Porsche's Tesla killer arrives in late 2019
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Elon Musk will have to reckon with a new fast gun in town when it comes to battery-powered SUVs.
When Porsche brings its first pure electric vehicle to market in late 2019, it will bear a strong resemblance to the Mission E Cross Turismo concept unveiled at the Geneva auto show.
This is the second iteration of Porsche’s Mission E concept—which bowed in 2015 as a four-passenger sports car with suicide doors and promises to beat Tesla with more than 600 horsepower and an 800-volt system to charge its lithium-ion batteries twice as fast.
Since then, Porsche has continued to hone the engineering side while finalizing the body style and design of the first Mission E due next year, part of a $622 million investment in the new dedicated electric platform. The Cross Turismo is a low-slung yet rugged four-passenger crossover, smaller than a Panamera but carrying the familiar Porsche roofline and haunches. The goal was to keep the Porsche DNA intact but make it blatantly obvious that this is an e-Porsche, a new creature on the road.
Although many cool European wagons never make it across the pond, this is a global vehicle so North America gets it, too. The only real variation by region will be choice of paint colors.
Porsche has built two prototypes so far, both in light gray metallic paint, said Michael Mauer, vice president of Style Porsche. It was important that the Mission E family retain brand identity with flat hoods and pronounced fenders, a tapered roof or “flyline,” and big rear shoulders and a sculpted rear. “These elements you will find in all our cars,” Mauer said simply.
With features like headlamp shapes that differ with each model, Mauer wants Mission E vehicles to be instantly recognizable as electric vehicles. The trick was determining how different. He thinks he got it right with the Cross Turismo. In an exclusive interview with Motor Trend ahead of the Geneva show, he admitted the production car has been in development alongside the concept. Hence, what you see here is pretty much what we’re going to get. The Cross Turismo name is still being vetted.
The Cross Turismo headlights are rectangular with rounded corners, where the bulbs are concentrated. The unit sits inside the air intake and appears to be floating. There is no grille, and the body-colored lower airflow vent presents a closed-nose look in keeping with Porsche design heritage, said Peter Varga, director of exterior design. Where exhaust pipes would be in back, there is now an air diffuser.
But it is the light bar across the back of the car that will be a true Mission E signature, with “Porsche” lit up in white against a blue background of blue lines. The final “e” in the backlit glass nameplate pulsates when the vehicle is charging. Mauer said it is unclear whether illuminated lettering will be deemed legal on public roads, but there are no laws against it flashing in the garage or driveway to let the owner know the state of charge.
This is no ordinary electric vehicle. Like the first Mission E, the 440-kW system sends power through two permanent synchronous electric motors, enough to go from 0 to 60 mph in less than 3.5 seconds and 0 to 124 mph in under 12 seconds—with repeatable track performance—to show an EV with a Porsche badge will live up to the brand’s performance heritage.
There are charge ports that open with a touch on both sides. The 800-volt charging system can be done through induction, a charging dock, or Porsche’s home energy management system, and it can provide 250 miles of range in 15 minutes. Porsche is spending $870 million on charging infrastructure. It is working with dealers to build a fast-charging network in North America and in Europe is part of the Ionity network partnership with other automakers.
One challenge of electric vehicles is the low center of gravity with packs of lithium-ion batteries in the floor and people sitting above it—not conducive to the dramatic proportions of a sports car, Mauer said. An SUV is easier.
Don’t let its squashed-Macan look or electric powertrain fool you into thinking this is Porsche Lite. Billed as a lifestyle vehicle, the Cross Turismo has Dynamic Chassis Control, rear-axle steering, all-wheel drive with torque vectoring to each wheel, and air suspension to raise the ride height almost 2 inches. It rides on 20-inch wheels with 275/40R20 tires.
Mauer admitted a sporty vehicle with no engine sounds takes some getting used to. Driving the prototypes, he has come to appreciate the different experience of performance and dynamics without sound: “It’s like driving a jet.” His ideal garage: a 911 GT3 RS and a Mission E, he said with a smile.
The Cross Turismo is 194.9 inches long, 78.3 inches wide, and 55.9 inches tall, making it smaller than a Panamera. The panoramic roof extends from windshield to tailgate and offers some design delight with a diamond pattern painted into the glass. The diamond pattern is repeated throughout the vehicle, including the backlit Aniline leather door inserts and the carbon-fiber cargo area floor with diamond rubber nubs.
The interior of the first Mission E concept was Porsche’s vision of the future, said Ivo van Hulten, director of interior design. “This is closer to something we could do mass production of,” he said, clarifying that 70 to 80 percent of the concept interior is feasible.
The curved instrument cluster is angled to the driver for a cockpit feel. Interestingly, the instrument panel is wider than the steering wheel, a throwback to 911s in the ’60s. There is no need for a rev counter, but eye tracking software recognizes which of three instrument displays the driver is viewing and moves it to the foreground. The screen continues across the dashboard to access apps, navigation, and other controls.
Taking a page from Tesla and Mercedes, the electronic air vent is adjusted by swiping the strip of screen below each vent. The raised center console adds to the feeling of being ensconced in the car.
The on button is activated by touchscreen—and remains to the left of the steering wheel, per Porsche tradition. One of the few holdover traditional knobs is the drive mode button in the steering wheel. Two stalks behind the steering wheel serve as the PRNDL selector and turn signal.
Those familiar with Porsche’s wild array of buttons and switches will find them noticeably absent. Although the screen system is reminiscent of the Tesla Model 3, Porsche executives insisted their systems are more intuitive and don’t require drilling into menus for basic functions. Van Hulten said classical knobs are for more traditional combustion engine vehicles while electric vehicles represent the future with minimalist interiors that shed unnecessary buttons. “We want people to recognize they are sitting inside an electric Porsche.”
There are Nordic blue accents everywhere: around the air vents, window switches, seat belts, mood lighting, and the unique wheels.
Inside the Cross Turismo, futuristic, show car bucket racing seats are almost molded into the body of the car—though those won’t reach production. Rear passengers have their own wireless charging pad for devices.
Shown in the cargo area is a Porsche-branded drone, something Van Hulten says can be used to scout scenic areas ahead or take shots of you blasting around in your Cross Turismo.
The whole vehicle looks like an advanced wind tunnel experiment with air intakes and diffusers, as well as touches like the ribs on either side of the spoiler to direct the air—all in the name of better aeronautics.
“We tried for the right combination of old and new world,” Mauer said.
Mission E was not designed just to go after Tesla, Mauer said. “We are so self-confident we say there is no competition,” he said. So should Tesla be worried? “The whole auto world should be worried.”
The Cross Turismo will be the first Mission E, but it certainly won’t be the last. After all, this is Porsche. There will be derivatives.