This was to be the issue in which I would have reported on Porsche’s activities at the Geneva motor show, though as we all know the virus put paid to that. But it didn’t stop me having a chat with Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser over the telephone about the future of the 911. As you may also know, he is the man who used to be in charge of the motorsport department but has not replaced the retired August Achleitner as ‘line director, Porsche sports cars’ or, put another way, Mr 911.
Starting with the 911 Turbo that was to have been launched at Geneva, Walliser has taken on board the comments of those who have admired previous generations as the brutishly capable transcontinental missiles they are, but have struggled to love them as pure driving machines. ‘We are aware of this feedback and have taken steps to address it.’ Which means that in addition to the extra 70bhp he has given the new Turbo it will come with lowered suspension and stiffer springs, too. But perhaps more interestingly, Porsche will later this year also introduce an optional light-weighting pack. ‘It will be a package the customer can choose, made up of some our lightest parts and also looking at areas like sound insulation. ‘It’s a number of small bits and pieces but together they add up.’
Looking further into the future, he cast some doubt as to whether the current generation 992 will ever even receive a hybrid drive and he all but ruled out an all-electric version.
Although it is known that the 992 has the ability to be configured as a hybrid protected within its design, it will not come without a cost, and that is what Walliser does not like: ‘It’s really difficult to do with the the way it is packaged. We want to keep it as a 2+2, we want to keep decent trunk space and we don’t want to destroy the shape of the 911. Also, I am not ready to put that amount of additional weight into the car. If you wanted to make such a car, it would be easier to make a completely new car.’ Which sounds like the 992’s successor to me, for which we will have to wait probably until 2026.
But what about an electric 911? How, I asked Dr Walliser, can a car whose very identity is provided to a very great extent by a flat six petrol powered engine, ever be both fully electric and considered a true 911, too? He did not mince his words. ‘The 911 will be the last Porsche to become electric,’ he told me, ‘coming hopefully after my retirement so I am not responsible anymore and no-one can blame me… I will fight to let the 911 keep its gasoline engine.’ Which is about as unequivocal as it gets.
I also asked him about next year’s GT3 and entirely sensible sounding speculation that it will be powered by a version of the new 4-litre motor found in the Caymans GT4 and GTS, suitably wound up for a high-performance application. And he sat on that one, too: ‘The answer is “no”, we stick with the race engine. It’s expensive but we develop it on the track and learn more with every passing race. That is the way we will continue.’
Nor it seems will there be a home for it in the 911,’ he said, ‘but there has to be a business case for it, and sadly we cannot see what that is at present.’
The future of the 911, in terms of powertrain, is up for much internal debate at Porsche, with hybrid now looking unlikely for the 992.