3.2L DOHC H-6 All we can say is this: What a difference seven-tenths of a liter makes.
Last year, expectations ran rampant for Porsche AG's 2.5L horizontally opposed 6-cyl. engine. A storied engine layout updated for the '90s with water cooling, all manner of electro-trickery and a single-minded focus: sports-car performance befitting the Porsche badge.
Yet Ward's testers couldn't come to grips with the Porsche Boxster's original 2.5L horizontally opposed "boxer" 6-cyl. At 201 hp and 188 lb.-ft. (255 Nm) of torque, it was entertaining but a bit light on sheer thrust. Moreover, under a heavy throttle it was as vocal as you would like a sports car engine to be, but the pitch was too high, the tones too pedestrian.
Although the first Porsche horizontally opposed 6-cyl. engine to be water-cooled is an outstanding design, engineers admit the execution perhaps fell a few rings shy of a bulls-eye. At least by the standards of Porsche true believers.
Thus, the thinking behind the Boxster S, a car carrying a larger-bore 3.2L version of the original 2.5L H-6. That much-needed extra displacement brings no less than 50 extra horsepower (nearly a 25% increase) and a meaningful 37 lb.-ft. (50 Nm) torque boost. And with the basic design, no stone has been unturned, from the torque-plumping VarioCam variable valve timing and variable manifolding to the effective, elegant simplicity of the brilliant "integral dry sump" lubrication system.
But best of all, the Boxster S engine now sounds like it means business - precisely like the magnificent 3.6L 6-cyl. boxer in the 911. We would have placed the Porsche 3.2L H-6 on this year's Best Engines list based on engine sound quality alone. Honestly.
Gone is the tinny shrillness of the 2.5L Boxster engine; in its place the unmistakable deep-toned boxer rip as it winds out and a barrel-chested burble when lightly running through the gears. Engine "sound" developers take note: There isn't a more enthralling intake tone in the whole of the automotive world - and although it's always present, it's never fatiguing. The fact that it's coming from just behind your shoulder only adds to the experience.
Oh yeah, there's that fifty more hosses, too. Serious thrust. Brilliant throttle response from the newly added electronic throttle. Extravagant top speed. The extra displacement and variable valve timing mean you can drive the engine on a fat dose of mid-range torque if that be your fancy, yet there's plenty of available rpm, as it should be with a genuine sports car.
Between the now-explosive power and the howling engine symphony, driver and passenger can be simultaneously overjoyed and alarmed. Ever seen someone exhilarated yet terrified at the same time? Smiling at you as terror wells up tears in their eyes - that rollercoaster-ready-to-go-over-the-hill look? Same experience during an extended full-throttle burst in the Boxster S.