By on July 11, 2018

Depending on who you ask, the 718 Cayman is the best car in Porsche’s lineup. It’s not the fastest or the nicest, and you’ll have to spend a bundle if you want it equipped with luxury features. But it does offer a reasonably entry point into pure driving enjoyment without a lot of gimmicks.

While a bevy of cheaper options exist, the 718 strikes a balance that’s difficult to beat. Most American rivals have the right spirit but not the necessary precision, and competition from Japan doesn’t really exist. We can praise the Mazda MX-5 or Subaru BRZ as an overwhelmingly satisfying experience all day, but neither occupy the same category as the $56,500 Porsche.

The 718 needs a mass-market rival that wears an identical price tag and hosts a similar personality, if only to force it to step up its own game. But there isn’t one — not yet, anyway. Mercedes-Benz is currently working on a successor to the SLC and, while that vehicle isn’t really fit for taking down the Porsche, reports have indicated its replacement just might be. 

Presently, Cayman only has two semi-legitimate competitors in the United States — the Chevrolet Corvette and BMW’s M2. However, it’s difficult to draw a direct comparison with either. The base Corvette offers incredible levels of performance but it’s more about power-per-dollar than poise. Meanwhile, the M2 manages to best the Porsche in practicality and noise but falls a little short almost everywhere else. In fact, we’re only comparing it to the 718 because there is really nothing else on the market that fits the bill.

Fortunately, that could change in a few years. According to Autocar, a new AMG model was presented to Mercedes-Benz’s board of management as an indirect successor to the SLC. The model is rumored to be rear engined, with roadster and fixed-roof variants to rival the 718 Boxster and Cayman, specifically.

“A lot of thought has gone into how Mercedes-AMG can better leverage its success in motorsport, particularly Formula 1 and endurance racing,” said one senior Mercedes-Benz manager. “One idea is a sports car that is relatively attainable financially and ideally suited to track day running. But it is just an idea and not a committed project right now.”

There were rumors that AMG’s next big project would be an SUV, since they move in greater volumes. However, going with a serious performance coupe with an attainable price tag would open the door to track-day enthusiasts. “It’s a rapidly growing business segment and it is high exposure for the brand,” Autocar’s source said. “From a marketing perspective, it makes great sense, but you also need to ensure that it is financially viable in sufficient volumes and at a price to make it attractive to car buyers on a global basis. It would be additional business for AMG, not targeted at existing customers but new ones.”

Nothing’s decided as of yet, and Mercedes’ management board could certainly shoot the idea down if it doesn’t believe there’s money to be made. However, if it is built, a rear-engine setup seems to be a real possibility.

“Project One represents the start of a new era for Mercedes-AMG, not only in terms of the electrified driveline but also the placement of it behind the cabin,” the manager said. “Just how it will affect future models remains to be seen. However, a mid-rear layout is no longer taboo.”

[Image: Daimler AG]

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18 Comments on “Mercedes-AMG Considering Development of Porsche 718 Rival...”

  • avatar

    “Presently, Cayman only has two semi-legitimate competitors in the United States — the Chevrolet Corvette and BMW’s M2.”

    You made Alfa Romeo cry, Matt.

    • 0 avatar

      What about the Jaguar F-type? Same coin, more power, maybe a touch less handling focused compared to the Cayman? Likely has more storage. However I must say my brother’s ’15 Boxster GTS has decent space in the frunk.

      • 0 avatar

        Michelle Rodriguez did 201 mph in a F-Type SVR

      • 0 avatar

        Actually the F-type handles really nicely. It’s just too big and heavy…and a bit too much squishy bushings. It doesn’t feel the same to drive but similar to the M2.

        Boxster has pretty much trunk + frunk space. Then you can fit pretty big bags (flat but about seat-width and pretty tall) behind at least the passenger seat, most can fit some stuff behind the drivers’ seat too). F-Type as a Cabrio has pretty much the most ridiculously small and useless trunk ever, the coupé I guess has a lot more than the rag top but not sure if it’s really that large or useful (so much of it is window-level). Just out of memory I’d say the Boxster crushes the F-Type in luggage space.

    • 0 avatar

      I know the SLC is on death row, but the Mercedes-AMG site still lists the SLC 43.

      Kind of competitor, I guess.

      Maybe they are pulling an AMG GT4/CLS AMG move.

    • 0 avatar

      In comparisons tests, the Corvette has usually been pitted against the 911.

      And it it were to be slated against a BMW, it would be the M4 and not the M2.

  • avatar

    Not really relevant to the performance profile or market niche, but an interesting note on the 718: I was in Boulder last week, and a pristine model in whatever they call that aquamarine color was parked by the curb, and people were treating it like an exotic, craning their necks, taking pics, etc. And they weren’t wrong to do so: it’s a stunning car, even after several years of exposure, and despite appearing so similar to its predecessor and of course its uncle.

    It’s always impressive to me when designers manage to make a good looking car look significantly better without starting over, but it’s really impressive when they’re working within such a long and prominent tradition.

    FWIW, the Macan, which came out around the same time, is also 10x better looking than the Cayenne, despite sharing a lot of design elements. Nobody has been able to make the Panamera gorgeous, but otherwise the folks in Stuttgart seem to have figured some things out.

  • avatar

    With any luck the AMG alternative won’t have turbo-lag like the 718.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      Are you serious? Have you driven one? Like most modern small displacement cars with small turbochargers, lag is virtually non-existent. That why so many of this new generation turbo cars reach peak torque at a few hundred rpm above idle speed.

  • avatar

    The 718 is of the classic “mid engined” sports car design: 2 front seats, engine where the back seats would normally be, a “frunk” storage area and a trunk (hatch, really). So, the Alfa Romeo 4C is the true competitor.

    The original linked article mentions “mid-rear” engine, which is the naming that Corvette owners seem to insist on so they can call the Corvette “mid-front” engined. Whatever. The Corvette is really a different beast—handling wise—than a mid-engined car. BMW doesn’t even try; they just list the front/rear weight balance as 50% and leave it at that. (Nevermind that 50%/50% is never the balance for a mid-engined sports car.)

    I’m guessing the Mercedes will be mid engined in the classic sense. I’m also guessing the Mercedes (like the Alfa Romeo 4C) will be automatic transmission only in the USA. On the plus side, the AMG will probably out-power the competitors, so maybe that’ll convince Porsche add more power to the 718; who knows.

    Is a 718 with a 6-cylinder out of the question? The old Cayman/Boxster used 911 engines, so maybe engineers could squeeze it into the engine bay? (I guess this comes down to if the 718 engine bay was designed to fit an additional pair of cylinders.)

    Hopefully, this Mercedes won’t go the way of the C111 project from the 1970s.

    • 0 avatar

      Mercedes makes a lot of FWD garbage in cheap countries nowadays, so it would be cheap for them to ‘do an Alpine’: take the FWD hatchback 4-pot engine and put in in the middle. But I hope they don’t go that route.

  • avatar

    718 is a joke. That ridiculous price for that absolutely horrible sounding 4-pot is just a big middle finger from those gray-haired old German elitist corrupt cheaters who own VW.

    That car sounds almost as horrible as the GT86. Right after having one of the sweetest sounding engines, the boxer 6. SMH.

    • 0 avatar

      And one got beat in CSCS Time Attack by a modified Model 3:

    • 0 avatar
      brian in oz

      not a joke but…
      not a ‘enthusiasts’ sports car either right now. The sweet spot was the last of the sixes when it was still a boxster.
      not a bad car but P car forums state the above. Real enthusiasts are buying other P car models. low sales 718 confirm it.
      In 10 years the 718 turbo cars will be in demand on the used car market when they are cheap & the boost hacked, upped and chipped then add a noisy after market exhaust.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      I like the sound. It makes some nice pops and burbles too.

  • avatar

    Hans, cancel ze SLK!
    Dieter, quick, get in here, we need something to compete mit ze Boxster.
    Be quiet Hans!

  • avatar

    Ah, but you’re forgetting all about the new Alpine A110. “What’s that? Oh right, it does not come to the U.S.” ;-) If it were, Trump would put a hefty tariff on it.

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