Anyone concerned that a Porsche four-cylinder engine might start and turn over with the restrained anonymity of an equivalent TT or SLC can be reassured: there’s a modest bass note and slightly cantankerous edge to the 2.0-litre lump at idle, indicative of its skittled cylinders and certainly more characterful than the contrived blather of the S’s 2.5-litre unit.
It revs with thick-set attitude and about as freely as you could expect from a petrol motor with a turbo.
It also moves off with a bit more convenience than the six-pot did and floats about at low speeds in a more easy-going fashion – less raggedy and impatient for throttle input.
The new gearbox and clutch don’t hurt. There’s still an odd intransigence should you want to pull away like a rocket, but otherwise the manual transmission manages to be both sweeter and lighter than the wrist and calf troubler it replaces.
This plays nicely when improved amenability is obviously the powertrain’s strongest suit. In this respect, there’s objectively no contest.
The previous car’s leggy gearing (carried over) meant frenzied downshifting in the hope of finding a cog productive enough to adequately meet your big toe’s ambitions.
In the new model, there’s patently and predictably less need, the flat four responding with staunch enthusiasm, even in ratios five and six. Credit, then, to Porsche that this benignly likeable trait (the hallmark of a modern turbocharged engine, after all) is ushered in sensitively.
There is inevitably a dash of lag and surge, but it’s minimal, and the unit’s keenness from 2000rpm onwards is admirable.
Yes, it’s predominantly linear and measured, but there’s still enough impudent high-rev gusto to make a visit to the 7600rpm limiter seem necessary (despite peak power appearing 1100rpm earlier).
All of this makes the motor a fine one – more likeable than the 2.5-litre variant and certainly a rival for any other four-pot unit you’d care to name. An entirely fulfilling replacement for its predecessor, though, it isn’t.
Last time round, we called the flat six a turbine masterpiece. Although it is easier to live with and persuasively capable, its replacement is hardly deserving of the same adulation.
To complain of a ‘soul’ deficiency sounds trite, but the ‘Porsche Boxster effect’ was contingent on more than just power; it was wedded to the sound and sensation of a distinctively mechanical heartbeat, one perfected by its maker over a lifetime of use.
The flat four feels less a successor and more an understudy, worthily trotting out the same lines while provoking none of the emotional resonance crucial to the role.