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    TechArt 718 Boxster S

    Porsche tuner TechArt has been busy with the 718’s four-pot. We try its first effort Photography: Aston Parrott

    Porsche’s decision to swap the Boxster’s naturally aspirated flat-six for a turbo’d flat-four may have resulted in abject disappointment from those who appreciate good acoustics, but there’s been elation from those who tweak the cars.

    Eking out extra power from a highly strung naturally aspirated engine is an involved and expensive process, and the gains are quite meagre compared with the effort required. However, a turbocharged engine can be made to churn out extra power with relative ease, and if you know what you are doing, it can do so reliably, too.

    Knowing this doesn’t make it any less surprising to see a Boxster with damned near 400bhp. German tuner TechArt has created just that, though, taking the 2.5-litre engine in the 718 Boxster S and increasing its power from 345bhp to 394bhp and torque from 310lb ft to 354lb ft. TechArt claims the extra power means its 718 is good for 0-62mph in 4.0sec with PDK and Launch Control – two tenths quicker than the standard car – plus a top speed of 184mph (up 7mph).

    TechArt doesn’t delve into the 718’s existing ECU and make irreversible changes. Instead, its ‘Techtronic’ engine management sits alongside the OEM system, making it easy to install and just as easy to remove. This approach means the upgrade doesn’t affect the vehicle diagnostics or builtin engine-protection systems. Even so, TechArt takes over the warranty for the engine and gearbox.

    To help liberate the extra power, a new exhaust has also been developed. Rather than being a full titanium system like those it makes for 911s, only the tips are titanium (and carbonfibre) here. The rest is stainless steel to keep costs down, though the power upgrade and exhaust still come to a hefty €7664 (c£6500).

    As our test car demonstrates, though, you can spend a whole lot more. Its retractable rear spoiler has been replaced by a fixed wing, while at the front there’s a two-part splitter and a GT3-style vent at the base of the bonnet. Together these cost €3225 (c£2700). The car also sits 35mm lower (25mm with PASM) thanks to new springs, but the dampers remain unchanged. The springs plus repainted brake calipers cost €2760 (c£2300). Finally, the wheels have been replaced with a set of TechArt’s own 21-inch rims costing €7895 (c£6700). It’s all relatively restrained, but the bodywork and stance changes add a degree of menace that’s missing from the standard Boxster.

    Despite the lower, stiffer springs and louder exhaust, this Boxster isn’t really any less civilised. The suspension is firmer and the ride slightly busier, but the car retains enough suspension travel to remain composed on rough roads. The noise from the exhaust isn’t dramatically different, either. The sound is still the familiar thrumming of the 718’s flat-four, only now an octave lower rather than being much louder. That deeper tone and the firmer ride, although subtle, infuse the Boxster with a more determined focus even before you’ve felt the extra power.

    Not that the additional shove is immediately obvious. The module that liberates the extra power doesn’t come into effect until you select Sport or Sport Plus mode, so by default the car has exactly same power as when it left the factory. However, when you do finally choose a mode that gives you the full monty, there still isn’t the Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation you might have been hoping for.

    This flat-four isn’t the most linear of engines and the upgrade hasn’t changed that. But where the standard engine pushes the Boxster S forwards determinedly, as it passes 4000rpm this 718 begins to fire you forward. Impressively given the big hike in power, the car deals with the more pronounced boost without the traction control going beserk or the rear wheels losing traction; 394bhp in a Boxster doesn’t feel wild or over the top, it feels completely appropriate. But don’t go thinking it’s boring.

    TechArt’s 718 is properly fast, and the acceleration is now distracting enough to make you forget about the lessthan- ideal noise from the engine. The lower, firmer springs may have added a slight edge to the Boxster’s fluid handling, but they haven’t affected the car’s balance. It still changes direction beautifully, pivoting around its centre. The springs tighten up the chassis slightly, too, and help the steering response feel more immediate. However, in tighter corners where you really load up the outside tyres, there’s a little more roll than you might expect – though no more than in a standard Boxster. As the body rolls, the inside rear wheel also spins easily thanks to the extra torque and lack of a limited-slip differential (there’s one on Porsche’s options list, mind, at £890, including torque vectoring). Also absent here are Porsche’s carbonceramic brakes, but the standard cast-iron items are perfectly capable of hauling the car to a stop.

    As you don’t have to fit the entire TechArt package, you could choose to just have the extra power, but the combination of all the modifications elevates this 718 Boxster into a league above the standard car. Even though it hasn’t dramatically improved the new engine’s sound, the exhaust’s bassier notes are more tuneful, while the new wing and splitter give the mid-engined Porsche a real presence. Finally, the unruffled way that the car copes with the extra 49bhp and 44lb ft of torque secures the 718 Boxster’s position as a proper sports car – and one of the best available.

    Just make sure the car you start with has a limited-slip diff.

    ‘This much power in a Boxster doesn’t feel wild or over the top, it feels completely appropriate’

    Left and below left: GT3-style nose vent, jutting front splitter and a fixed rear wing are part of TechArt’s styling package; enormous, 21-inch rims won’t be to all tastes.

    Technical Data Specification: #2017 / #TechArt-718-Boxster-S / #Porsche-718-Boxster-S / #Porsche-718-Boxster-S-TechArt / #Porsche-718-Boxster-TechArt / #Porsche-718-TechArt / #Porsche-TechArt / #Techart / #Porsche-718 / #Porsche / #Porsche-718-Cayman-S-982 / #Porsche-718-Cayman-982 / #Porsche-982 / #Porsche / #Porsche-718 / #Porsche-718-Cayman / #Porsche-718-Cayman-S / #Porsche-718-Cayman-S-TechArt-982 / #Porsche-718-Cayman-TechArt-982 /

    Engine Flat-four, 2497cc, turbo
    CO2 n/a
    Power 394bhp @ 6800 rpm
    Torque 354lb ft @ 1800-4850 rpm
    0-62mph 4.0sec (claimed)
    Top speed 184mph (claimed)
    Weight 1355kg (295bhp/ton)
    Basic price UK /USA / Au /CA See text

    + Ideal level of power for the Boxster
    - Mightily Specification expensive; needs a limited-slip diff
    Rating 5.0
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    The very same day? Somebody at Audi has a mischievous streak a mile wide. Knowing that Porsche’s downsizing crusade has caused disquiet in petrolhead quarters, they waited for the official reveal of the latest, rather muted four-pot 718 Cayman S, and then pounced. The TT RS would be a true red-blooded sports car, they said. With 395bhp and a snarly five-cylinder engine. Sounds to us like a declaration of civil war, but one thing’s for sure: the folks at Audi’s performance division must have been quietly sniggering into their macchiatos.

    / #2016 / #Porsche-718-Cayman-S / #Porsche-718-Cayman / #Porsche-718 / #Porsche / #Audi-TT-RS / #Audi-TT / #Audi / #Audi-TT / #Audi-TT-8S / #Audi-TT-RS-8S /

    Porsche is putting a brave face on it, talking up the new forced-induction boxer fours’ extra power and torque, increased flexibility and improved on-paper economy. But the fact is that, as with the 718 Boxster, in swapping out the preceding naturally aspirated flat-sixes it has essentially emasculated the Cayman by lopping off a pair of its most precious assets, removing the tantalising hint of the exotic that all six-cylinder engines represent in the process. And it’s apparently done so in the pursuit of efficiency; an admirable ambition but one that must rank well behind a sonorous soundtrack and chasing the needle to the redline in terms of importance to dream-achieving sports car buyers.

    With this and the primarily-turbo 911 line-up, it’s starting to look like cool-groove Porsche, the company that so captivated James Dean, Steve McQueen and the like, has been replaced by a more corporate entity, beholden to the eco-weenies and bean counters. This would be unsettling enough on its own – but at the same time Audi, the epitome of corporate conformity with its same-again design and mass premium marketing, is increasingly prepared to stick two fingers up at the regulators when occasion demands it. Just as the R8 remains available with a free-breathing 5.2-litre V10 while all around others are downsizing and slapping turbos on their supercars, so the new TT RS retains its charismatic five-cylinder engine while VW Group stablemate Porsche adopts a more prosaic piston count.

    Some of you are probably screaming already: the RS also has a turbo, and it’s the TT range-topper, whereas the 718 Caymans so far confirmed are merely the bread and butter. It’s true, GTS and GT4 Caymans are still to come, and intel suggests the latter at least may stick to six-pot power. Yet as Porsche’s sporting purity message begins to shudder under the strain of all that extra ancillary plumbing, the choice between a middle-ranking Cayman S and the top dog TT is surely in danger of swinging towards the brand that has been making a virtue of Vorsprung durch Technik for decades. Especially once you also start to compare their vital statistics more closely.

    Pricing for the TT RS – which will come in both Coupe and Roadster variants, thereby putting it into position to ruin the 718 Boxster S’s day as well – won’t be revealed until later this year, though we understand it’s likely to cost just north of £50k. A basic Cayman S will set you back £48,834, or £50,756 with seven-speed PDK. Since the TT RS is S tronic only, possibly the presence of a six-speed manual will help the Cayman keep its driver’s edge – it remains mid-engined and rear-wheel drive, of course, versus the TT’s theoretically more anodyne front-engined, four-wheel drive layout. No doubt, the Porsche will have sensational handling; for this substantial revision of the existing platform, the springs and anti-roll bars have been made stiffer, the dampers retuned, the steering becomes 10% more direct, and the rear tyres are half an inch wider. The options list includes Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with a 10mm ride height reduction, Sport PASM (SPASM?) with a 20mm drop, and the usual Sport Chrono Package and Porsche Torque Vectoring electronically-controlled limited-slip differential.

    But both Ben Barry and Georg Kacher have already taken issue with the 2.5-litre Porsche turbo engine after experiencing it in the Boxster S. While it may have an extra 25bhp and a torque profile that’s at once boosted by 37lb ft and flattened like Wile E. Coyote after encountering The Road Runner in a steam roller (310lb ft @ 1900-4500rpm), it simply does not stir the soul like its predecessor. And that has got to be a problem when there is a similarly positioned Audi coupe available for similar money that not only glories in the aural presence of a Group B era Sport Quattro but scorches 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds.

    Three-point-seven seconds. That’s as fast as the previous generation Audi R8 V10 Plus, the £1million Aston Martin One-77, the 707bhp Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and the Jaguar XJ220, which used to be the fastest car in the world. Obviously there’s more to driving enjoyment than sprinting to the national limit, but it’s hard to ignore how that’s a whole half-second quicker than the very best Cayman S claim with PDK, Sport Chrono and launch control all activated. And the thing is, the TT’s Quattro four-wheel drive means it will do that all day, every day, in almost any weather, which has a kind of brutalistic appeal. The Cayman S gets its own back at the top end on the autobahn, promising 177mph all-in – though since the TT RS is still limited, when you pay extra to raise the 155mph leash to 174 it’s not the comprehensive vanquishing Porsche fans might hope for.

    The Audi is also more aggressive on the brakes. The Cayman S uses four-piston front anchors inherited from the 911 with 330mm discs, but the TT RS features 370mm floating front rotors and monstrous eight-piston calipers; the rear discs are 299mm and 310mm, respectively. That 2.5-litre inline five is 17% more powerful than in the previous TT RS, producing 354lb ft @ 1700-5850rpm as well as the headline 395bhp.

    The seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic has been uprated, too, with a heat exchanger to keep the oil temperature down and a new angle drive to the propshaft saving a couple of kilos. The conventional RS suspension set-up is 10mm lower than the basic TT’s, with RS Sport Audi magnetic ride variable damping as an option.

    Sadly there’s no sign of a ‘sport differential’ at this stage, something Audi has used to great effect on other performance models. The fixed rear wing can be dinked for the more subtle auto-extending spoiler of the standard car, apparently to no discernible disadvantage; either way you get a sizeable four-vane diffuser, framed by a pair of oval tailpipes, the volume of which can be controlled by a dedicated button on the centre console.

    Tech-wise, both Cayman S and TT RS now allow you to select the driving mode without taking your hands off the wheel – the Porsche following the lead of the latest 911, the Audi that of the latest R8. But only the TT RS features all-digital ‘virtual cockpit’ instrumentation and LED headlights as standard; you can upgrade to the latter in the Porsche, which Audi one-ups with a fully active Matrix LED option. The TT RS is also the first production car to feature super-thin OLED lighting at the rear, perhaps helping people identify the low-flying bolide that’s just dusted them…

    What’s more, our recent experience with a TTS long-termer suggests the TT’s MQB-derived platform has plenty of driver- engaging potential. This may not be a slam-dunk, but if Porsche isn’t worried, well, it should be.

    Mustang: Porsche’s other big headache

    THE NEW TT RS isn’t the only reason the Cayman should be fretting – Ford’s rhd Mustang is a massive hit. Over 3800 have been sold since order books opened last June, with demand actually increasing since the start of 2016 (nearly 500 sold in April alone). It’s currently the best-selling sports car globally, too. Seems buyers are being captivated by its compelling blend of all-American good looks, impressive interior, and strong value; prices start at just £31k. And the worst news for Porsche? 70% of UK buyers are choosing the 5.0-litre V8 model, yours for £34,995 with 410bhp. Does that four-cylinder turbo still seem like a good idea?

    In the Porsche corner Truly exceptional chassis, now stiffer, more power, more torque, better mpg and 177mph!

    In the Audi corner MQB chassis is a winner, more power, epic brakes, great noise, stunning cabin and 0-62 in 3.7sec!


    Price 2016 UK £50,756
    Engine 2497cc 16v turbo flat-four
    Power & Torque 345bhp @ 6500rpm, 310lb ft @ 1900-4500rpm
    Performance 0-62mph 4.2sec (4.4sec without Sport Chrono), 177mph, 38.7mpg, CO2 167g/km
    Kerbweight 1460kg

    Price 2016 UK £51,000 (est)
    Engine 2480cc 20v turbo inline-five
    Power & Torque 395bhp (rpm tbc), 354lb ft @ 1700-5850rpm
    Performance 0-62mph 3.7sec (Roadster 3.9sec), 174mph (155mph standard), mpg n/a, CO2 n/a
    Kerbweight n/a

    Still quite the looker! ‘Porsche may have blinked on powertrain but it’s held its nerve on design, the Cayman’s perfect lines helped by the mid-engine, rear-drive layout, which also makes a gift of those mega side intakes.

    What’s German for subtle? Those fat oval tailpipes look mean as you like, and you can adjust their volume via a switch on the centre console. Choose between fixed rear wing or active spoiler.
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