/ 24 December 2023

Porsche’s past, present and future

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The spectacular city of Dubai, which embodies the same determination and defiance against convention that defines Porsche, showcased the past, present and a glimpse of what the vehicle’s future holds at its Icons of Porsche event.

Its best-known model is the 911. Where the rest of the world has moved engines from the front to the middle of the car to extract optimal capability, Porsche has persisted with a rear-mounted engine. Can you imagine the temptation to follow suit? That persistence has shaped the 911 into the icon it is today. It’s a middle finger to the norm and one that has, over the past six decades, netted it a loyal customer base that lives and breathes the Stuttgart coat of arms. Another case in point: the conversation that went along the lines of “let’s build a performance SUV that handles like a sports car”. The result was an SUV that, in a roundabout way, meant that Porsche could continue building cars that pushed the envelope.

So, to celebrate 75 years of Porsche and 60 years of the 911, it sent out the bat signal to owners of all things Porsche to come together and celebrate in what is the biggest Porsche gathering in the world with what it calls Icons of Porsche. It’s a celebration of the past with iconic road and race vehicles like the 964 911 Turbo, the iconic 917 racer, its current models that include the 911 Targa and S/T, and the Taycan interweaving the Porsche legacy into a future of cars that will, on some level, be reminiscent of the Mission X it also showcased.

In the context of a city where supercars are easily accessible, it says something about what the manufacturer has delivered over the last 75 years when enthusiasts flock to the brand and swear by the Porsche crest. And speaking of the Porsche crest, Porsche has announced that all future Turbo-designated models will receive a new badge encrusted in what it calls a Turbonite effect to establish a distinction in the model hierarchy further.

Porsche’s present

The first model to roll out with the new badge is the Porsche Panamera, in Turbo E-Hybrid specification, which also received the brightest spotlight at the event with a regional (Africa and the Middle East) unveiling of Porsche’s executive grand tourer to the media and general public. Porsche’s Panamera Turbo E-Hybrid will sit at the top of the model grading as a hybrid model that pairs a 4.0-litre V8 producing 360kW with a 140kW e-Motor that, combined, gives the GT a system output of 500kW, communicated to the wheels using an 8-speed PDK. The system’s torque figure is rated at a tarmac-lifting 930Nm. Figures are just that, though. In terms of tangibilities, Porsche claims that its range-topping Panamera sprints to the benchmark 100km/h in a scant 3.2 secs while it can also cover a full-EV distance of 91km thanks to its 25.9kWh battery capacity.

The future mission

Icons of Porsche wasn’t just about what we can expect on local Porsche showroom floors in the immediate future, though, but also what the brand’s vision is as far as future advancement is concerned, with the strikingly futuristic Mission X also making a prominent appearance at the event. It’s not just a case study to gawk at, mind you. Using its plethora of driving development and engineering-around-a-problem tenacity, Porsche has set a stringent list of parameters that need to be met by the prelim-named Mission X for it to go into series production: It needs to be the fastest road-going car to go around the Nürburgring Nordschleife and have an ambitious power-to-weight ratio of 1PS (roughly a horsepower) per kilogramme. Another car that can claim this achievement? The Koenigsegg One: 1, hence its name. Just saying. 

Another box that Porsche demands to be checked before we ever see the Mission X or something like it, is for the car to have a downforce equivalent to or greater than the current Porsche 911 GT3 RS. It’s a tough ask, sure, but judging by the shape of the concept we’ve seen in Dubai, it’s doable since it’s essentially shaped like an inverted wing. Also, it needs to be able to have a recharge ability that’s twice as fast as the Taycan. This last one is a bit vague, but definitely motivation for the engineering departments to put on their collective thinking caps and come up with something that will help shatter the proverbial envelope. Much like its spiritual predecessors, which were also shown in the exhibition area, Mission X has a lot riding on its shoulders. Its predecessors, the likes of the Porsche 959 that helped shape the 80s high-performance scene, the Carrera GT, and ultimately the 918 Hybrid, speaks to what is expected from the Mission X. Ultimately, it isn’t just planning for the future; it’s laying the groundwork for a chapter that’s yet to be written in Porsche’s chronicle.

The legacy continues

And 911? The bread and butter of Porsche and the quintessential model in its line-up? Well, there were a few on display at Icons of Porsche. I might’ve undersold it a bit right then, but yes, there were a few hundred, ranging from the aforementioned Turbo models, an amphibious artistic interpretation, a G-series Targa, some stunningly maintained 930s, the newest iteration of the Targa, an S/T, a plethora of different generational GT3 RS models, GT2 RS, Dakar … Think of a model designation, and it was there, with parking areas full of them.

See, this is a special year for Porsche and especially its 911 since this iconic supercar is turning 60. It’s an achievement unmatched by most high-performance carmakers, and speaking to the decision-makers at Porsche, it would seem that there’s still plenty of life to breathe into future generations of the 911. Frank Moser, Head of 911 and 718 models at Porsche, said that while the 718 models are developed with electric propulsion as a driving force, the 911 would, for the foreseeable future, retain the internal combustion engine. Not that it refuses to conform to the newfangled technology that uses terminology like ohms and impedance; instead, the 911 will receive performance hybrid motors and not the plug-it-and-forget-it, green sticker types. These will be geared absolutely to supplement the areas where the ICE is considered restrictive, like off-the-line acceleration, and obviously to buffer the on-paper figures.

Porsche has been at it for 75 years, on the day of concluding this article, and in this time, it has established itself as a company that only sees problems as engineering opportunities. It has a natural aptitude for forward thinking and a deep-rooted and uncompromising respect for its heritage. This event, the Icons of Porsche, isn’t just to show off its best side; it’s the ultimate tribute to what Porsche has accomplished and where it’s headed. Judging from this, it’s definitely headed in the right direction without forgetting its roots.