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 theÂ $56,500 Porsche.
The 718 needs aÂ 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 oneÂ â€” 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.Â
Presently, Cayman only has two semi-legitimate competitors in the United States â€” 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-Benzâ€™s board of management as an indirect successor to the SLC. The model is rumored to be rear engined, with roadster andÂ 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 oneÂ 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. “Itâ€™s a rapidly growing business segment and it is high exposure for the brand,” Autocarâ€™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]