The number 718 meant very little to the car enthusiast until the late1950s, when a pretty little racing car with a four cylinder engine started snatching racing victories from its bigger-displacement opponents everywhere from Sicily’s Targa Florio to the European Hill Climb Champonship to even the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
2016 marks the return of the 718 line to Porsche, almost completely reworked as the new 718 Boxster roadster and the 718 Cayman coupe.
“Only the boot lid, windscreen, and soft top were preserved from the previous model,” says Alexander Schuchert, Porsche Asia Pacific regional sales manager. “Our designers have redesigned everything else.”
Sitting in the two-seater, one immediately notices the GT Sports Steering wheel inherited from the Porsche 918 Spyder and the new dashboard paired with the Porsche Communication Management consisting of a standard 7-inch multi-touch screen, mobile phone preparation, Apple CarPlay, and Sound Package Plus — a “very important feature for Asia,” says Schuchert. The system is upgradable with modules for connectivity, infotainment, and navigation.
Step out of the car, and it is easy to see that the 718 two-seaters’ silhouettes match that of the 911, with redesigns to emphasize Porsche’s signature wings, which extend automatically at a speed of 120kph to reduce lift. The wider front is emphasized by Bi-Xenon headlights and integrated daytime running lights. At the back are three-dimensional LED tail lights with four-point brake lights.
The significantly larger air intakes at the front and the contoured sides direct headwind to supply more oxygen for the turbocharged engines under the hood, which are perhaps the true tribute to the original 718 line of the 1950s.
Like the original 718, the new mid-engine sports cars have four-cylinder flat engines, rather than the six cylinders of Porsche’s previous generation. The 300hp 2.0L turbocharged Boxer engine, however, is capable of reaching up to 275kph and accelerating from 0 to 100kph in 4.7 seconds. Turbocharging significantly boosts the cars’ torque, going as high as 380Nm, available from 1950 rpm to 4500 rpm. The reduced displacement also uses only 6.9 liters of fuel for every hundred kilometers.
The S models of both the Boxster and the Cayman carry an even more powerful 350hp 2.5L engine, with a turbocharger with variable turbine geometry, sprinting from 0 to 100kph in 4.2 seconds and reaching the maximum speed and torque of 285 kph and 420 Nm respectively. These models only use 7.3 liters per 100 kilometers.
The new 718 models come with a six-speed manual transmission, though seven gears are available as an option. To improve fuel efficiency, transmission also has an auto start/stop function, which shuts off the engine even while the car is still coasting to a stop.
Schuchert also emphasizes the retuned chassis, allowing for “more agility, stability, and, of course, driving fun.” The more adventurous driver can also opt for the enhanced Sport Chrono package including the Mode Switch and SPORT response button on the steering wheel. Install the optional active suspension management to take it a step further and adjust the damping force on each wheel (and adjust ride height 10mm lower).
“What makes a Porsche stand out,” says Joachim Meyer, 718 chassis product line manager, “is that the driver, the vehicle, and the road are one in a certain kind of harmony. It does exactly what I, as the driver, tell it to do.”
The pretty little racing car of the 1950s was built for victory on the speedways of Sicily and Sebring. Carrying its name, the Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman are built for something a little harder to come by today: control.