"It really helped the car to survive."
As much as Porsche is associated with pin-sharp handling, the marque is just as closely tied to melodious six-cylinder engines. That all changed a few years ago when the 718 Boxster and Cayman downsized to smaller turbocharged four-pots, a decision that Porsche loyalists have never really warmed to. In a similar concession to emissions and efficiency regulations, Mercedes is also set to drop the V8 from several AMGs.
But Porsche disagrees with these negative sentiments. At least, that's according to Frank-Steffen Walliser, the 718 model line chief who spoke to Which Car. "I would fully defend it," said Walliser with conviction when asked about the transition from six- to four-cylinder turbo engines in the 718.
"It was one of the most important strategic moves we did in the whole model line," continued Walliser, who references successes in the Chinese market when the 2.0-liter turbo engine was introduced. "Volume-wise we are number one in the market in China and this compensated [for] everything in the world, and the sales numbers in China are unbelievably good over many, many years."
Walliser explained that due to the uptake in China, the 2.0L engine effectively helped the 718 to survive. However, in other markets where the model line fared traditionally well, some volume was lost. "This [engine] is different," he admitted, no doubt referring to the four-pot's reduced emotional character when matched up against the older engines.
Apparently, the typical Boxster customer is a 30-year-old Chinese woman, a buyer who is likely less concerned with chasing the red line and who wants a stylish, high-image sports car.
Of course, the six-cylinder has returned to the 718 in the form of that glorious 4.0-liter naturally-aspirated gem in the GTS and GT4. Walliser says that in Porsche's more traditional markets like the US, the UK, and Australia, this engine is generating renewed interest in the range.
He also hinted at whether the next 718 could make the move to electric power. "I definitely think we can do a very, very good electric sports car, but I do not intend to do an electric 911." The Taycan is already proof that Porsche can combine a superlative drive with electric power, so this is exciting news.
More than this, based on Walliser's comments, we'd rather have a four-pot Boxster or Cayman than not have these wonderful sports cars exist at all.