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Opinions & Insights: The case for a new Porsche 914 EV

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Article by Rob Sass
Image by Lars Sältzer

Ed.: This column appears in the January 2019 issue of Porsche Panorama as the Editor's Note.

I’ve mentioned in this column before, although I’m a fan of Porsche’s past entry-level efforts from the 912, 914, and 924 to the original 986 Boxster, I’ve accepted Porsche’s explanation as to why it no longer feels the need to play in that sandbox. Ironically though, my first drive in the decidedly non-entry-level $150K plus Taycan Turbo has irrevocably changed my point of view on Porsche’s low-end strategy. Porsche desperately needs a new 914, and it needs to be electric.

Particularly among younger brand devotees, the existence of the Taycan, and what it represents, is going to cause an aspirational sea change — electricity is going to become the perceived gold-standard in performance. It’s already been noted by others that a Taycan Turbo S is faster in many situations than a McLaren 570S. How long will it be before people take note of the fact that a Taycan Turbo can hang with a GT3? No longer will Porsche’s current entry-level solution, a five-to-ten-year-old combustion-only Boxster or Cayman, suffice for someone in the 25-to-40 demographic. And since it will likely be 10 to 15 years or more before any Taycan depreciates sufficiently to become affordable for younger people, Porsche is in danger of losing an entire generation.

The solution is an affordable, electric roadster, and not simply an electrified 718.  The car needs to be simpler, more elemental, and, frankly, smaller than that, something that perhaps splits the difference between Tesla’s original Lotus Elise-based Roadster and the 718, perhaps like VW’s Bluesport concept from 2009. With no need for a large fuel tank or engine, radiators, etc., even more of the practicality of the original 914 could be part of the package, with two massive trunks.

The fun-to-drive equation would be simply off-the-charts. While the existence of a large, heavy battery pack makes an Elise-like sub-2,000-pound weight a fantasy, certainly coming close to the aforementioned VW Bluesport concept’s sub-2,900 pounds isn’t crazy talk. With an almost impossibly low center of gravity and small physical dimensions, the handling and point-and-shoot abilities of a modern-day electric 914 would be impressive. The car would do to autocross what the 917/30 did to Can-Am racing. An autocross-focused, grassroots-level guerilla marketing campaign would be more than just amusing — has anyone taken note of the number of views that Tesla drag strip takedown videos get? Watching an electric Porsche roadster clobbering Corvettes at autocrosses all over the country would be sweet indeed, particularly if they can figure out how to make an EV sports car that’s actually visceral and angry, rather than über slick like the Taycan — think electric Alfa Romeo 4C.

And then there’s Formula E. Given Porsche’s big investment in it, and the demographic of Formula E fans, doesn’t it seem downright strange that the company has nothing to offer them besides a nice poster of a six-figure electric four-door?

A 914/E obviously wouldn’t be a 911 killer, but an Elise-like 0-60 time of well under five seconds, and a range of 150 to 180 miles would seem like fairly easy marks, and would make the car more than attractive enough for most two-seater buyers, which sort of gets to the last part of the puzzle: Do two-seater buyers exist in sufficient numbers for something like this to be profitable? Beats the hell out of me. Two-seater sales aren’t exactly robust these days. As brilliant as the 718 and new Mazda Miata are, they’re still fairly rare sights on the road. But Porsche has always played by a different set of rules, and a fantastic-looking, Porsche-badged, affordable electric roadster might actually create a new segment of truly lust-worthy, well-packaged, small EVs. And it might just be a timelier move than anyone realizes, particularly if the predicted Gen Z backlash against SUVs (in which Porsche is heavily invested) materializes. In any event, I think that you can make a case for the car that goes beyond typical P&L concerns. Hell, GM is allegedly losing money on every Corvette C8 that sells below $80,000, but the statement that the car makes is an important one.

I actually kind of like the 914/E moniker. I wouldn’t even mind if it were a VW collaboration again, branded as a VW-Porsche like the original car was in Europe, although I’d probably get the financial details in writing this time around. I’ll allow that this all might seem a touch heretical, given the fact that it likely runs 180 degrees from every brand strategy PowerPoint in existence at Porsche AG. No matter. I think it’s the right thing to do. It’s at least worth teasing as a concept. Executed the way Porsche typically does things, I think it would cause a sensation the likes of which Porsche hasn’t seen since original Grant Larson Boxster concept, and I think the cries of “build it” would be heard at a distinctly non-EV volume.


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