• Jan 28th 2010 at 4:00PM
  • 42
Volkswagen Bluesport Concept – Click above for high-res image gallery

The head of the Volkswagen Group, Martin Winterkorn, spoke with Autocar about the possibility of a new entry level Porsche model. Perhaps fancifully dubbed the 356, the new model would slot into Porsche's lineup below the Boxster and Cayman. In England, the new baby Porsche would cost about £33,000, which means nothing to us here in the U.S. and is about what a base Boxster costs. That said, the article mentions the possibility that the next generation Boxster and Cayman might go way up scale.

Big question: what would this new 356 be? Autocar speculates that the 356 will be based heavily on the mid-engine architecture of the upcoming Audi R4 and the conceptual Volkswagen Bluesport. We don't know if the 356 will be strictly a coupe or also be available as a roadster. In fact, we don't even know if the R4 will be coupe-only. We'd image the two cars will have similar, if not identical, body configurations. Though not the engine. In order to keep some brand DNA in the Porsche, the 356 will ship with a new forced-induction flat-four.

Those that remember the 944 Turbo S and the 968 know this is in no way a bad thing – except the 924 Turbo's engine was the EA831 inline-four originally intended for the Volkswagen Bus and Audi 100. It was never really any good, even in turbo form. The reborn 356's mill (most likely a turbo as opposed to supercharged) should be good for around 250 horsepower – very close to where the base Boxster/Cayman currently sits. Expect the 356 to get much better fuel economy, however.

The new 356 will share a transmission with the R4. Again, the 924, 944 and 968 shipped with a modified Audi 100 transmission acting as a transaxle, so there is precedence. As to what that transmission will be, we don't know but we'd guess a DSG of some sort. Audi's R4 should arrive sometime in 2011, with the Porsche 356 bowing in 2012. Is any of this going to actually, you know, happen? Magic 8-Ball says, "Ask again later."

[Source: Autocar]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Gee, VW begins to screw up Porsche. Big surprise. :(
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Screw up"? Care to qualify that intelligently? You don't want a brand struggling on the brink to survive with products that can actually be raced and enjoyed again by non-posers?

        As a business (don't forget that) Porsche needs the 4-cyl products that put them on the map and they need a higher volume platform. The four cylinder is where they come from and efficiency is becoming a serious headache for them. This makes a ton of sense for their bottom line and for us enthusiasts.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Porsche started with 4cyls though. Lamborghini has always been about big engines.

        550, 356, 904... Theres no reason a new Porsche can't have 4 cylinders and be the absolute best 4 cylinder car on the market. Its not all about selling to posers either, theres the consideration of tightening regs, better responses from a lighter chassis etc.

        911 is already playing in the Ferrari end of the pond. Might as well solidify that role and let the Cayman/Boxster fill the niche 911 filled for decades. Plus, their natural balance makes Porsche handling more accessible - and more relevant to most drivers.

        Before the Cayenne VW/Porsches were great cars, if so ugly that punters didn't care. There was a time a new Porsche was accessible to a middle class person who saved and managed their finances wisely. Why should new Porsches only be the plaything for those with golden parachutes and lavish bonuses?
        • 5 Years Ago
        +100,000 what BoxerFanatic said
      • 5 Years Ago
      I just stumbled upon this argument (and indeed this whole site) while searching for info on the new "entry level" Porsche. Very interesing indeed. My "fun car" is a '74 standard Beetle so I was delighted to see that the BlueTech might just come to reality. It needs a real roof though, convertibles are too compromised and expensive for my tastes.

      The so-called 356 is intriguing as well...though the fact that all new Porsches since the ninties have been given names instead of numbers makes me doubt that this will be any exception. That's fine. I would love a Cayman but I don't expect to ever drop that much on a car, even if I could afford it. The "356"...maybe, maybe, if it has the sexy curves of the Cayman and enough engineering advances over the VW to justify the price of the Porsche badge.

      As for the argument over it's drivetrain I whole heartedly agree it ought to have a flat four and longitudinal layout. Just would be "right" any other way. Reading the arguments back and fourth I had the same thought as Andre, who no one responded to. There's no reason that the platform shouldn't be flexible enough to support this option. Unless the engineering was already settled before Porsche came to the table VW would have been miserly to deny Porsche it's own unique engine. Just use the Boxster transmission, cut two cylinders off it's engine and you're done. This also opens up the option to use the engine in a version of the Boxster/Cayman for certain markets with displacement based taxes.

      Any news on this subject?
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm a huge fan of the original 356's. I would love to see a new 356, but please don't tell me the Porsche will look anything like the BlueSport or the e-tron. Not that there is anything wrong with them as a VW and an Audi. The 356 has some much design character to draw from. Don't waste it VW!
      • 5 Years Ago
      THANK YOU Jonny! For being the first Autoblogger to note that the price of a car outside the U.S. is pretty much irrelevant to any discussion here.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think this is a great idea except that I'm terrified of seeing the Boxster and Cayman go "way upscale" (shudder). If it handles as well in comparison to its brethren as the 944 did to its, I think it'd be a hit and PERHAPS would claim the "rich-man's Miata" mantle that the Z4 flushed down the toilet in its latest iteration.

      The 911 is already stratospheric enough, and all this would do is encourage them to start the Carrera 2 in $100k territory. What about the mid-engined cars needs to go upscale anyway? You can get every luxury amenity you can think of, plus make up a couple on your own with the whole personalization program. Has their pricing structure been holding them back from finally offering alligator-skin seats and vicuna floor mats or something?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree, in part. At the moment, nobody is coming close to the Miata in pure sports car talent (in the entry level) and those with a bit more coin really have no where to go until they hit $55k or so (everything under that is now a heavyweight boulevard cruiser - see 370Z Cab). This leaves an enormous opportunity for a simple, lightweight, Miata-like Porsche akin to the original 356.

        That said, I don't think they'll need to move the other models upmarket. With any options at all, the Cayman is $70k and the 911 breaks $100k. At a shade under $40k to start (the target for the original Boxster) they'll have plenty of breathing room from the Boxster and enjoy a market segment all to themselves.

        Do it Porsche. And make a Speedster variant!
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'd argue (again on this post sadly, I blame the beer) that the 911 should go above 100k. The vast majority i've seen are driven by men older than my father, or women who don't look like they've earned the paycheck to pay for one...

        Let the 911 stay in sync with the Ferrari V8s of the world.

        The Cayman/Boxster was an entry level car, but now its price is out of reach the class of people who made it successful in the first place. Let it replace the 911 line as the mid-aspirational product...

        ...which leaves a space for a new Porsche, in sync with belt tightening times but still a premium product. Aspirational, but attainable. Slightly cheaper than a Z4, but far more special than a top-flight Miata. As for "rich man's Miata" I think thats disengenious. I'd expect any 4 cylinder Porsche to simply be the Porsche of 4 cylinder sports cars: sublime, special. Attainability for the hard-working middle classes is the bonus.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I own a Miata.

        I want to replace it eventually with a used Boxster.

        There is no way Porsche should go anywhere NEAR the Miata price point. The Miata is a fantastic car for what it costs.

        VW should definitely target the production BlueSport mid-transverse car toward that segment.

        Porsche doesn't belong there. Porsche is something more special, by design, and by purpose, and focus of engineering.

        And a porsche should NEVER wear an engine transversely. PERIOD. That is not engineering excellence, that is compromise. Compromise is fine, where price warrants it... Porsche is not about that kind of compromise.
      • 5 Years Ago
      356 is ok idea until you start thinking about the fate of 911 if cayman/boxter go up-market cause they are not that far apart even now.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Spoken like someone who isn't actually spending the money: The price difference between a Boxster and 911 is huge when it's your own money. A 911 CS with any options is nearly touching $100k. A Cayman S is around $70k. Any way you slice it, that's a big gap.

        But to me, given the steady price creep of the Boxster since 1996, the 356 has been sorely missing from their lineup. A lot of younger buyers are no longer seeing the viability and the racers are skipping the brand altogether. Given the times we live in, a return to the essential roadster roots, complete with 4-cyl power, is their future.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Paul, I think Milos meant that the difference in luxury and features between the 911 and Boxster isn't that big, not the difference in cost. You can't take the Boxster or Cayman any more upscale without it being just as luxurious as the 911 already is. Unless they plan on taking the 911 even more upscale as well.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think an entry-level Porsche is a great idea, but I agree it probably won't be a boxer engine (I hope I'm wrong). If it's an inline-4, I'll be disappointed and would never buy one. One of the things that makes a Boxster corner better than other mid-engined cars is the low center of gravity of that engine. Put an inline-4 in it, then you really are just buying it for the badge, and you may as well pick up the VW for less and tweak the suspension.

      The Boxster isn't special because it's a Porsche, it's special because it does everything right, including the engine and engine placement.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Isn't Porsche's dual-cluch the PDK?

      Anyways, as long as a full manual is available I'm happy.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Just send us the BlueSport, as a Volkswagen. Diesel and all.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Diesel: The fuel of Satan.

        No thanks.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Diesel: the fuel of Satan. Yes please.
      • 5 Years Ago
      No, don't make it into a Porsche. Just make the Bluesport! Sheesh.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Let's remember that automotive engineering allows many things, such as:

      1) Longitudinal or transverse inline engines in a same basis: Renault 21 and Fiat Cinquecento (a boxy subcompact from the 90s which used in its basic version a very slanted inline-2 inherited from the 126).

      2) Transverse inlines and longitudinal boxers in a same platform: Alfa Romeo 145/146

      So it's possible to have VW BlueSport and Audi R4 with a transverse I-4 (even to make easier for Audi to couple a quattro system) and a small Porsche with 2/3 of the current boxer. Porsche can even make an engine longitudinal mated to a transverse gearbox, as Ferrari did in Mondial and 348. It'd shorten the powertrain length and even allow sharing of VW/Audi components, but put in another housing.
      If this MR platform is sufficiently versatile, it'd be possible to respect the DNAs from Wolfsburg, Ingolstadt and Stuttgart even by sharing it.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Makes no sense to re-make a 356 if it's mid-engined....why?? Cause the 356 was a rear engined car. It's kind of how the Charger today no way resembles the original Charger. If they're going to do a low-cost, mid-engined, joint VW-Porsche produced car then I think it should carry either a new numerical moniker or make it a new 914.

      Plus, it'll kind of taint the historical name the 356 carries, the 914 name was never much to begin with.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It is a much larger crime for a 356 successor to be transverse engined, and not have a boxer engine.

        A boxer won't practically fit transversely in a chassis designed for a transverse inline 4, or even a transverse narrow V6.

        Mid engined or rear engined... I could go either way. The first concept for the Porsche sports car, predecessor to the production 356 was mid-engined, not rear.

        The 550 Spyder, the 718RSK, and others, were mid-engined.

        But they were ALL BOXER POWERED, and ALL longitudinally arranged. PROPERLY arranged.

        Even the 912 was longitudinal, and boxer powered. I can understand lowering Boxster's baseline price by equipping it with a healthy flat 4 engine, trimmed down from the flat 6. But that is as far down as Porsche should consider going. The chassis and the layout would still be properly done, and the engine would still be light, and low, mid-mounted, and longitudinal, with proper rear suspension geometry.

        A transverse I4 Porsche, even if it is mid-engined... will be a blow to damage the credibility of the Porsche brand. It will signal that Porsche is not strong enough to keep it's reputation under VW management. It will signal that engineering is no longer the primary mode design for Porsche cars, and that function no longer comes first, before form.

        This will be worse, in terms of philosophy of the Porsche brand, than the 914, the 924, the Cayenne, or the Panamera.

        Those are not bad vehicles. The BlueSport production model probably won't be bad, either. But that doesn't make them good Porsches.

        Porsche is not about affordability. That is VW's job. Leave it to them.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You're being a bit literal with your armchair marketeering. The 356 was, and could be again, a simple lightweight sports car. Rear or mid-engine is irrelevant, so long as it's got that same "essential" character.

        Personally, I'd like to see the 4-cylinder this would use applied to the other lines as well. Having grown up with a 912 (the 356 SC plant in the original 911), I'd be tempted to spring for a "new 912", a more efficient and less expensive variant of the 911. The original 912's were far better handlers than the 911's anyway, thanks to the light weight out back.
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