Near perfect Porsche 718 Boxster S is spoiled by losing two cylinders

Porsche 718 Boxster S sounds rather like a VW Beetle when ticking over.

This is the new Porsche 718 Boxster S, complete with a flat-four turbocharged engine.

The 718 bit refers to a racing car Porsche made in the early 1960s which had, like all its road-going cars back then, a four-cylinder motor. But ever since the Boxster was launched in 1996 it has had a six-cylinder engine that sounds absolutely great.

porsche 718 boxster s

So to go back to four after all this time is like suddenly reverting to black and white TV when you’ve had colour for decades.

So why has Porsche chopped a couple of cylinders off? For ­emissions reasons, that’s why. Or more to the point, to pass the totally unrealistic and fairly ­pointless European emissions regulations.

On the 718 S that I’m driving, the engine is a 2.5-litre that produces 350bhp. That’s 34bhp more than the six-cylinder Boxster had and is enough to propel the S to 60mph from zero in 4.4 secs with the manual gearbox.

While not quite in the supercar league, that’s seriously fast. There’s also a 2.0-litre version in the entry-level Boxster with 300bhp.

porsche 718 boxster s 2

Although the Porsche 718 Boxster S looks similar to the previous car, most of the body panels are new. Visually, the rear has new lights and a strip that carries the Porsche name between them along the back of the car. Looks nice.

Inside, there are even fewer changes bar a new infotainment system. There’s the same quality and perfect driving position as always. Our test car contains the usual raft of optional extras that crank the on-road price up to £61,466 – goodies such as leather costing £1,680 and LED headlamps for £1,344. It wasn’t long ago that you could buy a 911 for this money.

Porsche has fiddled with the 718’s chassis, with a slightly stiffer rear axle and electric power steering nicked from the Porsche 911 Turbo. The changes, plus new spec Pirelli tyres, turn the Boxster from being a car that handled beautifully into one that is now virtually perfect.

porsche 718 boxster s 4

The engine has bags of power and torque and shoves the car down the road at a terrific rate.

Once on the move it stops sounding like a Beetle and changes its tune, becoming more like a Subaru Impreza turbo with a wet rag held over the end of its exhaust pipe.

It ruins what should be a perfect sports car. The trouble is, in this world of traffic congestion and speed cameras, a car needs to be more than just fast on paper. It has to sound wonderful and be a pleasure to drive at any speed.

This is why I love the Ford Mustang so much.

porsche 718 boxster s 1

The Mustang couldn’t keep up with this Boxster in a straight line let alone through a corner, but at 20mph down the high street it sounds fabulous, as it does at 30, 40 and 50.

On paper the new Porsche 718 Boxster S is 13% more efficient than the old six-cylinder model, but on the trip computer I didn’t see numbers higher than 27.8mpg – not much different from the consumption you’d get in a six-cylinder Boxster S.

porsche 718 boxster s 3

The 718 Boxster is still the best driving roadster in its class, still more exciting to drive than any of its rivals. But not by such a wide margin as there used to be.

Soon Porsche will launch a Cayman with the same engines – and since that car is my favourite sports car in the world, I’ll be even more upset when I hear its Beetle-like rumble.

But the word is that future special versions of the Boxster and Cayman, like the Spyder and GT4, will still be powered by six-cylinder naturally aspirated engines. They’ll be what my lottery winnings go on.

Porsche 718 Boxster S – Facts:

Two-door sports

Price: £50,695

Engine: 2497cc, flat-four cylinder, 350bhp

0-62mph: 4.4sec

Fuel consumption: 34.9mpg