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Why you're wrong about the Porsche Boxster's four-cylinder engine

By Andy Enright, 29 May 2020 Features

Porsche 718 Cayman

Porsche purists turned their noses up at the Boxster’s turbocharged flat-four engine, but the man in charge reckons they're wrong on that one

It's a tempting narrative. Porsche switched the 718 Boxster and Cayman range to smaller turbocharged four-cylinder engines in 2016. Since then the company has gradually reintroduced naturally-aspirated six-cylinder engines in a tacit admission that it made a mistake with those four-pots.

Tempting, but wrong. And a great way to get 718 model line boss Frank-Steffen Walliser a bit hot under the collar.

Porsche 718 Cayman onroad

"I would fully defend it," fires back Walliser punchily when asked whether he stood by the move to downsize the engines.

"It was one of the most important strategic moves we did in the whole model line. I checked the sales numbers of the last twenty years and what we can see is that when we introduced the 2.0-litre, we opened the Chinese market. With their purchase tax exemption regulations and luxury tax, the 2.0-litre brought us in a completely different story," he explains.

Read next: Porsche's cheapest sports car is no compromise

It's not all beer and skittles though. There was a price to pay for this success.

Porsche 718 Cayman onroad

"With the four-cylinder we have to say we lost some of the volume in, let me say more traditional markets. And we all know the engine is really good and the car drives very nicely but you know what I talked about emotions? This [engine] is different," he concedes.

"But volume-wise we are number one in the market in China and this compensated everything in the world and the sales numbers in China are unbelievably good over many, many years," he reiterates.

Read next: Why the Boxster should have been four-cylinder from birth

"So strategic-wise it really helped the car to survive. It's good business and there's no question to continue the story.

"Even more importantly, in the Chinese market we have a very cool car and we have a way younger target group. The group is way more female, so the typical Boxster customer is 30-year old Chinese women. And the value is unbelievably good because, for sure, once they are with Porsche, they will continue that.

Porsche 718 Cayman badge

"Don't get me wrong, we're a little bit in the handbag business. So, if you love your daughter, wife, girlfriend, you can give her a handbag or, if you love her a little bit more, you buy her a Boxster.

"The girls in China really like it. You know there are more boys than girls in China because, some 30 years ago there was some selection process. The Chinese man has to do something. We have solutions," he chuckles, tongue firmly in cheek.

"Now with adding the six-cylinder again – with the GTS and GT4 – we hope and we can already see in the order intakes that our more traditional markets, Europe, UK, Australia, US, the interest on the 718 really comes back," he says.

Porsche 718 Cayman onroad rear

With the 718, Porsche appears to be offering both handbags and six-shooters. Perhaps it should always have been thus. Walliser's looking to the future though.

"I definitely think we can do a very, very good electric sports car, but I do not intend to do an electric 911."

Read next: Porsche boss admits they got the Cayman GT4's gearing wrong

That narrows things down a bit and fuels speculation that the next-gen 718 will be electrically-powered.

"We will wait a little bit to see which direction we are going," he says on the 718's propulsion.

Porsche 718 Cayman interior

When pressed on how the 718 was going to manage EU7 regulations due in 2026 which are set to push the 911 to a bigger capacity engine, Walliser admits "there are more options than just six-cylinders." Electric power? "That's one of the options." 

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