Wir haben uns nicht damit begnügt, einen Sportwagen zu bauen, der nur sportlich ist.
We haven’t taken satisfaction in building a sports car that is just sporty.Ferdinand Porsche
In the spring of 2018, Porsche celebrated its 70-year anniversary in Berlin. Today we reflect on what this showcase of the past means for the manufacturer’s future.
Cars are no less of an artistic expression than sculpture. That is the message to take away from Porsche’s 70-year anniversary celebration in VW’s Forum near the Museeninsel. Between the white columns, giving the clinical building an industrial atmosphere, the spotlights shine on seven Porsches: 356 Roadster (1948, ‘legendary’), 914 (1969–76, ‘inspiring’), 917/20 ‘pink pig’ (1971, ‘extreme’), Boxster concept (1993, ‘courageous’), Mission E (2015 and forthcoming, ‘visionary’), 1,000,000 anniversary 911 (May 2017, ‘style-defining’), and last but not least the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo (2018, ‘individual’). The keywords serve to define Porsche as a brand and the selection does not only offer us an overview of the manufacturer’s history, but above all it directs our eyes toward the future.
Despite its fame, it’s not the milestone of the one-millionth 911 that stands at the center of attention. That award goes to the 356 Roadster and the Mission E. When entering the building, the friendly facia of the 356 Roadster greets you. It’s the tangible product of the company’s origins, the first complete attempt at building a car by Ferdinand and his son Ferry. An air-cooled 4-cylinder Boxer engine making 35 bhp forms the 585 kg car’s powerplant. Behind the company’s roots stands the mission E, first unveiled at the IAA in 2015, and it is sure to draw our attention. Fast-forwarding almost seventy years into the future, we’re now looking at a fully electric powertrain, said to make 600 bhp. It marks Porsche’s decisive six-billion-euro step away from its IC roots (and features a little easter-egg!).
An inconvenient truth for Porsche fans: Mission E signals a turn away from the brand’s present flagship, the 911. Although the Irish Green anniversary model is undoubtedly stunning, it’s ultimately a living piece of nostalgia. Ingredients from Porsche’s past bring this contemporary shape to life: the color of the paint, gold lettering on the trunk, a half-wooden steering wheel, and plaid seats. When it rolled off the assembly line on the 11th of May in 2017, it was already a relic of the past, overshadowed by Mission E’s 2018 progeny not just in name but mostly in terms of technology: the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo.
If it is up to Porsche, we should not fear this transition. The Boxster concept is there to embody this confidence. Make no mistakes, this prototype was first unveiled over twenty-five years ago, at the Detroit auto show in 1993. Stefan Stark mixed retro and new themes, including visible fans for air circulation and silver plastics. Contemporaneous high-tech features include an LCD screen for the navigation system and a built-in phone. Its goal: to signal a return to the company’s sports car roots.
Mission E is much like 2015’s Boxster concept. As Tesla has shown us, technology has overtaken the importance of pure specifications and to some extent even luxury. Its design remains true to the brand’s heritage of curves and gorgeous, timeless lines. Its wheels resemble turbines, appealing to the image of sustainable sources of energy. Amidst all of this familiarity, it remains to be seen what the future holds for such an unprecedented leap in the history of a luxury sports car manufacturer, leaving behind the principles of internal combustion.