Porsche Purists Will Hate Flat-Four Engines For Cayman and Boxster
Porsche will manufacture flat-four engines for the Boxster and Cayman. Gentleman, start your Internet complaining!
Last week, Metallica played a gig in Bogota, Colombia and debuted a new song entitled “The Lords of Summer.” A week later, Porsche announced that they will be bringing a flat-four engine to the latest iteration of the Boxster and Cayman. How are these things linked? Aging 80s metal guy and the Porsche purists are sure to hate what they’re hearing. To use the parlance of our time: haters gonna hate.
To a degree, Porsche purists can be likened to that die-hard Metallica fan you’ve known since high school. Sure, they wear the shirts, crank the music in their car, and will tell anyone who will listen that Master of Puppets is the greatest thing ever pressed to vinyl (“Dude, that Cliff Burton bass on “Orion” is so killer”). But they’ll also take any opportunity they can to tell you all the things the band has done that they hate: Elektra Records, Bob Rock, commercial success, Napster lawsuit, every album since …And Justice for All, playing with an orchestra, playing with Lang Lang at the 2014 Grammys, cutting a record with the late Lou Reed, making a documentary about their internal conflicts, the list goes on.
Similarly, Porsche purists seem to hate so many of the things that the brand has created over the years that you wonder why they still call themselves fans of the brand. They couldn’t get behind the Panamera (A BULKY SEDAN THING? I THOUGHT THIS WAS A PORSCHE!), thumbed their noses at the 996 (WATER-COOLED ENGINE? I THOUGHT THIS WAS A PORSCHE!), despised the 928 (A FRONT-MOUNTED V8? I THOUGHT THIS WAS A PORSCHE!), and nearly slipped into a Lovecraftian catatonia of tentacle-wreathed madness with the Cayenne (AN SUV? AN SUV!? I THOUGHT THIS WAS A PORSCHE!). When Porsche revealed their compact SUV Macan at the 2013 LA Auto Show, you might not be too shocked to find out that a lot of Porsche purists were less than thrilled.
The announcement that Porsche will be fitting the Boxster and Cayman with flat-four engines is sure to inspire an unnecessary amount of insipid conjecture about how far the Porsche brand has gone off the rails and opining for the good ol’ days when a Porsche was a Porsche. However, the flat-four has been a long time coming and is as much a part of Porsche’s history as the flat-six that made the 911 the legend it is.
The flat-four has been rumored since Wolfgang Durheimer revealed that it was in development at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show and speculated that it could be applied to the Boxster and Cayman. According to Automotive News, Porsche CEO Matthias Muller stated that the flat-four is a part of their plan to cut CO2 emissions in compliance with EU regulations, which is an obligation of every automaker. Muller did note that the flat-four would still achieve up to 395 horsepower (likely turbocharged), which is more than what the current flat-six Boxster (325 hp) and Cayman produce (335 hp).
Of course, a number of Porsches—both beloved and considerably less so—have worked their magic with four-pot engines. The Porsche 912 and 914 both got flat-fours, as did the 911-preceding 356, and a number of other Porsches utilized inline fours up through the mid-90s. A four-cylinder Porsche is nothing new, but it won’t likely stop Porsche purists from claiming that the sky is falling.
Porsche producing SUVs and four-cylinder engines is a move out of necessity; it’s adaptation in a growing automotive market that demands a more diverse and fuel-efficient lineup and expresses the automaker’s desire to be more than just a niche product. But it might also be a desire to break out of the box into which their purist fanbase has put them.
Metallica caught flack during the 90s for the increasingly diverse nature of their offerings (e.g. Load, ReLoad, a great many covers on Garage Inc.), leading many to call them sell outs. Metallica’s music evolved to become more alternative and less metal in order to make their music more palatable in an era where metal had become passé, but it may have also been a means for the musicians to showcase their influences beyond the thrash/speed metal scenes in Britain and the Bay Area in the 70s and 80s.
Equal parts a move of brand/band survival and a need to break out of a pigeonhole, the change in sound alienated a good part of their fanbase. With St. Anger and Death Magnetic, the band attempted to return to their heavier roots and found much of the same divided opinion. All the while, Metallica remained one of the biggest bands in the world, selling out shows everywhere and moving tons of records and merchandise.
Porsche will make cars and SUVs with four-cylinder engines and there will be those who will cry blasphemy from the mountains. Porsche can’t hear it over all of the adulation that comes along with being one of the best-recognized and most-coveted automotive brands in the world.
The lesson to be learned here is that one cannot always cater to a finicky fanbase that wants more of the same but will burn whatever you bring them if it isn’t the exact same thing as your old classics (for Porsche, the 911; for Metallica, any album prior to The Black Album, depending on who you ask) only somehow better.
“The Lords of Summer” will give way to another Metallica studio album that denim-jacketed, thinning-hairlined metalheads are sure to hate. Porsche will make flat-four Boxsters and Caymans (and probably Macans), and there will be a large contingent of people who will invoke the name Butzi as they scream into their pillows.
That album is going to go platinum, and those Boxsters and Caymans will fly out of showrooms because somebody is going to buy them.
Haters gonna hate.