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Car confidential: Rover today, Porsche rival tomorrow?

In the aftermath of MG Rover’s financial collapse, I was deep in conversation with a Longbridge supplier. Was his business under threat? No, because he began diversifying his customer base in 1994, when BMW bought Rover. The conversation turned to what should happen to MG. ‘I’d love to see it become Britain’s answer to Porsche.’

For MG in 2005, read Porsche a decade earlier. The company was staring into the abyss, but the introduction of the Boxster turned the company’s fortunes around.

Since then, Porsche has vigorously diversified its customer base by expanding its product range. The result? Record profits. Today, it’s a four-model company, with a fifth due in September: the Cayman coupé.

And a long-anticipated, four-door GT is in the pipeline. Named after a species of crocodile, the Cayman is a rebodied Boxster. It will be launched in superior ‘S’ guise, with the Boxster S’ 3.2-litre six bored out to 3.4 litres. The result is 295bhp – an extra 19bhp – and more mid-range shove. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual.

The stiffer, lighter, more powerful S should blast to 60mph in around 5.3sec, and top 170mph thanks to its superior aerodynamics. As a result of its Boxster-beating credentials, Porsche sources say the coupe will be priced at around £47,000 – right in the middle between roadster and 911 Carrera. So much for the £30k many were predicting.

There will be a cheaper Cayman, with around 260bhp, but this will still set customers back around £40k. Has Porsche got the pricing right? I’m sure the Cayman will fly out of showrooms – but maybe at the expense of the marginally faster, base 911? Still, before the Porsche network starts complaining they should be thankful they’re not in MG dealers’ shoes. They’d be happy with guaranteed production of a roadster based on a back-to-front Metro chassis, and three body-kitted Rovers.

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