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Panamera to spawn 928 successor

Short stuff: How a new-generation Porsche 928 might look. Digital image: Chris Harris.

Porsche to develop new 928 from Panamera, but don’t expect a Zuffenhausen EV soon

24 Apr 2009

PORSCHE is likely to use its all-new Panamera, revealed for the first time publicly at this week’s Shanghai motor show, as the basis for a spiritual successor for its front-engined 928 coupe – but don’t expect an electric version of the grand tourer or any other Porsche sportscar to emerge in the near future.

If approved at board level by Porsche, which is keen to amortise the one billion Euro ($1.85b) development cost of the Panamera, the heavily modified two-door version of the near-five-metre-long five-door would be Porsche’s first large coupe since 1995, when the 928 and another potential 911 replacement in the 944 were discontinued.

Porsche AG executive vice-president of research and development Wolfgang Durheimer suggested the five-door grand tourer that goes on sale in Australia from October may not be the only derivative to be produced on the Panamera platform, which will not reside beneath next year’s second-generation Cayenne.

“For the time being this is the Panamera and there are no other design alternatives around - yet,” he told GoAuto at the car’s unveiling in China last Sunday night.

As we’ve reported, the chief Porsche engineer added that the Panamera’s chassis architecture, an all-new design codenamed G1 and “made by Porsche for Porsche” is likely to be employed by other forthcoming models to emerge from the Volkswagen Group now controlled by Porsche.

“I think if we look into our common future together with Volkswagen this platform could be checked out and used for other products as well,” said Mr Durheimer.

Now Autocar in the UK has reported that a senior Porsche source has admitted a three-door version would be a “very nice” addition to the sportscar-maker’s model line-up, sparking widespread speculation Porsche is devising an effective replacement for the large, front-engined rear-drive 928 that was first revealed in 1977.

Autocar says the task of transforming the Panamera into a 928-style coupe would be relatively simple, but could include the development of a shorter rear floorpan section with redesigned rear strut tower section, plus an all-new bodyside with a single (longer) door, and a new tailgate.

A petrol V6 engine will join the Panamera V8 range on sale within 12 months, while Australia will be among the first right-hand drive markets globally to receive the Panamera Hybrid in 2011.

It will feature the same full two-mode petrol-electric drive system that will emerge in the next Cayenne SUV (and in Volkswagen’s Touareg) in 2010, and which is also likely to power the born-again 928.

However, Mr Durheimer cautioned that a hybrid-powered version of its iconic 911 sports flagship is far from locked in.

“On the sportscar side it (hybrid drive) would be a possibility, but we are not sure whether we are going this way because you add approximately 120kg with the system,” he said.

“With the sportscars we are very lightweight and the typical sportscar driver is not the stop-and go traffic guy that moves around in the city, so this might even counter-balance in a way that we don’t like.” Mr Durheimer said Porsche would monitor the progress of the new regenerative-energy braking systems now required in Formula One as part of its ongoing research into a hybrid 911, which is unlikely to eventuate until the performance benefits outweigh the concept’s dynamic disadvantages.

“We will follow very closely what happens with Formula One ... and I could think about a possibility to install a hybrid version in a car when it adds remarkably in terms of performance on the racetrack.

“There are ideas about this but they are not in the car,” he said.

25 center imageFrom top: Porsche 928 GTS Porsche Panamera Porsche Cayenne Hybrid mule.

The European Union has mandated a corporate average CO2 limit of 130g/km by 2013 for major car-makers and Mr Durheimer said Porsche is on target to reduce the exhaust emissions of its entire model range by 25 per cent by 2013 compared with 2006, as legislated for car-makers that produce less than 300,000 vehicles annually.

But he said Porsche’s hybrid drive system would play only a minor role in reducing the company’s carbon footprint, because petrol-electric models are expected to comprise just 15 per cent of total sales.

“We are completely in line with the rules of the European regulations… and with the engine and gearbox programs we are running and the new cars to come we will meet CO2 requirements.

“Hybrid technology will help us to reach the target. But our marketing department tells us the hybrid volume will only be 15 per cent of the total market. This shows you that CO2 reduction caused by hybrids is small,” he said.

Instead, Porsche will employ traditional engineering techniques to reduce fuel consumption across its model fleet, including reduced overall vehicle weight and drivetrain friction, improved aerodynamics, and increased transmission and engine efficiencies.

While four-cylinder boxer versions of the next-generation Boxster and Cayman in 2012 are almost a certainty, other future Porsche models are expected to be powered by smaller-capacity engines that employ Volkswagen’s patented turbocharged/supercharged TwinCharger induction technology.

“Weight was of course one of the major targets (for the Panamera program). We wanted to be the lightest in class because low weight helps with dynamics and fuel efficiency,” said Mr Durheimer, who suggested Porsche’s hybrid drive system will be of greater value to Porsche in philosophical and political terms than in reducing overall CO2 emissions.

“With the hybrid we give them a piece of technology that gives them a level of performance together with social responsibility. With this they don’t have to argue with those that ask why they bought such a large car,” he said.

While hybrid versions of the Cayenne, Panamera and, possibly, Porsche’s 911 and Boxster/Cayman sportscars appear certain to be part of the German giant’s model line-up for many years to come, Porsche’s R&D chief ruled out fully-electric models from Zuffenhausen in the near future.

He said exclusively electric sportscars like the US-built Tesla roadster and sedan – and the 911-based EV from German builder RUF – had limited market appeal due to their restricted travelling range.

“Until we see (Porsche) sportscars that are completely electrically driven we will have a lot of water going down the river,” said Mr Durheimer.

“It’s still a very long way into the future until you can drive it in comparable circumstances that we are used to having with individual transportation. If you need to go long distances and you don’t have the time for example to reload your car for two or three hours you will not have an electrical system for the next few years.

“I’m personally convinced that we will see hybrids for a very long time. We have standard production engines – diesel and gasoline – that will not be deleted from the market for a very long time. They are getting more and more efficient and at the very long end we will most probably have fully electric cars.

“Hybrid is bridging the gap, so that means we will have it we will see it. If you look at Tesla, there might be also a niche for sportscars for people that live in urban areas and also like to show the piece of technology.

“But the marketing department predict just 15 per cent at present and the technology is not for free,” reiterated Mr Durheimer, who added that overheating and longevity problems with lithium-ion battery technology made nickel metal-hydride batteries the technology of choice for both the Cayenne and Panamera hybrids in the mid-term.

“Lithium-ion is a very difficult change to make,” he said. “Of course everybody is striving for it in order to have more power capacity and lower weight, but to use it in an automotive environment its quite a challenge.

“It has to do with cooling and with durability and for the time being nickel metal-hydride is better off. (But) The whole supply chain is working on it and I’m sure it will happen in the near future,” said Mr Durheimer.

What's coming from Porsche:

911 GT3 facelift – Late 2009
911 Turbo and GT2 facelift – 2010
Panamera V6 variant – 2010
Cayenne MkII – 2010
Cayenne Hybrid – 2010
Panamera Hybrid – 2011
911 coupe redesign – 2011
Boxster/Cayman redesign – 2012

Read more:

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Shanghai show: Porsche to share limo platform

Shanghai show: Panamera to be most exclusive Porsche

Shanghai show: Porsche courts Panamera purchasers

Rapid Aston rains on Porsche's Panamera parade


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