The Porsche Boxster and Cayman (now 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman) are cars of controversy. Some say they are too slow, others say they’re just right. Some love the styling, others think they look like constipated lady bugs-yes, I’ve heard that before. Regardless of our opinions though, there is no denying that Porsche’s famous mid engined lineup is at a very awkward, yet revolutionary time in its history.
Rather symbolically, this new chapter in the 718s’ story started when Porsche renamed its Boxster and Cayman to the 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman referencing Porsche’s historical 718 racecar. In 2016, the Boxster and Cayman not only lost their names, they lost something more important, their lovely flat 6 engines. Gone were those iconic howling engines, replaced by something that looked like it came straight out of a Subaru. The naturally aspirated flat 6s were thrown out and replaced with smaller, turbocharged flat 4s.
The problem with these new cars wasn’t their performance. These new 718s were objectively better than their predecessors. So much so in fact, that I remember wanting to race a 718 Boxster GTS on the freeway in my 997 911, but then realizing that it had 40 more hp. These new cars are FAST, but something is missing in them. Look at any review of the 718 Boxster or Cayman and they all talk about how there’s no zing, no emotion; it seems like the 718s are more McLaren than Porsche. This lack of emotion is directly linked to the fact that the new cars have 2 less cylinders, and in turn, a worse exhaust tone. The iconic howl of their famous flat 6 has been replaced with artificial burbles and the raspy, ugly tone of a 4 cylinder.
If there is one thing that the Porsche 718s have taught us it’s just how crucial a car’s exhaust note is. A simple change in sound has ruined a good part of the experience in Porsche’s most fun to drive cars. But what do we do when there’s NO exhaust note, NO sound? Well, unfortunately rumor has it that we’re about to find out.
I say this because according to a new Autocar report, Porsche has already made the decision to electrify the next generation of 718 sports cars set to arrive in 2022. Apparently Porsche is already testing prototypes of these new, electrified 718s. On the bright side though, the combustion engine isn’t being completely cut out since hybrid variants of the 718 will also be offered and sold alongside the electric ones. The reason for this change: emissions standards.
My biggest concern with this new electric platform is surprisingly not the sound. Unless my prayers have been answered, the flat 6 engine that used to be in these cars is not coming back-with the exception of GT4 and Spyder models. It likely won’t come back even with a hybrid setup and I hope I am wrong about this. With sound out of the way, I think the biggest problem will be the handling of these new cars, their weight in particular. Boxsters and Caymans have always been lightweight cars; if my memory serves me correctly, I don’t think there’s been a Boxster of Cayman that’s weighed over 3000 lb (1361 kg). But just like the 911s, every succeeding generation of Boxsters/Caymans has been heavier than their predecessors. As we know, a low weight is the key to good handling and I’m concerned that this next generation’s famous handling will be spoiled by heavy batteries and electronics.
But who knows, maybe Porsche will use their sorcery to make the electric 718s handle like they are much lighter cars like they did with the 918 Spyder. One thing is clear: change is coming, and this change is clearly necessary to save the 718 lineup. And if push comes to shove, I’d rather have an electric Boxster than no Boxster.
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