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The Porsche 718 GTS bombshell | PH Footnote

The idea of a 4.0-litre, six-cylinder Cayman is heavenly. But at what cost?

By Dan Prosser / Saturday, January 18, 2020

If there is a band of people out there somewhere hoping that the combustion engined performance car will soon meet its end, they’ll be licking their wounds this week. I’d only just stopped daydreaming about the Toyota GR Yaris – the most interesting new hot hatch for a very long time, I reckon – when the press release dropped in from Porsche confirming that GTS versions of the 718 Cayman and Boxster are ditching the underwhelming flat-four turbo engines in favour of a naturally-aspirated flat-six. If good news comes in threes, perhaps next week PH will be reporting on a factory-approved manual gearbox conversion for the Alpine A110. We shall see.

I’ve been wondering what the knock-on effects of Porsche’s announcement might be. On the not unreasonable assumption that these new GTS models will turn out to be really rather good, I think the fallout might look something like this…

Reduced demand for 718 Cayman GT4 and 718 Boxster Spyder

Before these latest GTS derivatives were announced, there was one very good reason for the Cayman or Boxster buyer to covet the range-topping models: they were the only way to dodge the tuneless turbocharged four-pot. But now you can have the same six-cylinder powertrain as the Porsche Motorsport models, minus 20hp and a couple of hundred rpm, for 10 per cent less outlay. Not bad.

Porsche has already said it’ll try to meet demand for the Spyder and GT4 this time around rather than favouring long-standing customers, as has tended to be the case with its GT models, but that won’t happen right away. Regardless, this week’s announcement will probably let it off the hook. After all, if your OPC tells you that you won’t be getting your mitts on one of the halo models for a little while yet, are you going to stamp your feet and write angry forum posts about it, or buy a GTS and get on with enjoying the thing?

Chances are, too, that anybody who might have been hoping to flip a GT4 or Spyder to spin a few quid will now have a harder time of it. Hear those tiny violins ring out.

Four-cylinder 982s lose value

Now that Porsche has publicly declared that a four-cylinder engine with a turbocharger attached to it actually isn’t the right kind of motor for a high-end sports car – which it just has, effectively – who’s going to want one with exactly that behind the seats? I suspect four-cylinder 982s will quickly become less desirable and lose value as a result. Suboptimal for anybody who owns one now, sure, but very good news indeed for the rest of us, not least because a four-cylinder Boxster or Cayman is actually a very desirable car. Okay, so the soundtrack and power delivery aren’t quite right, but they offer very punchy performance and what could be the best chassis in the business. If 982s slip far enough, I would gladly overlook an uninspiring exhaust note.

As an aside, I’ve just spotted something curious: official figures suggest Porsche sold about as many 982s as six-cylinder 981s, but in the PH classifieds right now there are 206 four-cylinder Boxsters and Caymans up for sale, but only 102 six-pot 981s. It seems owners of four-cylinder cars are twice as likely to want to move them on.

981s lose value too

It seems likely to me that values of pre-2016 981 Caymans and Boxsters, with their lovely 2.7 and 3.4-litre n/a flat sixes, were being propped up by the quiet suspicion that they could be the last of their type. And now we know they’re nothing of the sort. They won’t be quite so sought-after in that case and, what’s more, plenty of owners will upgrade to a new GTS and 981s will flood the market. In either case, values take a tumble.

Other manufacturers follow suit

Okay, file this one under ‘wishful thinking’. I don’t believe for a moment that BMW will be inspired to turn its back on downsizing, cylinder-shedding and turbocharging, but wouldn’t it be grand if it did introduce a high-revving V8 for the next M3? Actually, as long as we’re daydreaming about this sort of thing, I would have Mercedes-AMG reintroduce a modernised version of that show-stopping 6.2-litre V8 from the SLS Black Series and drop it into the AMG GT. Yummy.

In more ways than one, then, the introduction of these new six-cylinder GTSes is very good news, whether you’re about to put down a deposit for one or not. But mostly I’m encouraged by this development because it comes at a time when many of us were beginning to assume that really evocative engines were becoming a thing of the past. For giving the naturally-aspirated performance car engine a stay of execution, let me say this: thank you, Porsche.

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