Switching to four cylinders is not wholly bad news
Porsche’s decision to place its future in the hands of turbocharged engines for all its products, save the GT-badged output of its Motorsport department, is easy enough to understand. It has very little to do with power generation and almost everything to do with generating the kind of CO2 numbers (on paper) that will help assure legislators that Porsche in general – and its beleaguered VW parent in particular – is living up to its obligations as an environmentally good citizen. The decision to rob the Cayman and Boxster of a pair of cylinders is perhaps a little harder to fathom… and the choice to name both after what for most will be, at best, an obscure 1950s sports-racer is barely comprehensible.
Many owners will find that exchanging their six-cylinder, naturally aspirated Boxster for one with four cylinders and a turbocharger does not exactly leap off the page as a great idea. They may find a fuel saving of between 4-5 per cent and a commensurate drop in CO2 emissions (and company car tax) a move they could probably afford not to make. And that’s before they’ve heard the dull off-beat thrum that Porsche now offers in place of the once haunting wail of the old and now defunct flat six. In a car bought for predominantly recreational purposes and with rivals still toting a greater number of cylinders, it remains to be seen how Porsche’s usually fiercely loyal clientele reacts
to the news.
Even so, what those in the market for a Boxster now should do is either buy a nearly new version of the old car, or grit their teeth and buy the new four-cylinder model instead. Simply put, the Boxster is so far ahead of its Mercedes, BMW and Audi opposition that they could probably install an industrial generator under the engine cover and still emerge as the best car in its class.
Besides, this new motor is by no means all bad. Regardless of what you will read elsewhere the noise is a disappointment, but the mid-range torque it provides is a real bonus for two reasons specific to the Boxster’s slightly curious configuration. Firstly, all Boxsters up to and including the GTS have felt underpowered relative to the abilities of their chassis. In fact the power has often been there, but you’d need to use gearchanges and revs to find it; now it is but a twitch of the toe away. And it brings the car’s chassis alive. Secondly, Boxsters have also always felt overgeared as Porsche has fitted final drives suited not to the provision of maximum performance, but emissions that look less terrible on paper. So while the gaps between the gears are as wide as ever, the torque of the new engine now covers them perfectly.
So the new Boxster is more capable, more effortless, better looking and even now comes with state-of-the-art navigation and entertainment. Is a rather dull noise such a price to pay? For me it is, because it has robbed the car of a chunk of its character. But I must accept also that there’s still no civilised roadster I’d rather drive. Ultimately Porsche must have figured you can afford to take a step back when you’re so many miles ahead. And while I might not much like that analysis, I must concede it is correct.
Engine 2.5 litres, 4 cylinders, turbocharged
Power [email protected]
Torque 310lb [email protected]
Transmission six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power to Weight 236bhp per tonne
Top speed 177mph