Our previous episodes featured two of the best Baja racers of all time, the world’s most expensive Bronco aka Big Ole and a converted 4×4 Chevy Nova aka Snortin’ Nortin. Next, we’ve covered rally racers from Europe, including the stunning Lancia Stratos HF that paved the way for many modern supercars and, ultimately, the most lucrative car of all time, the Delta HF Integral. Porsche It got into the mix, too, with the 959 that took performance to new levels, both on and off-road. And Japan’s answer, the Toyota Celica GT-Four that ended up being probably the most ingenious cheater ever used in a motorsport.
This time around, we want to look at the future of off-road driving, as electricity is pervasive throughout the auto industry and even into the four-wheel drive world. But as much as Tesla or Rivian would like their electric pickups to look like off-roaders — and given the limited range of electric vehicles in the Jeep Wrangler 4xe — the true electric off-road future may emerge from the concept originally known as the Porsche Mission E.
Off-road electric sports cars
The question of whether off-road driving will switch to all-electric power is no longer in doubt. The FIA’s Extreme E series is already inviting automakers to enter powerful electric off-road vehicles to compete in some of the most attractive terrain on the planet, with coverage focusing not only on the vehicles, drivers and teams but also on sustainability efforts and environmental concerns for the regions hosting the races.
Preserving the legacy of 959
Whether or not Porsche’s offer to partner with Red Bull Racing for a Formula 1 return, given the recent drama, perhaps Stuttgart should envision a new car for Extreme E that carries on the legacy of the 959 supercar in the modern era. After all, the 959 conquered the on-road driving world despite building it for off-road racing in the harshest parts of the African desert, using new technology at the time such as adjustable ride height suspension, twin-turbochargers, powerful all-wheel drive systems, and even tires Protected against premature air leakage and tire pressure monitoring.
More recently, the Cayenne, the successor to the 959 SUV, has competed in the Transsyberia rally—although most Porsche enthusiasts say the 918 Spyder, with its advanced hybrid drivetrain and refined aerodynamics, actually exemplifies the 959’s true spirit. But the 918 Sypder certainly can’t go off-road — so enter the Mission E Cross Turismo concept.
Mission E Cross Turismo Concept
Believe it or not, but Porsche first introduced the Mission E model at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in 2015. In the end, the elegant four-door electric coupe moved to the production Taycan, while the newer version had bigger tires, and a raised ride. Height, fender flares, and a shooting brake roofline — some featured in the production Porsche board-approved Taycan Cross Turismo in 2018. But even if the Cross Turismo now offers a “gravel” setting, the real world still certainly leans toward driving performance. On the streets instead of off-road driving.
real world taikan
And on the streets, Porsche immediately demonstrated that a major manufacturer could handle Tesla’s electric dominance, with 800-volt engineering, a two-speed transmission, all-wheel drive, and a host of configurations topped by the Taycan Turbo S that managed to set new standards for speed Straight line and agile driving dynamics in classic Porsche style.
Contest via Turismo
Recently, Porsche embarked on a bit of an odd errand with the Cross Turismo and tried to drive the EV from the lowest place a car could travel in the US, down a copper-nickel mine in Michigan, all the way to the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado. The trip covered 15,889 feet – or just over three miles – of climb in 33 hours and 48, proving that electric cars can withstand the same challenges as internal combustion cars. In fact, since the Taycan does not need oxygen for internal combustion, the car likely survived the rise of the Pikes Peak better than a gasoline sports car, just as the Volkswagen ID R electric racer set a new record on Pikes Peak in 2018.
Taycan road trip
Meanwhile, in the modern age of social media, Porsche owners take inspiration from pitching tents on the roofs of their cars and setting off on the road. And not just in the Cayenne, a high-performance SUV that delivers amazing off-road capabilities, but also in the smaller (and less important) 911 sports car. So why not the Taycan? Well, Porsche’s ads for the factory roof tent actually feature the Taycan Cross Turismo, although the charging infrastructure that Jeep Wrangler 4xe or Rivian R1T owners hope to use when exploring the great outdoors remains undoubtedly an issue. However, the idea of more mainstream off-road electric vehicles now seems somewhat less absurd, which could only continue to drive the most reluctant buyers toward electrification as EPA ranges increase and charging times decrease.
Porsche in Extreme E?
Porsche has promised to invest $7.4 billion to ramp up the development and production of electric vehicles, including the decision to convert the Cayman and Macan into fully electric vehicles for future generations. And other manufacturers seem interested in leaning toward all-weather and off-road capabilities with their electric vehicles, too, if Rolls-Royce’s early annoyances of testing the Specter in the snowy Arctic are any clue.
Now that the Red Bull and Formula 1 deal seems unlikely to move forward, perhaps the most logical step for Porsche is to turn the Taycan Cross Turismo into a tougher version that goes even a step further than the original Mission E concept. British supercar maker McLaren is already competing in the series, proving the performance potential first seen in the P1 hybrid. But for now, even if the Taycan can run alongside Tesla, Porsche’s range estimates are still lower than the original Model S that debuted a decade ago.
Range concern still plays a role in electric vehicle adoption, but Porsche’s rebranding as the leader in electric power off the tarmac may help inspire confidence among a large segment of the general public who are considering an electric vehicle for their next car.
Sources: porsche.com, youtube.com, redbullracing.com, jeep.com, rivian.com.