How to build the perfect 718?
My guide in buying Porsche's most Controversial Car
Ever since its launch in 2016, the Porsche 718 has not had the easiest life. Many people have criticised it massively especially when compared to it’s predecessor the 981, that it had lost the charm of a true Porsche. Mainly this was down to the controversial engine change, gone was the magnificent Flat 6 of the previous car and in its place was a 4 cylinder turbo, which apparently made the car feel quite Subaruish. Of course Porsche had done this change for emissions regulations and to ordinary drivers this wouldn’t have mattered but for journalists, petrolheads and Porsche purists, this change was as bad as Brexit.
The one that "brought back the magic"
As a result, many people who would’ve bought a Cayman or a Boxster ended up buying a BMW M2 or an Alpine A110 instead. To get back some of the appeal, Porsche brought out their GT4 and Spyder models which, glory ahold, were fitted with 4.0L Flat Sixes and then a year later, the GTS models which previously had 4 cylinders were replaced with ones that had the Flat 6. So problem sorted then? Well not quite.
Jeremy's hilariously broken down GT4
When motoring God Jeremy Clarkson drove a 718 GT4 back in 2019, in his words, “it came over all British Leyland”. According to Porsche, a faulty water pump, “dumped coolant all over the alternator” which caused the front suspension turrets to collapse and as the dashboard stated “Achtung! For you, Tommy, ze drive is over”. Despite being impressed with the car naming it “a real, genuine, 100%, undiluted sporting thoroughbred” Jeremy refused to give it a sound conclusion due to its breakdown.
Flat 6 Porsche 718s are being recalled
Recently it’s been revealed that 190 718s have been recalled in the US, all of which have either been GTS’, GT4’s or Spyder. The problem was that the connecting rod on the Flat 6 could crack and lead to engine damage which would eventually lead to fire. The problem was, I think, that because so many purists hounded Porsche for a Flat 6, they weren’t thorough enough when fitting it to the 718s and as a result, the cars are now coming over all McLaren. So with this recent crisis, I’ve decided to provide my four tips on buying the ideal 718. One that doesn’t breakdown and cost more than it should and one that manages to exploit that fabulous mid engined chassis and provide enough thrill for the Porsche enthusiast.
1. ENSURE THE CAR IS PROPERLY SPECCED!
Ceramic Brakes are a must
Whether you buy a used or a brand new 718, it’s important to ensure that the car has the correct specification. Colour shouldn’t be that important (I’d always go for metallic or Miami blue personally) but more important than colour is the ensure the car is available with ceramic brakes, park assist, PTV and active suspension. On this basis, it’s probably better to buy a used 718 with all these options ticked instead of a new one, as once you’d finished speccing the final result will be exactly 10 grand more than the actual car. However there is one option, I would personally avoid.
2. GET A MANUAL NOT A PDK CAR
Don't buy a PDK
Look I’m not against double clutch gearboxes, in fact I generally prefer them to manuals. And Porsche’s PDK is one of the best out there. For the 911, (the 718’s bigger brother) I would always go for a PDK car over a manual (even with the GT3) as it has become so well rounded, so capable and so fast. Having a manual merely slows the car down and to get the best out of any 911 since the 991, you do need a PDK.
A manual is better (in the 718)
However with the 718 it’s the complete opposite. It’s not as well rounded or as fast as the 911 or half as capable. It’s more basic, more delicate and light, more about the enjoyment of driving than about how fast you can get there. Therefore to get the best out of this car, what you want is a six speed manual. The driving position is perfect, the pedals are ideal for heal and toe type motion and if you do get a GTS or GT4 that works you can unwind that glorious Flat 6.
Manuals are better in smaller cars like the M2
It’s a similar story with BMW, for cars like the M3, M4 and M5, they’ve become so capable and fast, that ZF Automatics and Dual clutches are the only way to get the best out of those cars. For the little M2 however, it’s not about outright speed or capability, it’s about the enjoyment of driving, so a six speed manual is far more suitable.
3. BUY A CAYMAN NOT A BOXSTER
The Cayman is better than the Boxster
When someone buys a Rolls Royce, they want something that is quiet, refined and comfortable. When someone buys a Lamborghini, they want something loud, obnoxious and in your face. And similarly when someone buys a Porsche, they want to experience the ultimate drive. The trouble with any convertible Porsche is that it isn’t quite as sharp or as tactful as a coupe and can be used for less days of the year. Yes the Boxster handles beautifully and has lovely road holding and in the summer is probably more thrilling but honestly speaking, you are better off with the Cayman, which is sharper and cheaper to buy. However more important than Boxster or Cayman is which specific model to buy, which brings onto my final and most important point.
4. THE 718 S IS THE ONE TO BUY
Don't buy the 2.0L or the T
Of course, in an ideal world, the 718 you would buy is the GT4 and if not that then the GTS, but due to the engine troubles they’ve been having as of late, I’d avoid them until Porsche fixes the Flat 6 troubles. But at the same time, I’d also avoid the standard and T models for a very good reason.
987 is an appalling car
One of the reasons many people, me included, hated the original Cayman/Boxster was because they felt as though they weren’t quite as good as what Porsche could’ve made them. You always got the sense driving a 987 or 986 that Porsche had restricted and limited its power output because then it would make people question the upside of buying a 911. That meant in the old cars never exploited the perfection of that mid-engined chassis as even the top of the range models never had the power to really enjoy them. That’s why the older cars were often viewed as being bought by people who couldn’t afford a 911, as there was really nothing about them that was superior to their bigger brother.
981 was a significant improvement
Things however changed with 981 (other than the standard model), it no longer felt as a car that was bought by people who couldn’t afford a 911. It felt like one for those who found the 911 to be too unnecessary and diluted. To exploit the brilliance of the mid engined chassis ideally a Cayman/Boxster needs over 300 horsepower. In the old 981, this was every model bar the standard car, in the 987, this was only available in the hardcore R and Spyder models. However for the 718, this is only available in either the Flat 6 models, the S or the now out of production 4 cylinder GTS. And as the Flat 6 cars have their troubles, and no one wants a 2.0L 718 with less than 300 horsepower, the S is really your only choice. And it’s actually fairly good.
944, one of Porsche's greats
Because it’s turbocharged, it has a relatively good amount of torque, 310 lb ft to be precise, which is actually the same as any GT4 and the current GTS 4.0. And with 345 horsepower and 177mph it’s fairly quick and you can really exploit the benefit of that mid-engined chassis. And before people start complaining about its engine let’s not forget that one of Porsche’s greatest cars had a 2.5L 4 cylinder. I am of course talking about the sweetheart of the 80s, the simply spectacular 944, the 718’s distant ancestor. And if it worked for that 80s legend, then it’ll surely work in the arguably even more spectacular 718.
So to sum up, if you want to buy a 718 without the worry of it bursting into flames or undermining you with it’s lack of oomph, buy a manual 718 Cayman S. Yes I know the sound track of is terribles and I know that in an ideal world that Flat 6 is a better car. But until Porsche find a solution that can solve and with constant strangulation on petrol engines, a 4 cylinder is the only way to go. And if you buy the S trust me, it won’t disappoint.
718 Cayman S Manual, the one to buy