Porsche's latest reveals boost the horsepower – in a different way
With the new 911 GT3 RS and all-electric Mission-E Cross Turismo concept, Porsche is trying to satisfy its core customer base while also planning for the future
It's still all about the horsepower for Porsche here at the Geneva International Motor Show. It's how to create the horsepower that's changing.
The new 911 GT3 RS makes an extra 20 hp over the outgoing model (and now comes in green), while the all-electric Mission E Cross Turismo concept should make more than 600 hp when it's produced in 2019.
This doesn't mean Porsche has its corporate head stuck in the sand. It's trying to balance the need to satisfy the driving enthusiasts who form its core, while also preparing for the future. All the while, never forgetting it's a maker of sports cars.
The GT3 RS will arrive in Canada some time after this summer with a starting price of $213,400. It's the most powerful naturally aspirated road-legal Porsche ever made, topping out at 520 hp from its 4.0-litre flat-six engine. It's intended as an uncompromised track machine, with carbon seats and lightweight bodywork.
With emissions regulations in Europe growing tighter every year, cutting back the potential for power by demanding fewer particulates in the exhaust, could this be the most powerful non-turbocharged engine Porsche will ever make?
"We've had discussions over the last 10 or 20 years, with every piece of new legislation, [to ask] if it will be the end of torque and power," says Michael Steiner, Porsche's member of the executive board for research and development.
"At least within the last decade, we always found a way to compensate, but frankly speaking, we need additional technology, at some additional cost and some additional weight. And then we have to look at where to compensate for this.
"In principle, we have plans to have a combustion engine for as long as possible – turbo engines as well as high-rev naturally aspirated engines like the GT3 RS. In parallel though, we're doing hybridization that could also help in terms of torque, as well as fully electric vehicles like the Mission E. We have no plan to skip one of these three pillars."
We've seen the Mission E sedan at previous auto shows, but the concept here is more of a taller crossover with a liftgate cargo door at the rear. Clearly, Porsche sees the popularity of its Cayenne and Macan SUVs and its Panamera sedan, and is opting for a model somewhere between the two styles.
The Mission E Cross Turismo will be an all-wheel-drive vehicle powered by two synchronous motors. Its true wonder is not so much in its ability to lunge from zero to 100 km/h in less than four seconds or its total driving range of at least 500 km, but in the speed at which it can be charged.
Steiner says that if the car is plugged into an 800-volt fast charger, capable of 350 kWh, then it can ram 100 km of driving range into the battery within four minutes.
In Europe, Porsche is in partnership with several other auto makers, including Ford, BMW and Mercedes, to establish a company called Ionity that will install fast chargers wherever they're needed. In the United States and Canada, it's working in a similar partnership with Electrify America.
"We're working on it to create 30 stations between Montreal and Toronto, as well as some in the West," says Marc Ouayoun, president of Porsche Canada since December. "This will happen definitely in the next two or three years."
Such fast chargers are expensive and are not intended for residential use, where owners will be in less of a rush to recharge. Like the Mission E sedan, the Cross Turismo will be able to also use an inductive charger, so it can be parked over a wireless charging pad with no need to be plugged in.
With such plans, is there an electric 911 in Porsche's future?
"There will not be a full-electric 911 in the short term, not with its iconic shape," says Steiner. "If you plan to pack enough battery for a serious range, it wouldn't fit between the axles, and if you put the battery in the rear, it could be a safety issue.
"So the plan is to electrify it as a hybrid to start, at least with a plug-in hybrid as an option, but electrification of the 911 is on the agenda."
Where will all this overturning of traditional engineering end? Is the day coming – shudder – when Porsche won't even offer a manual gearbox?
"If you ask me, there will always be a manual gearbox!" says Steiner. "Today, we don't see it going away. Personally, I enjoy having a manual gearbox – but I'm not quite in line with my family."
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.