Turbocharging vs hybrid power: the lesser of two evils
The winds of change are blowing strong and hard through the automotive industry and those winds sound, definitively, like the whistle of turbochargers. And, as we all know, it’s the Porsche 911’s turn for a forced induction update.
In September, when the 66th running of the IAA motor show rolls into Frankfurt, it’s expected that the successor to the Porsche 991 Carrera (be it a ‘991.2’ or a ‘992’) will be officially launched featuring two different turbocharged flat sixes.
For Porsche – a company dedicated to the thrill of ‘how you get there’ – to forsake natural aspiration confirms that turbochargers are here for the foreseeable future in the auto industry as manufacturers are forced by ever more stringent international legislation to cut fuel consumption and reduce CO2 levels.
It will be the biggest step-change to the 911’s ethos since the switch to water-cooling nearly 20 years ago and, in typical Porsche fashion, it will surely be executed extraordinarily well. However, making a turbocharged engine feel like a naturally aspirated unit is especially tough.
While the latest 911 Turbo has barely any lag, it’s throttle response is still noticeably more woolly than even a basic 991 Carrera, while some manufacturers are actually engineering in some turbo lag via throttle ECU maps to at least give their latest engines some character.
In both cases, I’d much rather just drive a naturally aspirated Porsche 911, leaving me to revel in the razor sharp throttle response and the pure symphony of a flat six unadulterated by the muffling effect of two turbochargers.
Of course, the aforementioned emissions legislation proves a major thorn in the side for my wishes. But, surely there is another way to reduce emissions, improve fuel economy and bring the extra performance boost that turbocharging will also provide to the next generation of 911.
Hybrid power is something that Porsche has been working on for many years now, with a 911 GT3 R prototype competing (and winning) in international events as far back as 2010 with a flywheel-based hybrid system.
The lessons learned in that project then have since been put to good effect in the Porsche 918 Spyder (the road car lap record holder at the Nürburgring Nordschleife) and the 919 Hybrid LMP1 car, the fastest car ever to lap the chicaned circuit at Le Mans.
What’s more, Porsche has been putting its hybrid technology to good use on more traditional road cars since 2010 when it released the Cayenne S Hybrid and later the Panamera S E-Hybrid.
In one of those rare moments where I’m not behind the wheel of a 911, I got the chance to drive the latter last year and was left flabbergasted by the linear response of its engine (admittedly aided by a supercharger).
The Panamera’s throttle response was as good as the naturally aspirated Porsche 911s that I love, while the addition of the electric motor’s power was integrated seamlessly into the whole experience.
Wolfgang Hatz, Porsche AG’s board member charged with Research and Development, has admitted that Zuffenhausen is looking at furthering its hybrid range with a 911 version in the future but I can’t wait that long.
I want it now. With the added cachet of the recent motorsport links (especially if a 919 wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend), a hybrid Porsche 911 could be the perfect way for satisfying both the green lobby and those who wish the 911 to retain a modicum of its original character.