The second part of Jon McKnight’s look at the Porsche Mission E and how it stacks up against the BMW i8 and the Tesla Model S
The 600hp Porsche Mission E has all-wheel drive and all-wheel steering, accelerating from 0 to 62mph in under 3.5 seconds, and reaching 80% of its charging capacity in 15 minutes, giving it a range of more than 300 miles.
So far, so Tesla. But here the Porsche Mission E becomes even more futuristic than its Californian cousin, with dashboard instruments that realise which one of them you’re looking at and respond by appearing to move about in 3D so that it’s always in front of you even if you move your head about. It’s all done by eye-tracking cameras, gesture control and holograms, but you’d almost swear the instrument panel was flirting with you and mirroring your body language. Once the system knows which instrument you’re viewing, you can activate and navigate your way through a menu for it by pushing a button on the steering wheel. And the instrument you’re making eye-contact with will hold your gaze whether you sit lower, higher or lean to one side, finally eliminating the irritation we all suffer of the steering wheel blocking our view of the speedo, Officer.
If Porsche drivers have long been suspected of a certain smugness – and who can blame them? – the Mission E can provide real-time, real world evidence at last.
A camera in the rear-view mirror can spot if the driver’s in a good mood and display its findings in the form of an emoticon on the instrument panel – amazing enough – but it can also share the news, and your speed, with your friends via social media. Any suggestions for a smugness emoticon?
For those of us old enough to remember Magnus Pyke, or just happen to wave our hands about when we’re excited, one breakthrough feature of the Mission E could have interesting possibilities: sensors in the dashboard detect which of the many dashboard apps you or your passenger wish to use – the sound system, sat-nav and air-con, for instance – and lets you select it by making a mid-air grasping gesture, while pretending to pull it, again in mid-air, allows you to control its functions. Unusually for any production car, the Mission E has no exterior door mirrors. Instead, it has cleverly concealed cameras in the front wings that give you a far better view which it displays on virtual monitors in the lower corners of the windscreen. Again, à la Tesla, Porsche can send software updates to the car overnight, allowing improvements to be made without leaving your driveway.
You can also connect directly to a Porsche Centre for remote diagnostics, and if you’re silly enough to get locked out (been there, done that) Porsche can beam you a “digital key” that will let you in once you’ve satisfied them of your identity. You can also send a digital key to a friend or a member of your family if you need them to pick up the car – even if you’re on the other side of the world. Thanks to Mr Musk, for he certainly showed Porsche the way, there is so much more space in the cockpit than you’d expect, due to the lack of a transmission tunnel and the absence of the traditional spatial intrusion of old-style combustion engines that necessitated cramped cabins in fastback cars.
The four seats are inspired by bucket seats, save weight, and cuddle you for protection if the driver’s putting the Porsche through its paces. There are also four doors that meet in the middle, without a pillar, so the whole of the side of the car opens up like an Auntie’s arms at a homecoming party.
People have never bought Porsches with practicality at the top of their wishlists, but that could all be about to change with the Mission E. It’s finally made it into Tesla Territory, covering more than 300 miles on a single charge, then, if you stop for 15 minutes to charge it again, it will carry on for another 250 miles. You can charge it using an 800-volt Porsche Turbo Charging system (not sure where they’ll be, or how many), or use a 400-volt conventional charging station – and if you’re at home you can park your Porsche over an inductive charging panel on your garage floor that tops up the batteries without having to plug anything in.
If BMW gets its act together and takes the same approach to its i8, there will be real choice in the supercar sector for those who want an electric car that performs like, well, a Porsche. But until then you have the BMW i8, which is only lip-service electric, and the Porsche Mission E that you can’t buy until, we hope, Porsche begins producing them. And if Porsche does, and BMW doesn’t, there’ll be queues for the Mission E as long as the faces in BMW’s sales department.
About Jon McKnight