Cape Town - What better way to end a long week in a near-perfect sports car, giving it horns through the Cape’s best passes. How do you fault the simplicity of the new 718 Boxster and Cayman?
Porsche has always been an aspirational brand for decades. In South Africa, Porsches are flying out of the four local dealership floors with hundreds of models sold to date.
In November 2016, Porsche expands its local offering with the new 718 Boxster and Cayman. Though they're two different cars the new versions have strong similarities both visually and technically, with equally powerful underpinnings.
Porsche claims both models offer more performance, more efficiency and better driving dynamics, both with new four-cylinder flat engines.
So there are new flat engines, with each model showcasing two versions of the new four-cylinder units: The Boxster and Boxster S, as well as the Cayman and Cayman S.
718 Cayman - R854 000
718 Cayman S - R934 000
718 Boxster - R868 000
718 Boxster S - R947 000
Why are these two cars so alike?
Well, Porsche says its in the process of a generation change for its mid-engine sports car.
Its two-seat, mid-engine coupes are moving closer together in terms of the retuned chassis, more powerful brakes and that irresistibly seductive exhaust tones. The design has several style tweaks and, Porsche says, the Coupe is now priced less than the Roadster.
Under the Cayman's bonnet there's a 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder flat engine good for 220kW/380Nm, while the 718 Cayman S features a 2.5-litre turbocharged flat engine with VTG (variable turbine geometry) kicking out 257kW/420Nm. This means 18kW more than its predecessor and 90Nm more torque even below 2000rpm. More power from the moment you hit the start button which means more power for cornering fun, according to the automaker. And they weren't telling any fibs about that...
READ: Porsche's new 718 Boxster for SA - All the details
The 718 Cayman with PDK gearbox and Sport Chrono Package goes to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds (0.7s faster), the 718 Cayman S in 4.2s (0.5s faster), leaving almost no room for difference from a naturally aspirated power unit. Maximum speeds are 275km/h and 285km/h, while a new feature is the Sport Mode of the PSM with extended limits for the type of drivers who take calculated risks on the likes of Franschhoek Pass.
The 718 models are fitted with a six-speed manual transmission as standard. The Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK - double clutch system) with seven gears is optional. To improve fuel efficiency says the automaker, the PDK has an advanced auto start/stop function which allows the engine to shut down while the car is still coasting to a stop.
Porsche reckons the fact that the Cayman is now turbocharged with reduced displacements, the four-cylinder engine with PDK gearbox uses a claimed 6.9-litres/100km in a combined cycle. In the 718 Cayman S, the flat engine consumes a claimed 7.3-litres/100km.
There are reinforced brakes and a multi-collision braking system as standard to help with all that fun behind the wheel. There's the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) chassis with a 10mm lower ride height, and for the first time in the 718 Cayman S a PASM, the sport suspension can be lowered to a 20mm lower ride height as an option. Now who wouldn't want that?
In terms of styling, there have been extensive styling tweaks inside and out the Cayman and the Boxster. Porsche says only the luggage compartment lid, roof and windscreen have been left unchanged. The front-end is more sculptured with significantly larger cooling air inlets with two lourves, new doors with accentuated crest and a new lower rear wing. There's an accent strip with three-dimensional Porsche lettering on the rear, new clear glass tail lights with four-point brake lights.
READ: Porsche's new 718 Cayman on track for SA
There are optional Sport-Tex leather/fabric upholstery available in both models 718 models for the first time, either in black or bi-colour combination of graphite blue/chalk.
The fascia and the instrument cluster has been completely redesigned too. There's also new standard equipment in the form of Porsche Communication Management (PCM) with a very fancy touchscreen along with mobile phone preparation, audio interfaces and the Sound Package Plus with 150watts audio power, and eight speakers. The navigation, infotainment and connectivity are optional upgrades.
Base models receive 18" rims while the S derivatives sport 19".
How do they drive?
Because the Cayman and Boxster have the same hearts beating underneath the bonnets, their driving characteristics are similar. The 2.0-litre engines are thrilling in their own right and when gunning the throttle through the Cape's passes, you'll come to understand what Porsche means when they speak of enhanced 'cornering fun'.
The 718s are unbelievably stable, as if they were built for smooth long roads and tricky mountain passes at the same time.
Driven: Porsche 718 Boxster
I had an incident earlier this year that has left me rather cautious behind the wheel when I should be letting loose. So I hold back more often than I would like, and slack off the power and take things slower. But, the Porsche 718 instills such confidence behind the wheel that all my inhibitions went out the window and I was blown away along the Franschhoek and Theewaterskloof Passes.
It sticks to the road like Gorilla Super Glue and feels as if nothing can tear it from that asphalt even when you chucking it through the tightest S-bends. Acceleration and gear-shifts are seamless and I felt like I belonged on the road again. My heart sang its old songs of pure driving pleasure.
Take all of the experiences above, multiply exponentially and you'll understand what its like to drive the Cayman S and Boxster S models fitted with 2.5-litre units. The extra 37kW from the base models is a boon, as is the extra 40Nm of torque which could lead to overconfidence when it's not needed in overtaking and flat-foot driving on the straights. Porsche says its developers placed a high priority on achieving engine responsiveness which is comparable to that of a naturally aspirated engine in tuning the turbocharging process.
Porsche says: "When driving with the Sport or Sport Plus mode activated, the bypass valve is closed in the turbocharger, ignition timing is retarded and the throttle is opened slightly. This keeps the current torque the same, while boosting air throughput in the engine and increasing charge pressure. When the driver then applies full throttle, the higher charge pressure spontaneously makes a higher torque available."
Boost function and a special button...
The new Dynamic Boost function almost takes over when the driver’s foot leaves the accelerator pedal during full throttle. Even if there's a brief release, the throttle remains wide open, and only the petrol injection is stopped. This means, says Porsche, that the charge pressure does not drop completely, and the engine can react spontaneously to another press of the accelerator thus the turbo engine reacts as quickly as a naturally aspirated unit.
WATCH: Porsche's new 718 Cayman ad shows off Joburg
This boost function also works in Normal mode, improving engine response in quick throttle changes, but with slightly lesser effect.
And if things couldn't get sporty enough, there's a nifty Sport Response Button - which work in conjunction with the Sport Chrono Package and a PDK gearbox. It's in the middle of the driving programme switch on the steering wheel - as in the 911 models.
This button prepares the engine and transmission for spontaneous responsiveness for a period of 20 seconds. Porsche says: "When the Sport Response button is pushed, the PDK immediately downshifts to a lower gear, and a special shifting map is used with shift points that are even higher than in Sport Plus mode."
Breaking down the Boxster
In the 1950s and 1960s, Porsche cars won numerous races, including the legendary Targa Florio and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the automaker is set on keeping that heritage in the brand with every new model launched.
As with the Cayman, the Boxster has the same new 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged flat engine. The 718 Boxster makes 220kW, while the 718 Boxster S with the 2.5-litre unit is good for 257kW. In the S model, Porsche also uses a turbocharger with variable turbine geometry (VTG). As with the 911 Turbo, it also uses the VTG technology, which makes Porsche the only manufacturer to use this technology in production vehicles with petrol engines.
With driving thrills in a Porsche, it comes hand-in-hand with audible delights in the form of the newly developed exhaust system typical of the brand. In the 718 Boxster, the exhaust gases flow through a system with a single oval tailpipe made of brushed stainless steel, while the Boxster S has centrally-located round dual tailpipes. There's a delicious brawny rumble that leaves you wanting to drive after the sound as you push the throttle further into the floor.
The base engine in the Boxster, has a classic wastegate turbocharger says Porsche, which pushes additional air into the combustion chambers while the more powerful S derivative has forced induction by a turbocharger with variable turbine geometry. Previously, this feature was only ever found in the 911 Turbo.
For non-petrolheads, that means an additional wastegate operates the turbocharger with adjustable vanes in the S unit to specifically control the exhaust gas stream to an optimal level of efficiency, says Porsche. Thus it converts the exhaust gas stream energy into drive power.
Are these new 718 models near perfect? Almost, I only have one gripe which hindered my fun... The hazard button is in an awkward position at the bottom of the facia so the gear lever is always in the way when you try to use it. I doubt it's a global problem since South Africans use that flashy button a lot more than other drivers.