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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Engine: 2497cc, flat-four cylinder, 350bhp
Fuel consumption: 34.9mpg