Can you believe the Porsche Boxster is 20 years old? No, we can't either. But back when the Spice Girls were miming Wannabe on Top of the Pops and kids were losing their minds over games of POGs, the Boxster was waiting in the wings, preparing itself to utterly dominate the sports car market and make Porsche a big wad of cash in the process.

Today, the mid-engined two-seater is still regarded as the benchmark roadster, a car that all other cars want to be like. A machine that rival engineers revere due to its seemingly unending levels of grip and grin-inducing performance that somehow manages to remain attainable if not completely affordable.

Now, a new generation of Boxster lives among us, and it boasts a fancy new name (that's the 718 bit), revised styling and - brace yourselves - a choice of either a 2.0-litre or 2.5-litre four-cylinder boxer engine. Yeah, we said four-cylinder and the simple act of typing that made us feel almost as weird as when we heard these updated powerplants fire up for the first time - but more of that later.

It might not look like it but only the boot lid, windscreen and convertible hood are shared with the previous generation car. Everything else has been tweaked, stiffened and reshaped to ensure the 718, whose name is a nod to some very successful Porsche racecars of the 1950s and 60s, performs better than its predecessor.

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Stylistic changes are subtle but they don't go unnoticed. The front end is wider, with larger cooling air intakes, while the nose hosts piercing new Bi-Xenon headlights with integrated LED daytime running lamps. Customers will also be able to specify optional four-point running lights similar to those found on the Panamera and Macan SUV.

The general theme of steroid-based enhancement continues into the side profile, where more bulbous wheel arches, larger air inlet panels behind the doors and mirrors with aerodynamic cut-outs reside. It's most definitely a Boxster, but stand it next to the first-generation model and it looks like The Mountain is conversing with Stephen Merchant.

At the back, new clear glass taillights sit on a widened rear-end and large Porsche 3D lettering cuts an imposing figure on the panel beneath the electronic spoiler, which automatically raises and lowers at speeds of around 75mph to aid downforce.

The overall package certainly turns heads - but fans of the previous model's sharp yet understated looks might say all of the added loveliness is a little fussy.

Let's deal with the elephant in the room before we continue. Porsche has decided to do away with the glorious, naturally-aspirated 2.7 or 3.4-litre flat-six cylinder engines found in the outgoing model and replace them with either 2.0 or 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-four variants in the standard Boxster or S model, which start at £41,739 or £50,695 respectively.

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The result is increased performance - horsepower is up 35bhp in each model and the standard 2.0-litre gains 100Nm of torque over its predecessor - while fuel economy is up by around 5mpg in both cars.

Harmful CO2 emissions have also been reduced, with the more powerful S model now belches out just 184g/km, which sees it drop four vehicle excise duty bands and will save customers over £250 in tax every year.

Porsche engineers are extremely pleased with the results and they claim this is the best performing Boxster to date, with the new S variant lapping the Nurburgring 16-seconds faster than the vehicle it replaces.

That's good news, right? Yes, the gains in performance are tangible, with the extra torque especially noticeable during over-taking manoeuvres, and reducing the burden on the taxpayer is welcome news, but these engines just aren't as characterful as the units they replace.

That epic howl from the 3.4-litre flat-six at full chat has been replaced by a deep burble that gets harsher and more gravelly as the power surges. On idle, the engines sound lumpy and off-beat, plus they produce a monotonous drone at motorway speeds that can get a little tiresome.

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Some people have said it sounds a bit like the old Subaru 'boxer' engines when pootling around town and others have likened it to a slightly beefier Toyota GT86 under hard acceleration. But whatever the comparison, it's just not as aurally impeccable as the old units.

This won't matter to those seeking pure performance gains, but the appeal of a soft-top roadster is to be able to enjoy the engine note on a sunny day. Sure, the 718 still pops and bangs with Porsche's sports exhaust added to the options list but it doesn't quite make hairs stand on end.

Climb into the low-slung body, settle into the cossetting sports seats, insert the stubby key into the ignition and slot the beautifully mechanical manual gear shifter into first. Pile on the revs, dump the surprisingly heavy clutch and prepare to rocket from standstill to 60mph in 4.9-seconds in the standard model, or 4.4 seconds in the more powerful S. Opt for the ludicrously quick-shifting PDK automatic transmission and you can expect to shave 0.2 of a second off those times.

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The 718 is unmistakably a Porsche. The revisions to the chassis, including strengthening the rear subframe for improved lateral rigidity and revised tuning of vibration dampers, means it handles better than ever. This is one seriously sweet car to drive.

The steering has also been stolen from the 911 Turbo, meaning the electromechanical set-up is 10 per cent faster than before for more precise handling and better feedback. The standard steel brakes are so strong, it makes the carbon ceramic option seem a little pointless; the Porsche Stability Management (PSM) system now features a PSM Sport mode that allows for a little bit of slip and slide without causing pants to be stained.

The 718 is phenomenal on both road and track and both engines are equally adept at causing spontaneous whoops of delight, while the car remains comfortable and practical enough (it has two boots, after all) to use every day or tackle longer road trips.

This Boxster may have shed its distinctive engine note but it hasn't lost any of the handling and performance charms that won it so many fans in the first place.

To sate the technological appetite of modern buyers, the German marque has added its Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system as standard on all cars.

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This means punters can now enjoy hands-free Bluetooth calls, a 110W audio system and the ability to tether a smartphone for access to msuic on the go at no extra cost. But before you go thinking Porsche has made its options list less tempting, we must remind you that a shedload of extra niceties can be thrown in - for wallet-burning fees, of course.

For example, navigation costs a staggering £1,052 - but at least it features an improved display and voice control to make it easier to input destinations. Customers can also go mad and add TV tuners, a Burmester surround sound system, digital radio and Apple CarPlay - but it all comes at a cost.

First Impressions

The Porsche 718 Boxster remains a phenomenally capable car and its performance attributes, external styling and interior quality only improve with every generation.

However, a large question mark hangs over the new range of engines. Performance is blistering and the added torque is immediately apparent from behind the wheel, while feedback from the controls is still as good as ever, but it is very difficult to ignore the rough and displeasing sound emanating from behind the driver's head.

It may seem like a minor point, but for some that will most certainly tarnish the experience. Which is a shame, because the Boxster is still by far the best car in its class.