The new Cayman was shown to the public late last year, and has already been met with laudatory remarks from auto scribes all over the world. A beautiful mixture of creases and curves, the 2014 Cayman is sure to be a sales success. The 981 Boxster is also receiving credit for its handling prowess, and the new Cayman will surely add to that with its hard top contributing greater torsional rigidity and a more connected chassis.
Buyers looking at the 981 can currently choose from a 2.7L flat six “base” model with 275 horsepower, as well as the uprated 3.4L flat six “S” with 325 horses. These two engines and trim levels are similar in ethos to the outgoing 987. While the 911 lineup is inundated with trim levels, performance levels, and option packages, the 981 chassis is limited to only these two. Is the world ready for a similar proliferation of Cayman and Boxster offerings? Should Porsche build a flat 4-cylinder engine to slot into the lineup? If asked my opinion, I would emphatically shout “YES”!
There was rumor of a new “baby-boxster” roadster model last year, which was both affirmed as possible, and later completely denied. After that, the rumor mill began to swirl with a “sub-base” trim line of Boxster and Cayman, possibly with a four cylinder engine, which was again denied. Since late last year, I’ve heard rumors of a new engine in the works at Porsche, said to be unveiled at the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show this fall. No indication has been given as to which car this potential engine might slot into, yet it is my hope that it is destined for 981 propulsion. While it would make sense for Porsche to produce a new engine specifically for use in the sure-to-be-successful Macan (perhaps a 3 liter turbo V6?), I hope that they defenestrate sense altogether, and go instead with something that brings about a resurgence of the soul of the company.
Re-Create the "Slow Car Fast" Mentality"
Think back to the days of the 356, the heady days of the beginning of the company we all love. The 356 was not a powerful car, but it was a giant killer, it punched above its weight class. It has always been, and will always be, more fun to drive a slow car quickly than it is to drive a fast car slowly. With that ethos in mind, the 356 was rewarding to a proper “momentum” driver, providing quick lap times, an excellent on road driving experience, and created a legacy for a company that continues to grow to this day. A new, less powerful engine for the Cayman and Boxster couple could re-create some of the lost “slow-car-fast” mentality that Porsche was once known for.
The hugely successful Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ twins, with long waiting lists, high sales numbers, and an excited group of sports car fans proves the fact that there is a market for this type of car that values balance and dynamism over speed and power. If there was ever a chance for Porsche to go back to their roots, this is it. While sense was thrown out the window in this scenario, and my mental capacity for determining the costs associated with such an endeavor, I would still make my professional recommendation that a 4-cylinder Porsche does make business sense. A 2.5 liter flat-four engine developing somewhere in the ballpark of 225 horsepower would allow a new Boxster or Cayman to reach a new base pricepoint somewhere closer to the mid-$40,000 range.
While the flat-four engine could be used to introduce the 981 to a new segment slightly lower on the price scale, the new engine could also be optimized to increase the 981 chassis appeal on the higher end of the spectrum as well with the use of some technologies which are already intimately familiar to Porsche as a company. Forced induction being the first, and flywheel driven hybrid being the second.
When a turbocharger is added to my imaginary 2.5 liter four, the power could jump to a level a bit higher than the existing 3.4, making perhaps as much as 370 horsepower using inline twin-turbochargers for maximum driveability. With this kind of punch in a mid-engine chassis, those studying the Porsche lineup might argue that the Cayman and Boxster would then be scavenging sales from a base model Carrera. This argument is why I would limit this engine, at least at first, to only the Cayman in a limited production high-performance model along the lines of a “GT2 Lite”. A sport and track oriented suspension setup, Spartan interior appointments, and bespoke bodywork aerodynamic enhancements would ensure an entirely different purchasing demographic from those seeking a base model 991 Carrera. As the highest performance models of the Porsche lineup convert exclusively to PDK transaxles, this model could continue to be offered with a 6-speed manual transmission for the “raw driving experience” that some customers still yearn for. Priced around $80,000 with a limited range of options, this Cayman “GT2 Lite” could offer a return to the turbocharged rear wheel drive experience that has been largely absent since the 964 Turbo ended production in 1994. A limited production run below 2000 units would be nearly guaranteed to sell out almost instantaneously.
While I am sure that Porsche is not looking to be cross-shopped with a budget Toyota or Subaru sport compact, it would be foolish to assume that they aren’t paying attention to market conditions. Porsche is among the most market cognizant and intelligently marketed brands in the world, and if the company viewed adequate justification for this type of engine, chances are they would already have plans in place to produce it. So, will the new engine shown in Frankfurt be my imaginary 2.5 liter? My magic 8-ball says “outlook not so good” , but I remain hopeful. My heart longs for the day that I can once again buy a brand-new Porsche with that signature flat-four rumble.
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