We know that, in the 2010s, Porsche considered making a street-legal variant of the 919 Hybrid, it looked into creating a nimble roadster powered by a mid-mounted engine, and it even flirted with the minivan segment. It released images of these previously unseen prototypes online. It turns out they were just the tip of the iceberg.
In a second batch of photos, the company highlights a modern take on the 904 Carrera GTS, a 911 Safari inspired by rally cars of the 1970s and the 1980s, and a two-door Macan. It also showed a mid-engined sedan that was loosely inspired by the 918 Hybrid, and that in turn loosely inspired the Taycan, its first electric model.
904 Living Legend
Had it been built, the 2013 904 Living Legend would have stood out as one of the most distinctive members of the Porsche range during the 2010s. Its shape is eye-catching, especially when viewed from the side. Its roof line peaks near the top of the windshield and dramatically slopes into an unusually low rear end. It’s clearly inspired by the 904, which was also known as the Carrera GTS and sold between 1963 and 1965, but the resemblance initially wasn’t intentional. Porsche explained its stylists noticed it by experimenting with different body styles.
Underneath the body lies a carbon fiber chassis derived from the limited-edition Volkswagen XL1 introduced in 2013. Power for the 1,984-pound 904 should have come from a v-twin engine borrowed from Ducati. Volkswagen experimented with the idea of a light, motorcycle-powered sports car, too, but neither model reached production.
911 Vision Safari
Unlike most of the prototypes revealed by Porsche, the 911 Vision Safari reached a relatively advanced stage of the development process. It’s a one-off, but its flat-six fires right up and it’s fully drivable. It’s a modern take on the numerous variants of the 911 built for rallying during the 1970s and the 1980s. Based on the 991-generation model, it received a lifted suspension, off-road tires tucked under flared wheel arches, beefier bumpers on both ends, and a stripped-down cabin with bucket seats, a full roll cage, and little in the way of creature comforts.
Porsche began testing the 911 Vision Safari in 2012 on the same gravel roads it uses to put the Cayenne and the Macan through their paces. “I have rarely had so much fun before,” concluded Michael Mauer, the company’s design boss, after testing the lifted 911. Interestingly, the rumors of an off-roading 911 refuse to die, though nothing is official yet. German tuner Gembella even announced a jacked-up 911 earlier in 2020.
Macan Vision Safari
In 2013, before the Macan made its public debut, Porsche experimented with a sportier two-door model that channeled its rallying heritage. It looked a lot like the SUV unveiled at the 2013 edition of the Los Angeles Auto Show, but it swapped a pair of doors and several inches of sheetmetal for off-road-oriented add-ons. It retained the regular-production car’s all-wheel drive system, its automatic transmission, and its adaptive chassis.
Porsche didn’t give its road testers the opportunity to find out how a short-wheelbase, hot-rodded Macan behaved off the beaten path. It canceled the project after making the life-sized model shown in the gallery above.
We know Porsche’s executives aren’t opposed to making an electric sports car, its CEO told us so, and the Vision 916 reveals it’s not a new idea. Made in 2016 by an intern, it was a design study that tested the limits of minimalism in the sports car segment in the 2010s. It’s powered by four in-wheel electric motors, a layout which allowed its designer to make the front and rear ends unusually low, and which is a tribute to some of the earliest cars developed by company founder Ferdinand Porsche. Electric technology is normally heavy, but Porsche shaved as much weight as possible to ensure the 916 is as enjoyable to drive as a gasoline-burning model.
Vision 960 Turismo
Porsche explains that, in a way, the Vision Turismo built in 2016 is the Taycan’s indirect predecessor.
“When walking past, I saw a schematic representation of the Porsche 918 on a designer’s drawing board in our studio, and a line had been redrawn with a felt-tip pen to clearly show the falling contour. From the corner of my eye, it looked like a rear door joint. I was astonished,” remembered Mauer. He immediately started sketching.
His aim was to create a new kind of supercar, one that accelerated and handled like a sports car but that could comfortably seat four passengers. After hesitating between a rear- and a mid-mounted engine, and drawing proposals for both layouts, he decided the best way forward was to make the car electric. Putting a six- or an eight-cylinder engine behind the rear axle would take up valuable trunk space, while installing it in the middle of the car would inevitably make the cabin cramped. An electric motor is more compact than an engine, so Mauer realized he could create a sedan with a shapely design and a low center of gravity without compromising comfort.
Porsche never built the 960 Turismo, but the lessons learned during the project directly influenced the Taycan.