Eco meets performance: the common bonds of a Porsche GT3 and Citroen C-Zero

Published: 01 August 2011

One of the huge privileges of this job is the sheer range of cars we get to drive. It provides some marvellous juxtapositions.

I was reminded of this last week when I hopped out of a Porsche 911 GT3 one night and into a Citroen C-Zero electric car the next. You can see a cameraphone pic of the disparate pair above. They throw into sharp relief the pressures facing manufacturers in 2011.

Car makers have always wanted to make their cars desirable - vehicles have sold on looks and image since the dawn of the automobile - but efficiency has been promoted to one of the key selling points. So while the 911 and C-Zero are like chalk and cheese, the influences on their designs are in fact becoming increasingly singular.

Porsche 911 vs Citroen C-Zero: a common thread?

Don't believe me? Well, the new Porsche 991 coming at this September's Frankfurt motor show has efficiency at its core as much as sports car thrills. Every mainstream 911 will have stop-start and Porsche is even developing a new downsized turbo boxer engine that'll appear in 2015. It's even been engineered to accept a plug-in hybrid module at a later date.

Spots cars becoming more efficient is an inevitable outcome of the carbon-obsessed zeitgeist in which we live. But the corollary is that eco cars must equally become more desirable. Why should we have one without the other?

Green cars are at an earlier stage in their evolutionary path and there is plenty more work to be done. While I admire the urban performance and ease of use of the C-Zero, I can't help but mock the looks and price of the electric Citroen. It's a shameless badge engineering stunt spun off Mitsubishi's electric I-MIEV and it costs a shocking £33,155 before the Government's limited electric car grants.

Green cars: what's next?

You shouldn't have to look like Noddy if you want to be part of the electric car revolution. Cars like the Nissan Leaf show you can drive a more ordinary looking vehicle that's battery powered.

But the real fortune lies in a car that mixes both. Imagine the desirability and old-school driving rewards of a Porsche 911 with the eco credentials of a Citroen C-Zero. Ambitious start-ups such as Tesla and Fisker have had a good go, but their products are inevitably priced for the very wealthy.

It's high time a mainstream car maker delivered such a vehicle. It could be the new MX-5 of our generation: a simple, pared-back sports car, costing around £30,000, powered by a simple electric drivetrain and dripping with driver appeal. A car to appeal to head and heart. Only a mainstream car maker has the economies of scale to make this happen at the price and quality we can afford and expect.

Such cars are coming. And I've a feeling that if someone gets the right product out first, they could enjoy a large amount of success.




By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet