New chairman Matthias Muller has ambitious plans to grow Porsche's volume, and thankfully the additional models are not all SUVs. One exciting project is a brand-new mid-engine sports car destined to challenge the pace-setting Ferrari 458 Italia.
If we read correctly the smoke signals that rise from the Weissach think tank, the new project, which is codenamed 960, has nothing much to do with the high-tech 918 Spyder. Instead, Porsche is moving heaven and earth to make 960 the lead car for the new platform. Although it still has not been signed off, due to political issues and a lack of a firm commitment on part of the other brands involved, the new platform, called Mimo, is known in-house as MSB-M, short for modular sports car matrix, mid-engine version. Earmarked to go into production in just over four years, the Porsche 960 (for lack of a better designation) would still share components with the next 911 due in 2018. How is that? Because MSB-M incorporates a second bloodline labeled MSB-H with the H standing for Heckmotor, German for rear-engine.
Spanning a wide range
At this point, little is known about how and to what extent the new architecture differs from the short-lived MSS modular sports car system reserved for the next Lamborghini Gallardo (due in 2013) and the new Audi R8 (coming in 2015). It certainly needs to be more flexible, to make provisions for rear- and mid-mounted engine installations, and it probably needs to encompass three different size and cost patterns to span the full line-up from the upcoming VW Blue Sport over to the next-generation 911, the Gallardo, the Murcielago, and the Porsche 960. To further complicate matters, MSB must be able to accommodate both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, be compatible with various body styles and materials, and be able to house in-line engines, flat fours and sixes, as well as the complete V-6/V-8/V-10/V-12 spectrum.
Fighting Ferrari with a flat six
An earlier proposed Ferrari fighter from Zuffenhausen was a closer kin to the 918 Spyder, with a carbon fiber structure, and was to be powered by a twin-turbo V-8. But Porsche decision-makers were not happy with this high-end pitch, so now, with the 960, we’re looking at a more mundane materials mix and a twin-turbo 3.8-liter boxer six, which should be good for 600 hp and 555 pound-feet of torque. Why go for a six when your target car is fitted with a V-8? Because the flat six is more compact, helps to lower the center of gravity, is more efficient as well as slightly cheaper to build, and it offers that unique Porsche touch. Likely offered in both coupe and roadster guise, the 960 will be priced on the high side of 200,000 Euro when it debuts in September 2015.