Porsche on a Mission
Fast-charging concept to hit showrooms | by Andrew Frankel
Porsche has announced that it will put into production the Mission E concept car, shown at the Frankfurt motor show in September, before the end of the decade. For the entire motor industry and those who consume its product, this is a stunning development. Although Tesla has bravely blazed the trail for full-sized, high quality, all-electric saloons, this is the first time a major brand owned by one of the world’s largest car companies has committed to making such a car.
Unlike most manufacturers, Porsche’s record of turning its concept cars into reality is exceptional, not just in the percentage that actually make it from showground to showroom, but also how relatively undiluted they are from the original. Indeed Porsche’s most recent concept-turned-road car was the Porsche 918, which didn’t merely match every claim made for the concept but actually beat them all.
So there is cause to be excited when Porsche says the concept Mission E has 600hp, will reach 62mph from rest in less than 3.5sec, do 300 miles between charges and, vitally, can be charged from nothing to 80 per cent in just 15 minutes. In truth the performance and range are merely competitive with what Tesla already has on sale, but the charging time is potentially transformative.
As is the Mission E’s likely sphere of influence. While it should cost about £100,000 and therefore be a niche product in itself, Porsche has been given €1 billion to spend on the project, and there is no way it would be allowed to spend that much on an electrical architecture of no value to any other company in the group. This means that not only will Bentley be able to use the technology (after Porsche has had a period of exclusivity with it) but far more importantly so will Audi and Volkswagen.
Looking farther afield, it seems inherently unlikely that the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz will be able to ignore a development such as the Mission E, and they must surely be evaluating introducing their own all-electric luxury cars. As BMW proved when it unveiled its Rolls-Royce Phantom Electric concept, electricity is an exceptionally suitable source of power for such cars, not just because it is almost silent, but for its ability to deploy maximum thrust instantaneously and from a standstill. That project was canned because BMW was unable to reduce charging times to anything approaching an appropriate level. But that was almost five years ago and the technology has proceeded apace. If Porsche really can add 250 miles of electric range in the time it takes to have a coffee, our all-electric future may be closer than any of us has hitherto thought.
Return of the four-pot
Porsche has also announced the return of four-cylinder engines to its cheapest cars. As of next year, the new Boxster and Cayman will lose their traditional flat-six motors, for a new turbocharged flat-four design.
Of course there is no shortage of four-pot Porsches for the company to wheel out to show the move is consistent with its heritage. Indeed, road-going four-cylinder Porsches of one form or another (356, 912, 924, 944 and 968) have been in the sales brochures for 40 of the 67 years that Porsches have been on sale. In racing, four-cylinder Porsches have won Le Mans, the Targa Florio and the Sebring 12 Hours and last year provided Porsche with its most recent sports car world championship. The four-cylinder 718 was also without question the most versatile Porsche ever, scoring Porsche’s first podium at Le Mans and its first victory in Formula 2 before becoming its most consistently successful F1 car, coming second three times in the 1961 world championship and missing outright victory at the French GP by 0.1sec. With this in mind, the new cars will now be known as the 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman.
The move away from six cylinders and the introduction of turbochargers is motivated by the need to drive down emissions and improve consumption. While it is hard to imagine a four-cylinder turbocharged Porsche possessing the throttle response, rev range or sound of a normally aspirated flat six, Porsche will be hoping that in the customer’s mind that will be more than offset by cheaper running costs and much improved mid-range torque.
Porsche will also reposition the Boxster and Cayman relative to each other. Until now and uniquely among its competitor set, it is the convertible Boxster that has sold for less than the coupé Cayman. From now on it is the Cayman that will provide the entry level to Porsche’s sports car range, and the Boxster for which a premium will be charged.
It is not yet clear whether Porsche has dispensed with six-cylinder engines for these cars altogether. It seems likely that the next-generation Cayman GT4 will follow the lead of its big brother, the 911 GT3, and retain normally aspirated powerplants while the standard cars upon which they are based swap over to turbos. For the Cayman to manage this, a six-cylinder motor is most likely.
BMW to star in Detroit
The Detroit Motor Show throws open its doors to the public on January 11 and, while it is perhaps no longer considered a ‘tier one’ show such as those in Geneva, Paris, Frankfurt, Shanghai and Beijing, there will still be
a broad selection of important new products present.
The most interesting new car in Detroit for readers of Motor Sport will likely be the new BMW M2, the 1-series based coupé packing a 365bhp punch from its 3-litre turbo motor. That’s similar power to the Audi RS3 and 10bhp down on that offered by the Mercedes-AMG A45, but BMW offers six cylinders to Audi’s five and Merc’s four, a choice of manual or automatic transmissions and rear-wheel drive compared to its all-wheel-drive opponents. Prices begin at £44,070.
Probably the most important cars globally will be all-new Mercedes-Benz E-class and Volvo S90 luxury saloons. Mercedes has been teasing the E-class for some time and has released shots of an interior that looks very little less luxurious than that of its flagship S-class. Meanwhile, the attractive shape of the S90 that will be a direct rival for the E-class has already been revealed in full. It sits on the same platform architecture used by the extant Volvo XC90 reviewed elsewhere in this issue,
and like the XC90 will also feature a range of 2-litre, four-cylinder diesel and petrol engines with a range of power outputs from 221bhp for the standard diesel offering up to 401bhp for a supercharged, turbocharged, plug-in petrol-electric hybrid.
Porsche has chosen Detroit for the public debut of the new 911 Turbo version of the second generation 991 model series. Unlike the Carrera and Carrera S models, which are also turbocharged but feature brand-new engines, the Turbo uses a revised version of the unit from the previous 911 Turbo. In Turbo S guise it develops 572bhp, some 20bhp more than the car it replaces and good enough to catapult it from rest to 62mph in 2.9sec, making it the fastest-accelerating 911 of all time and, among Porsches, beaten only by the 918 hypercar.
Major British brands – including Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin, Bentley and McLaren – have sadly opted out of Detroit.
McLaren ends P1 run
McLaren has announced it has completed the production run of its P1 hypercar. Just 375 examples of the plug-in hybrid two-seater were sold, though the P1 GTR track-only version will continue until spring. Ferrari is building 499 examples of its rival LaFerrari and Porsche 918 of its 918s.
Retailing for £866,000 when new, P1 second-hand prices have risen consistently since the car’s introduction. Just two were for sale in the UK at the time of writing with quoted prices of £1.75m and £2m. The only Porsche 918 with a price is available for £1.4 million. All LaFerraris are currently POA.
Meanwhile, in a move predicted on these pages, McLaren is to make a further 500 of its highly regarded lightweight 675LT supercars in open form, called the 675LT Spider. Featuring multiple weight-saving measures, the Spider, above, is 100kg lighter than the 650S Spider it’s based on and just 40kg more than the coupé. The 0-62mph time is unchanged at 2.9sec, while top speed has been trimmed slightly to 203mph.
The 675LT Spider is available for order now at £285,450.