Flat-six re­turns, but will Porsche bail on the 718 brand­ing?

911 Porsche World - - News And Views -

De­vel­op­ment mules for the next it­er­a­tion of Porsche's Boxster Spy­der and Cayman GT4 have been spot­ted test­ing. The big news is the ex­pected re­turn of a flat-six en­gine to the mid-en­gine chas­sis.

For now, ab­so­lutely noth­ing is of­fi­cial. Fi­nal spec­i­fi­ca­tions are un­clear as is the fi­nal brand­ing of both cars. Porsche has an­nounced nei­ther model. That's not ex­pected to hap­pen un­til this com­ing Spring at the ear­li­est. How­ever, the head of Porsche's GT depart­ment, Frank Wal­liser, was re­cently quoted by Au­to­car magazine stat­ing un­am­bigu­ously that his crew, “won't do a per­for­mance four cylin­der.”

But if not four pot, then what? Ac­cord­ing to the GT depart­ment's other lead­ing fig­ure, An­dreas Pre­uninger, nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gines are one of Porsche's GT car “main USPS.” Of course, var­i­ous 911 GT2 mod­els have been tur­bocharged. But the GT2 line has thus far been the ex­cep­tion. All other Porsche GT3S and the GT4 have been nat­u­rally as­pi­rated.

Prob­lem is, with the 718 Boxster and Cayman mov­ing to flat-four en­gines and the 911 Car­rera now tur­bocharged, Porsche cur­rently doesn't have a main­stream nat­u­rally as­pi­rated six-cylin­der en­gine in pro­duc­tion. It there­fore has two op­tions. Res­ur­rect the re­cently de­funct MA1 en­gine from the pre­vi­ous GT4 or use the new 911 GT3 en­gine, all four litres of it. Re­mark­ably, it's the lat­ter op­tion that is the sub­ject of mul­ti­ple re­ports and ru­mours.

In the GT3, it cranks out 500hp and revs to 9000 rpm. If the new GT4 does get the GT3'S en­gine, it's surely a cer­tainty it will achieve nei­ther fig­ure. More­over, if it no longer spins to 9000rpm, it equally no longer needs some of the ex­otic and ex­pen­sive fea­tures that en­able such high en­gine speeds. A de­fea­tured ver­sion of the GT3 en­gine, then, with items such as the uber-ex­pen­sive crank­shaft and fancy val­ve­train re­placed by cheaper com­po­nents is plau­si­ble.

As for power out­put, any­thing north of 400 met­ric horse­power would put dis­tance be­tween the new model and the orig­i­nal 385hp GT4. On the other hand, pre­vi­ous form sug­gests Porsche will peg the GT4 just be­low the pre­vail­ing 911 Car­rera S for power. That car pro­duces 420hp, so a fig­ure of ap­prox 415hp for the new GT4 is likely.

But what of the Boxster Spy­der? Some sources in­di­cate a four-cylin­der en­gine for the Spy­der is pos­si­ble. How­ever, the cost of tool­ing up and type-ap­prov­ing a flat-six en­gine for the rel­a­tively low vol­ume GT4 will be par­tic­u­larly sig­nif­i­cant this time around. So it's very prob­a­ble Porsche will pre­fer to share that cost across both the GT4 and the Spy­der. In short, what­ever en­gine goes into the GT4 will al­most cer­tainly find its way into the Spy­der.

What's less clear is how the two mod­els will be branded. Porsche's con­tro­ver­sial shift to flat-four power was com­bined with new '718' brand­ing that harked back to the orig­i­nal 718 flat-four racer from the late 1950s and early 1960s. At least from a brand­ing per­spec­tive, a flat-six pow­ered 718 would be a con­fus­ing propo­si­tion.

Boxster Spy­der and Cayman GT4: Both are out test­ing, but will they or won’t they fea­ture a flat-six as per GT tra­di­tion?

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