Chopping a third of the cylinders off the Porsche Boxster’s flat-six engine — even if its replacement is a supremely well-engineered, brand new flat-four — is a pretty big deal. This is a 20-year-old car from a company whose bread and butter has been the flat-six for over 50 years, its iterations spread out liberally across rear-engine 911’s and mid-engine Caymans and Boxsters.
But times are changing. Porsche needs to make sacrifices on the Altar of Efficiency, and swapping out engines across a relatively small global lineup of cars can generate huge fleet-wide MPG improvements. Would Porsche do this if they weren’t under pressure? Probably not. Are Porsche enthusiasts happy about it? Not really. Will they get over it? Probably, once they’ve had time to digest the changes and once they actually drive the thing, which I did in and around Lisbon, Portugal, in both the Boxster and Boxster S trims.
The cars, now renamed the 718 Boxster in deference to the four-cylinder racer from the ’50s and ’60s, are fast, tight and smart, thanks to a host of improvements that both compensate for the smaller engine and significantly raise the car’s game overall. There’s more power and speed than the previous Boxster; innovative engine tricks ensure that turbo-boosted power is there precisely when you need it. The engine changes communicate most obviously in the exhaust note: it just doesn’t sound like a six. It sounds great, mind you — just not like a six. It’s fierce and growly, but not quite as low and rumbly.
Ultimately, that’s okay. Really. Again, times are changing. Acoustics, while thrilling and representing one of the key visceral emotional connections to a machine, are destined to be modernity’s great sacrificial lamb. Whisper-quiet electric propulsion is gaining traction in the performance sector thanks to the pavement-shredding Tesla Model S P90D, hybrid hypercars from Ferrari, McLaren — and, yes, Porsche, along with the surprisingly enjoyable Formula E racing series. The 718 Boxster is certainly no EV, but it’s not going to shatter any windows, either. What it will shatter is expectations.