Few manufacturers have a visual identity as defined as the one at Porsche. With the iconic 911 acting as the leader, the brand has spent this century diversifying, while maintaining a consistent style. How does chief designer Michael Mauer and the team pull it off? By constantly pushing themselves in new directions with design studies that often never see the light of day. That’s changing this week, however, as Porsche has cracked open the vault, sharing a smattering of these secret concepts for the first time.
Mauer, who joined Porsche in 2004, talked to a group of journalists ahead of the unveiling. Here he explained the long lead times associated with car design. For his team, by the time a production car debuts, it’s already old news, as they’ve begun putting pen to paper for the next one. The team also regularly takes on more hypothetical design briefs, like what a Porsche van could look like. The design studies shown here aren’t distractions: on the contrary, they can and do inform the designers’ work on eventual production models.
“We have in the design department a very, let’s say, intensive discussion,” explains Mauer, “and I strongly believe this keeps our design language extremely fresh, and come always up with new elements.”
You can check out our favorites of the bunch below, some of which even made it to full drivable prototype form. All of the concepts are also available in the mega gallery up top.
Porsche Vision Turismo
We start with the Vision Turismo because of what it eventually resulted in: the production Taycan. This 2016 concept toyed with the idea of a four door super sports car for the brand. It evolved the 918 Spyder’s design language, but the team couldn’t settle on the propulsion system. When the Taycan program got the green light, Mauer and the design group revisited the “960”, adopting its low-slung proportions and updating the details. This is one of the first designs to use Porsche’s full-width rear light bar, which now features on all its production cars.
Porsche Vision Renndienst
Hey, if anybody was going to make minivans cool, it might as well be Porsche. This oversized racing helmet of a vehicle is meant to challenge the very idea of a Porsche, of whether a van can live up to its brand values. An all-electric model, it boils down the Porsche design language to its basics. The brand’s x-shaped daytime running lights are embedded into the nose, and that’s it. There aren’t any creases on the ample sides, only flared wheel arches for a planted stance. And there’s that light bar out back again. We don’t expect a Porsche minivan any time soon—especially one with a single central seat, as cool as that is—but this sort of exercise can help shape future models.
Porsche Boxster Bergspyder
Porsche Vision Spyder
Think “Porsche 550” and you’re likely to think “James Dean” right after. Last year, Mauer and the team put together this modern take on Dean’s “Little Bastard”, the 550 Spyder. With flatter surfaces, narrow headlights, and the slatted radiator grilles behind the cockpit, the 551 takes the spirit of that classic car and updates it for the 21st century. Other elements, like the classic Mobil Oil “Pegasus” logo, are more overt nods to the past. Porsche says the Spyder was a study for the evolution of the combustion-engined Porsche sports car design language. Mauer calls it “back to the roots, the way Porsche started.” If there’s plans for a sub-Boxster in the works, consider us interested.
Porsche 911 Vision Safari
In case you haven’t noticed lately, off-roading is a big deal these days. Way back in 2012, Porsche experimented with the idea of heading back into the dirt with the 911, then debuting its 991 generation. The Vision Safari draws inspiration from the 911 SC Safari of 1978. Works drivers Björn Waldegård and Vic Preston Jr kept the SC right near the front of the pack in that year’s East African Safari Rally, a 3000-mile test of endurance across the savannah. The Vision Safari boasts a raised suspension, tougher wheel arch extensions, enlarged bumpers, and a stripped-out cockpit with race seats and a roll cage.
Porsche 919 Street
The Porsche 919 was an incredibly successful prototype race car. What would happen if that were translated to the road? The Weissach team explored that question in 2017, right as the 919 Hybrid was retiring from racing. The project called for as much carryover from the race car as possible: the same carbon monocoque, the 900-horsepower hybrid drivetrain, even the same dimensions and wheelbase. It turned out to be too much for a road car. “This racing technology is so highly complicated and complex,” explains Mauer, “it would have been hard to have it in customers’ hands.” Instead, the 919 Street remains a concept—and no, it’s not a runner, just a clay model.
Porsche 904 Living Legend
Though the Taycan takes Porsche into a more environmentally-conscious direction, it isn’t alone. The brand is a part of the massive Volkswagen group, and the 904 Living Legend borrows from elsewhere in the family. When VW launched the ultra-efficient XL1 in 2014, Porsche toyed with the concept of using that car’s carbon monocoque chassis to develop a small, minimalist sports car. Instead of a flat-six, it would have used a high-revving two-cylinder motorcycle engine, helping keep weight under 2,000 lb. With its low tail, semi-exposed engine section, and elongated headlights, this petite Porsche looks like a modern interpretation of the beautiful 1963 904 Carrera GTS.
a version of this article first appeared on AutoGuide
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