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Ahead of its official launch, we get an early ride and technical overview of the Porsche 718 Boxster S. Can a turbo flat four really replace a howling flat six?

What is it?

To call the new 718 Boxster and 718 Boxster S a facelift is selling it more than a little short. Although it may only appear to be wearing a slightly sharper suit, there’s a revolution underneath its engine cover.

Read our review of the Porsche 718 Boxster

Like the most recent changes to the evergreen 911, the Boxster now comes with a downsized (or rightsized if you listen to Porsche) turbocharged engine. Not only is it a smaller capacity, it’s also down two cylinders compared with the previous generation.

Read our review of the Porsche 718 Boxster S here

Both the Boxster and Boxster S have a horizontally opposed four pot, the former coming in at 2.0-litres with the latter a meatier 2.5. Both share the same stroke with the size increase coming from a bigger bore to the cylinders.

If that wasn’t enough, the S variant also gains a bigger turbocharger with variable vane technology as seen in the full-fat 911 Turbo. This means that the 2.0-litre has an output of 296bhp with the 2.5 upping this to 345bhp. As you’d expect, emissions and economy are also improved.

Despite the forced induction, both engines can rev round to 7500rpm although peak power is achieved 1000rpm lower. The real story is with the massive increase in torque that comes with turbocharging. Not only is there more twist, it also arrives much lower in the rev range.

To help cope with the increased forces, the gearboxes have been beefed up and ratios adjusted for the PDK. The suspension has also been tweaked with new dampers, revised spring rates and increased bracing to improve response.

Add in a revised interior with the latest Porsche Communication Management infotainment system, smoother acting stability control and more powerful brakes, and you can see how much work the German carmaker has done.

What's it like?

The big question that all purists will be asking is whether the engine change has ruined the character of the Boxster. One of the most appealing things about the old car was the howl from its naturally aspirated flat six.

Thankfully Porsche hasn’t tried to replicate the noise with stereo-based augmentation; instead, it's let the flat four make its own distinct noise. At idle, it has a slightly clattery edge that all horizontally opposed Porsche engines seem to make. Poke it a little and the sound changes.

You can still easily tell there’s a boxer underneath the engine cover, but there’s more of a thrum to it than before. If I’m honest, there’s a hint of Subaru Impreza overlaid with a discreet turbo whistle.

Is it as nice to listen to as the old flat six? No, sadly not. Is it an unpleasant thing to hear? Not at all. It may take some getting used to, but it’s characterful, distinctive and has just enough popping and crackling on the overrun to make you smile. Ultimately, I rather like it.

More to the point, the performance feels like it’s stepped up a notch. Even the basic 718 Boxster is quicker than the old S, while the new top rung model can hit 62mph in just 4.2sec with the dual-clutch gearbox. It also feels properly muscular with a little over 2000rpm on the tacho, something you couldn’t even say of the Boxster Spyder.

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Impressions of the new Boxster's ride handling will have to wait, however. Although the cars looked production ready, the journalists weren’t allowed to wrap our hands around the newly restyled steering wheel, and our brief experience was limited to a silky-smooth track. 

Should I buy one?

No matter how much those who want Porsches to stay naturally aspirated whine and stamp their feet, you can’t stop progress. Yes, it’s a shame the 718 Boxster doesn’t sound quite as good as before, but that doesn’t make it a worse car.

Despite being more fuel efficient and cheaper to tax than before, it’s capable of speeds that would have been the preserve of fast 911s just a few years ago. Although we’ll need to get behind the wheel of one in the UK to say if you should go out and buy one, the early signs are certainly very encouraging.

Porsche 718 Boxster S

Location France; On sale Now; Price £50,695; Engine 4 cyls horizontally opposed, 2497cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 345hp at 6500rpm; Torque 310Ib ft at 1900-4500rpm; Kerb weight 1385kg; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; 0-62mph 4.2s; Top speed 177mph; Economy 38.7mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 167g/km, 28%

Join the debate

Add a comment…
david RS 25 February 2016

Bad, Porsche.

Bad, Porsche.
Daniel Joseph 25 February 2016

Voted with my debit card...

Sold my 987 generation Boxster...F Type convertible arrives Monday.
Cobnapint 25 February 2016

Stars removed until proper forthcoming review

Fair play to you Autocar.