For 18 years now, the Porsche Boxster and its hardtop cousin the Cayman (introduced for 2006) have blossomed from bargain-basement Porsches into two of the finest sports cars in the world. But there’s been a problem with the Boxster and Cayman, and apparently it’s grown big enough to keep Porsche’s product development team up at night.
In a nutshell, the history of Porsche road cars is this: 356, 911, 912, 914, 924, 928, 944, 968, Boxster, Cayman, and finally the Panamera. Which of these three aren’t like the others? Attempting to right a perceived wrong, Porsche announced that it will begin to phase out both the Boxster and Cayman names once the next generation car appears for the 2017 model year. So from here on out, get used to calling them the “Porsche 718 Boxster” and “718 Cayman.”
While the company’s alphanumeric naming systems don’t seem to follow any logical rhyme or reason (356 to 911?), there is a bit of history associated with the 718 designation. According to Porsche:
In the late 1950s, the 718 — a successor to the legendary Porsche 550 Spyder — represented the highest configuration level of the four-cylinder flat engine. Whether it was competing at the 12-hour race in Sebring in 1960 or at the European Hill Climb Championship that ran between 1958 and 1961, the Porsche 718 prevailed against numerous competitors with its powerful and efficient four-cylinder flat engine. The 718 took first place three times between 1959 and 1960 at the legendary Italian Targa Florio race in Sicily. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans race 1958, the 718 RSK with its 142-hp four-cylinder engine scored a class victory.
Which brings us to the second, and most important point about the new 718 twins. With the current spread of turbocharging everything across its 911 lineup, Porsche has begun consolidating tech among its models — and largely phasing out naturally aspirated ones. If you have a fondness for the Cayman/Boxster’s free-breathing flat-sixes, you’d better snap them up while you can. From 2017 on, the newly-minted 718s will be powered by turbocharged flat-fours, and little else.
But don’t mourn the loss of the Cayman and Boxster just yet. Even with the smaller turbocharged mill, which is expected to be somewhere between 2.0 and 2.5 liters in size, it could end up putting out around 395 horsepower in top trim. With the current flat-six, the most power you’re gonna get is 375 horses. The company says that from here on out, the “718 Boxster and 718 Cayman are showing more similarities – both visual and technical.” Roof aside, if you couldn’t tell the cars apart now, with their marginally different rear haunches and interiors, you’re going to have a much harder time come 2017.
The company is confident that the new cars will join its ’50s-era namesake and 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning 919 LMP hybrid in the pantheon of it’s greatest four-bangers, declaring: “718 model series is a continuation of the proven four-cylinder concept and the history of distinguished Porsche sports cars.” Surprisingly, the press release doesn’t mention the storied 356, or the Porsche 924, which shared its inline-four with the AMC Gremlin and DJ-5 U.S. Mail Jeep. Actually, on second thought, it probably makes sense it didn’t mention the 924.
So the next-generation Boxster/Cayman/718 is likely to be considerably lighter, and quicker; that’s great for a sports car. Still, we can’t help but already feel a pang of nostalgia for what we’re losing. The Boxster went from a punch-line to one hell of a good car by the time the Cayman came along, and while they may be pretty similar, they’ve each grown into their own both as track day performers and as enthusiast cars — if you don’t believe us, try to get your hands on the respective GTS models and tell us otherwise. So fuel economy and cost-effectiveness be damned, because while we love turbochargers around here, the world’s roads will be a sadder place without the sound of a naturally-aspirated Porsche flat-six roaring down them with abandon.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.
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