“WHAT’S OLD BECOMES NEW AGAIN.” Such results usually turn out very bad most of the time. But usually when it comes to Porsche’s evolutionary — read: not insanely revolutionary — automotive development, such results tend to bode well not only for the company, but also for Porschephiles ‘round the planet.
Enter the 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman on to the world automotive sports-car stage.
Porsche announced today that the next generation of the company’s recent mid-engine savior (or at least the original, first-gen 986 roadster descendant) will be rechristened Porsche’s new 718 model series, sporting turbocharged, flat 4-cylinder engines – in place of present-day normally aspirated flat sixes (!).
Well, kinda, sorta. Let’s look at what’s afoot with the recent introduction of the new 2017 biturbo-only 991.2 Carreras, not to mention the relatively new all-biturbo-only Macan model line. So it’s no longer hyperbolic poppycock that normally aspirated propulsion has fallen by the wayside and has thus helped, as most good intentions do, to pave the Road to Hell — what with looming global-warming regulations and 2016 CAFE standards on the horizon. In any event, for Porsche necessity has always been the mother of invention.
So is it heresy? Truly? Again, kinda sorta. Like being half-pregnant.
By design, of course, naming the series after the 718 hearkens back to the glorious racing victories of the “Giant Killers” of their day. This all began with the mighty Porsche 550 Spyder and later the 718 race cars that vanquished more powerful race cars both inside and outside of their own racing classes in the Fifties and Sixties.
Evolving in the late Fifties as sourced from the 550A was the 142-hp (106-kW), 1.5-liter Type 547/3 quad-cam, mid-engined 718, also a flat-four “Giant Killer” in its own right. Its debut race was 1957’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, driven by Umberto Maglioli and Edgar Barth, but unfortunately our 718 debutante retired with a DNF.
In subsequent victorious succession, however, the following are but a few of the many illustrious racing successes of the 718:
- Took first place in its class and 3rd place overall at Le Mans in 1958
- Won the European Hill Climb Championship in 1958 and 1959
- Won 1st place at Sicily’s Targa Florio in both 1959 and 1960
- Achieved victory in 1960 as a 718 RS 60 during the 12 Hours of Sebring, piloted by Olivier Gendebien and Porsche stalwart Hans Herrmann
Fast-forward to today: “Synchromeshing” past and present together with the future is the 919 Hybrid. Porsche asserts about the 718 series that “the latest example is the 919 Hybrid LMP1 race car, which also has a highly efficient, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with just 2 liters of displacement.”
In essence, then, 20th-century Porsche technology is undergoing resurrection as we speak in the provisional vernacular of the newly emerging technology of the 21st century. This is not insignificant because, to go so far as to substantiate this claim, Porsche’s 919 Hybrid LMP1 race cars finished both first and second in the 2015 24 hours of Le Mans. Furthermore, the 919 Hybrid won the manufacturer’s and driver’s championship titles in the 2015 WEC World Endurance Championship. Thus we countenance Porsche AG’s assertions that, “with these victories, the 919 Hybrid has opened up the prospects for the performance potential of future sports car engines from Porsche.”
So the 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman will emerge on the world stage possessing quite some pedigree indeed.
Porsche AG promises to begin streaming the rollout of details in 2016 on the identically powered flat-four, turbocharged 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman. Not unlike the 911 model variants, the 718 Boxster roadster will be priced slightly higher than the 718 Cayman coupe. Given these sparse disclosures, Porsche AG is playing it rather close to the vest for now. But it is early in the game.
Suffice it to say, though, as Porsche AG puts it, mid-engined flat four-cylinder engines have a long tradition at Porsche — and have enjoyed incredible success. After all, the very first Porsche ever to be christened a “Porsche” was a mid-engined roadster, also with a flat-four powerplant – Porsche No. 1.
So it stands to evolutionary reason that the 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman series will be Porsche’s latest mid-engine iteration. It all remains to be seen, however, if the 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman will live up to their forebears’ history and winning ways.
In any case, we at StuttgartDNA want to find out because inquiring minds need to know, and thus can’t wait to test-drive the 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman to see for ourselves. I’m sure you feel the same way too . . .