out that it is actually the standard car that enjoys the higher specific output.
The S also comes with the same diameter brakes, but slightly thicker front discs, but as the Boxster already has the same braking system as the old Boxster S, it is unlikely to prove deficient in this regard. Boxster Ss come with 19in rims which are optional on the Boxster and have two rear exhaust pipes instead of one, unless you opt for a sports exhaust on your Boxster. And that’s about it, apart, of course, from the £8950 you’ll save if you are able to resist ticking the S box on the configurator.
What's it like?
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.