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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Return of the Porsche 914? New VW could allow sub Boxster vehicle

With the recent announcement by Volkswagen chairman Martin Winterkorn that VW will unveil a sports car concept at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show in November, it appears that the German automaker has once again resurrected its plan to build an affordable midengine coupe and roadster.

But even bigger news could be coming from VW's new masters, er, partners at Porsche. Inside sources say that VW's majority shareholder is said to have shown strong interest in the same project -- opening the door for a possible revival of the 914.

The original 914 -- Motor Trend's Import Car of the Year in 1970 -- was sold in the U.S. from 1969 to 1976, and was a collaborative effort between Volkswagen and Porsche. The guiding force behind the 914 project at the time was none other than Dr. Ferdinand Piech, now the head man in Zuffenhausen and the driving force behind the takeover of VW.

According to reports, the Volkswagen model will borrow heavily from VW's vast parts bin in order to keep development costs low. The new VW coupe and roadster have been described as cars designed to be stylish and lightweight but, at the same time, offering sporty performance in combination with all important fuel economy.

Based on a midengine, rear-wheel-drive layout, two four-cylinder powerplants are said to be under consideration: a 170-horsepower version of the 1.4L twincharger TSI gasoline mill, and a new 125-hp, 1.6L TDI common-rail diesel engine, both mated to VW's new seven-speed DSG gearbox. The model could possibly be assembled in Germany by VW's longtime partner Karmann, also another key player in the original 914's production.

The new car is expected to be less than 2200 lbs and VW is reportedly inquiring with fellow VW Group member Audi about aluminum space frame construction. The collaboration could also mean that a much rumored Audi R4 version could also be potentially on the horizon.

The VW project is resurfacing for the fifth time in five years but insiders are expressing optimism that the car will finally make it into production this go round. Depending on the public's acceptance of the L.A. show concept, the new car could be in showrooms by as early as 2011.

As for the Porsche model, any 914 would almost certainly have one of the automaker's flat sixes on board, with the 2.7-liter base engine from the Boxster being the most likely candidate. Rumors have also been circulating recently about the possibility of Porsche returning to four cylinder power, with the 914 being an extremely logical candidate for an engine smaller than six cylinders. The original four cylinder 914 was more popular than the six.

Porsche has continued to expand from its 911 base with the Cayenne and the coming Panamera, and the addition of a model priced below the Boxster could be just what the Dr. (Piech) orders.