By replacing its four-cylinder turbocharged boxer engine with an all-new atmospheric flat six in its latest range-topping 718 models, Porsche has addressed the main bone of criticism that so many had with earlier 982-generation Boxsters and Caymans.
And you should be in no doubt: the engine it has ushered in here is well worthy of a GT department billing. Its throttle response, smoothness, high-range flexibility and linearity of delivery are all breathtakingly good. Particulate filter or no, it sounds like a great Porsche flat six, too.
Funnily enough, though, the longer you spend in the new 718 Spyder, the more you may be convinced that the car’s powertrain remains adrift of perfection by one frustratingly small yet annoyingly significant detail: its gearing. Both the Cayman GT4 and Spyder use the same six-speed manual gearbox, stacked with precisely the same intermediate ratios and then driven through the same axle ratio, as every other manual-equipped 982-generation 718 has used to date.
Having previously been attached to turbo engines that produce much more accessible torque and ultimately spin less freely, however, the gearbox now finds itself hooked up to a motor that needs 5000rpm wound into its crankshaft to hit full stride – and then goes on all the way to 8000rpm.
The upshot is that without at least a shortened final drive ratio to help it through the lower reaches, this is an engine that needs an awful lot of winding up before it makes the 718 feel really fast. Moreover, the car needs to be well beyond 80mph even in third gear to be within what you might call its ‘truly feisty’ operating range. With two more gears to go, it revs beyond 140mph in fourth.
Suffice it to say, the motor does feel a bit flat at normal road speeds in its upper ratios. It doesn’t make the Spyder quite as fast, both against the clock and in give-and-take motoring, as it probably should. And nor does it give you enough opportunities to close in on that 8000rpm redline, frankly. The performance numbers we recorded on this car are bang on Porsche’s claims and more than respectable; but with the gearing it deserves, this could have – and probably should have – been a sub-4.0sec 0-60mph sports car.
All of which may be risking overstatement of the drivetrain’s shortcomings. This is, rest assured, a generally very pleasing engine and gearbox with which to interact.