Porsche's next-gen 911 and Cayman: the full story

Published: 10 September 2008

These are the first pictures of the 2012 Porsche Cayman prototype, an all-new model set to take the fight to Audi’s proposed R3, the next-gen BMW Z4 and the surprisingly good Artega GT.

We’ve also got pictures of the next 911 (photos bottom row), a car that must beat the Nissan GT-R and Audi R8 if Stuttgart is to hold its head up high. Both cars in our exclusive pictures are prototypes, using current generation bodywork, but each mule clearly features widened front and rear tracks.

To find out how Porsche plans to best its rivals CAR Online has sat down with Porsche R&D chief Wolfgang Dürheimer. He’s spilled the beans on everything from active aerodynamics, composite complex chassis and future tie-ups within the VW Group.

So is it evolution or revolution for the new Porsche 911, Boxster and Cayman?

It is evolution for the facelifted Boxster and Cayman, both of which are due within the next six months. The revised Boxster will be unveiled at the LA motor show in November 2008, while the tweaked Cayman will appear early in 2009. Both models will receive direct-injection engine technology, seven-speed PDK gearboxes and minor interior and exterior tweaks in line with the new second-generation 997 911.

And the next-gen Porsche sports cars?

This is where things get interesting. Dubbed 981, the new Boxster (and its Cayman hard-top sibling) will share parts with the all-new 911, due in late 2011 and known internally as 991.

'It [the new 911] will be even more competent, even sexier, even more unique,’ says Dürheimer. ‘The design can of course only be evolutionary, but beneath the skin, almost anything is possible.’

Click 'Next' below to read about the styling changes for Porsche's next 911

But surely Porsche must update the 911's styling?

Asked to name three styling elements that will change substantially compared to the 2008 vintage Dürheimer answers like a shot. ‘There is no more need for old-fashioned protruding door mirrors, the pending pedpro [pedestrian protection] requirements will force us to make relatively obvious alterations to the nose of the car, and for aerodynamic reasons we are also going to reshape the rear end.

'But apart from these must-dos, we won't tamper with the proportions of a true classic.’ In other words, you'll never mistake a 911 for anything else.

What about clever tech on Porsche's next range-topper?

One area where Porsche will implement plenty of fresh know-how is active aerodynamics. In addition to the extending tail spoiler (you can see the experimental set-up on the 911 in our spy photos), there will be an adjustable front spoiler, and we also may see selectively blocked air intakes.

The 911 Turbo may even feature a virtual ground effects floorpan, featuring active jet-vents integrated in the wheel arches, sources say. All the better to suck the car to the road for that Superglue effect.

And what will happen to the new PDK gearbox?

Transmission-wise Porsche's latest dual-clutch unit (PDK) is the gearbox of  choice until 2018 and beyond. At the same time, a super-smooth, low-friction, fictitiously staggered seven-speed CVT may one day render the notchy manual ‘box superfluous.

Click 'Next' below to read about Porsche's plans to cut weight out of its sports cars

Can Porsche go green in this eco age?

Like any serious CO2 fighter, project 991 – and every Porsche sports car in its wake – will make extensive use of advanced low-calorie materials.

‘In this discipline, we learned a lot from the Carrera GT,’ says Dürheimer. ‘The supercar taught us plenty about carbonfibre, so that composite materials can soon be a serious alternative to aluminium. The secret to feasibility is automation, an area where we still have a bit of work to do.

‘Together with other changes, the much more sophisticated material mix should help to reduce the kerbweight by ten percent and with it the fuel consumption – no mean feat in view of the more powerful engines and the more complex chassis set-up.’

A complex chassis? In a posh VW Beetle with the engine slung out back?

What the Porsche R&D team intends to achieve is a significantly improved active safety even with PSM switched off, a better directional stability at high speed and on bumpy ground, more suspension compliance thanks to an evolution of PASM, and of course a more benign handling at the limit.

‘It´s not as straightforward as it sounds,’ says says Dürheimer. ‘On the one hand, I still want purism like the feel of every loose chipping through the rim of the steering wheel. But on the other hand, marketing urges me to fit a parking aid complete with rear-mounted camera and beeper.’

Sounds like the next generation of Porsches are going to be at once sportier and more pampering. A bold claim and it remains to be seen if the new family of 911s, Caymen and Boxsters will retain their sporting focus. 

Click 'Next' below to read about possible Porsche tie-ups with the VW Group

What about ties with inhouse rivals Audi or Lamborghini?

'At this stage, every scenario is pure speculation,' Dürheimer vows. 'But why should the Panamera genes not reappear in an Audi A8 coupé? Although there exists no such plan, we are open to all sorts of options. We are also interested in pooling the resources as far as new electronic platforms are concerned.

'The same applies to all non brand-specific research subjects like the combined combustion system CCS or hybrid modules for front-engined cars.

'Another area where I can see huge synergies concerns active and passive safety. The next 911 will for instance be equipped with a water-level sensor which acts as proactive aquaplaning warning device...'

What about way into the future?

Active steering and torque vectoring are two catchwords which are expected to be part of the Porsche sports car vocabulary by 2018. Steer-by-wire on the other hand is definitely a non-starter, and rear-wheel steering has not yet been approved either, although it does have potential.

It's a brave new world and just goes to show that technology is going to continue to change the shape of the cars we drive for decades hence. Even top-end Porsches.

What do you think of Porsche's planned technology? Will it be enough to counteract evolutionary styling? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say

What about ties with inhouse rivals Audi or Lamborghini?

'At this stage, every scenario is pure speculation,' Dürheimer vows. 'But why should the Panamera genes not reappear in an Audi A8 coupé? Although there exists no such plan, we are open to all sorts of options. We are also interested in pooling the resources as far as new electronic platforms are concerned.

'The same applies to all non brand-specific research subjects like the combined combustion system CCS or hybrid modules for front-engined cars.

'Another area where I can see huge synergies concerns active and passive safety. The next 911 will for instance be equipped with a water-level sensor which acts as proactive aquaplaning warning device...'

What about way into the future?

Active steering and torque vectoring are two catchwords which are expected to be part of the Porsche sports car vocabulary by 2018. Steer-by-wire on the other hand is definitely a non-starter, and rear-wheel steering has not yet been approved either, although it does have potential.

It's a brave new world and just goes to show that technology is going to continue to change the shape of the cars we drive for decades hence. Even top-end Porsches.

What do you think of Porsche's planned technology? Will it be enough to counteract evolutionary styling? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

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