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Flat-four furies: Porsche’s 718s driven in SA

Latest launches

By: Jesse Adams

Cape Town - After launching the new 718 Boxster earlier this year, Porsche South Africa has now rolled out the numerical badge (and four-cylinder turbo that goes with it) to the Cayman range.

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The first 718 Caymans were actually available in the country in September, so the media test drive held in Cape Town last week was a bit tardy, although worth it because it afforded the chance to drive the new drop-top and coupé models back to back.

But first let’s get into what the new nomenclature means. Basically, flat-six engined Boxsters and Caymans are no longer. We don’t know if this means there will never be one again, but for now an effort to reduce average fuel consumption sees a downsize in capacity to either two or 2.5-litres for the normal and higher performance S versions respectively. Don’t worry, they’re still horizontally-opposed so some of the offbeat murmur typical of a boxer motor is still there, and both new force-fed engines are more powerful than the naturally-aspirated ones they replace.

Standard 718 Boxsters and Caymans come with 220kW and 380Nm, while S versions get 257kW and 420Nm outputs respectively. This equates to (claimed) 4.7 and 4.2 seconds in the 0-100km/h tests, and 275 or 285km/h top speeds. Quoted average petrol consumptions are hardly worth mentioning, but for the record are set at 6.9 and 7.3l/100km - these are considerable savings over the thirsty 2.7 and 3.4-litre sixes previously.

More from less

What’s noteworthy here, besides the fact that Porsche has managed to squeeze more from less, is that for the first time Boxster and Cayman derivatives get identical power and performance figures. And this, in turn, means that for the first time hard-roofed Caymans cost less than than their convertible counterparts. Until now Caymans have demanded a higher premium than Boxsters with the justification being their stronger engines and quicker, sportier nature.

So what are they like? Let me start by rescinding any worries of diminished capability. These mid-mounted four pots may be smaller but they still get down the road with serious swiftness. Turbocharging obviously makes up for any deficit in displacement, but they don’t accelerate with the typical boostiness associated with high-performance engines of this type. There’s a distinctly naturally-aspirated feel with both versions, meaning throttle response is instant and torque plateaus early - unlike the sweeping, growing wave-like character indicative of high output turbos.

Rowdy wail

Ask 10 people for opinions of the new exhaust note, and you’ll get 10 different answers. Mine, for what it’s worth, is that at idle and just above, there’s an historically accurate lumpiness in tone not dissimilar to a hopped-up beetle or kombi.

But, as the revs rise past 3000rpm (redline is at 7500) it all gets a little too loud and laborious. Where the outgoing six varied vocally across its tacho needle’s sweep, with sounds ranging from deep resonance, to a rich bellow, to full-throated roar and ending with a high-pitched shriek; the new engines go straight from cheeky chortle to a rowdy wail with little in between.

There were also some unexpected differences in ride qualities between the two body styles. Technically, the Boxster and Cayman are fitted with identical suspension systems, and all units available to drive in Cape Town were equipped with optional PASM active suspension (R24 520), but they behaved very differently on the road. The Cayman is certainly the sportier of the two, with a firmer ride and a sharper, more pointed steering feel. The Boxster, while still fantastically adept at direction changes, is able to smooth out surfaces better. Its steering is less busy, and would be my pick for any long-distance travel.

Prices:

718 Cayman R854 000

718 Cayman S R934 000

718 Boxster R868 000

718 Boxster S R947 000

FACTS

Porsche 718 Boxster (S) and Cayman (S)

Engine: 2.0 (2.5) -litre, 4-cylinder turbopetrol

Gearbox: Six-speed manual

Power: 220 (257) kW @ 6500rpm

Torque: 380 (420) Nm @ 1950-4500rpm

0-100km/h (claimed): 4.7 (4.2) seconds

Top speed (claimed): 275 (285) Km/h

Maintenance plan: Three-year/90 000km (extendable to five years at extra cost).

Follow Jesse Adams on Twitter @PoorBoyLtd

 

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