The 2036 Porsche 911E First Drive
Reporting from the future, Alex Roy declares the hybrid Porsche 911 is dead—long live the electric 911.
“It’s the end of the 911!” my dad said. This was way back in 1999. “911’s are supposed to be air-cooled!”
He was wrong, like all the skeptics were wrong again in 2016, when Porsche added turbocharging to the entire range. They were wrong again in 2019, with the arrival of the first 911 hybrid, and 2022, with the once-controversial electric 911E. How many remember the last 911 with an internal combustion engine that wasn’t a hybrid? I sure do: the year was 2030, and I was screaming louder than anyone else.
The end of the 911? Not even close. The 911 will never die.
The 2036 Porsche 911, or Projekt 999, is a breakthrough in every way a car can be—not only as a 911, or even as a Porsche, but as a sports car for everyone who believes in driving. The 999 is the first car to use technology not only to push human driving to its theoretical limit, but to transport drivers into the past.
In other words, the 999 has saved the idea of the sports car.
The Most Important Changes Are Invisible
The 999 is gorgeous, but it's only a subtle evolution of the design language ushered in by the 2023 Panamera-E, the living version of the Mission-E concept car, which is what the first-gen Panamera should have looked like. The triumph of the 3rd generation Panamera led to the biggest change in the 911’s appearance, which was the adoption of the Panamera-E’s front and rear fascia. Remove two doors, and you had the 992. Porsche wisely retained the 911’s classic profile for the 998, and now again with the 999, instead focusing on what we can’t see. The only thing missing is the exhaust pipe.
The Hybrid 911 is Dead. Long Live The Electric 911
The outgoing 998-chassis 911, brilliant as it was, was a victim of its split personality. As much as purists wanted the 911H to stay in the lineup, the sales just weren’t there. The 911E was faster than its hybrid sibling, and with the addition of Porsche’s ÜbertragenBeschlagAufladen (PUBA) in the 998.1, range anxiety became a thing of the past. PUBA, or Broadcast/Shoe Charging, extended the 911E’s range well past the H in all but the most remote parts of Montana—but with 94 percent of U.S. 911 sales in four coastal cities and Dallas, the hybrid had to go. Credit progress.
Physics Was a Harsh Mistress, Once
If the outgoing 991E had one problem, it was that it handled too well. You can’t solve for human nature. Human drivers want more than a steering wheel and pedals. We want excitement, and the 911E’s near-perfect weight distribution, courtesy of Porsche’s 2nd generation AusgewogenElektrischBahnsteig (PAEB), “solved” a problem that defined the 911 as much as its silhouette. Who didn’t miss the 911’s traditional rear-weight bias? PAEB, which translates to Porsche Balanced Electric Platform, needed a rethink, and Projeckt 999 Manager Ruprecht Oberpfaffelbacher knew how to give purists what they wanted.
The 999 Includes Every 911 Made
Until now, if you wanted the excitement of driving a pre-998 911, you had to go out and buy one of those. With 997s going for $450K and 996s for $600K or more, it’s just not an option—especially if you want to ride in a Human Driving Exclusion Zone. Non-autonomous capable cars just aren’t realistic for daily or mixed-use driving/riding, even with a classic car exemption. The new 911 solves all of these problems, and much more.
What if you could buy every 911 ever made, for the price of one new car? With the 999, you can. Porsche calls this system VirtuellAutoVortäuschung (PVAV), and it is stunning. PVAV, which stands for Porsche Virtual Car Simulation, is much more than a simulation. It’s a simulation that comes to life in the form of a real-world automotive time machine.
PVAV draws upon nearly 70 years of 911 heritage to replicate the performance, handling, and sound of every 911 ever made. It comes with a key that you insert into the dash; turning it one click activates the PVAV interface, which allows for the selection of any 911 manufactured going back to 1966, down to the individual year, model, and a universe of historically accurate factory options.
Relive the Experience of Unrecoverable Oversteer With One Button
Want to know what it was like to drive a 930 Turbo? What about an old GT3 RS? They’re in there, and the really crazy ones are in there, too. The mythic 959? Yup. A Singer 4.2? Just because Porsche bought Singer doesn’t mean you need a 996 and $1.5M to get that feeling. ALL the Singers are in there. Hold your breath, because they’ve also included the RUF Yellowbird.
The default setting is 999, which means 1,146 horsepower and (not coincidentally) 999 lb-ft of torque delivered through four superconducting, magnetic, self-cooling electric motors. Details have yet to be released, but with the absence of any steel, the 999 allegedly weighs in at an astonishing 2,874 pounds. Porsche claims a top speed of 214 mph. An all-new 275kWh Energy Storage System (ESS) means an EPA-verified range of 522 miles between charges.
Let’s get to the fun part, which is way better than the 999’s 0-60 time of 2 seconds. Two seconds? Lots of cars do 2 seconds. I want to know about PVAV. I want to know how a 999 becomes a 959.
How Does PVAV work?
PVAV is a family of subsystems, the heart of which is Porsche’s 3rd generation VeränderlichSteifheitSchwingungAbschirmung (PVSSA). Inspired by the behavior of human muscles, PVSSA, or Porsche Variable Stiffness Vibration Isolation, replicates the reactions of human muscle, in metal. PVSSA can change from stiff to soft, by a factor of 100, in milliseconds, independent of how much mechanical force is applied.
The PVSSA-based suspensions in the 992 and 998 were either too stiff or too soft, but combined with PVAV’s historic 911 database, the 999’s suspension isn’t just perfect, it’s every definition of perfect. It’s whatever definition of perfect you want it to be, whether it’s the hilariously soft bushings of a ‘71 S or the feisty rebounding of an RS America.
Equally brilliant is the Porsche KlappKupplung (PKK), or Collapsible Clutch pedal, which is exactly what it sounds like. Engage PVAV, select any manual 911, and the PKK pedal descends in between the brake and the dead pedals. Unlike with a real clutch, there is absolutely nothing you can do via the PKK that will damage the car.
Never driven a real manual transmission, and don’t know what a clutch is? This applies to lots of people, and so PVAV includes Porsche SchaltgetriebeInstruktion (PSI), which is the world’s first and only virtual Manual Transmission Instruction mode.
What’s the point of a clutch pedal in an electric Porsche? The 999’s KünstlichSchaltgetriebe (PKS), or Porsche Synthetic Gearbox, recreates the gearing of an internal combustion flat-six. Place your hand on the shift knob, miss a shift or mistime your clutch release, and the 999 bucks, howls and stalls, just like an old one. Get it right, and you're transported back to the days of mechanical-shifted Porsche heaven.
But wait, there’s more. Let’s talk about the magic of the powertrain. The 999 uses the second-generation DynamischElementSystem (PDES), or Dynamic Battery System. “Battery” is a misnomer, because lithium-ion batteries are old news. The 999 uses graphene-based ultracapacitors for its ESS, which has a power density 5 times greater than its predecessor. It can be recharged in 60 to 120 seconds at any UBA station, or in five to six minutes on any UBA-enabled commuter lane.
The “Dynamisch” part of of the powertrain is how the ESS is mounted. During hard cornering, even the tiniest shifting of the ESS—which accounts for fully one third of the 999’s weight—can unsettle handling and steering accuracy. Inspired by the dynamic engine mounts that were standard across all Porsche hybrids from 2022 until they were discontinued, PDES splits the ESS into two layers, sandwiching a PVSSA microlattice. The PDES hardens or softens the microlattice, shifting the flexible upper layer’s position up to one inch, instantaneously, based on speed, steering angle, and, according to Oberpfaffelbacher, “17 other inputs which must remain secret.”
PDES will maintain optimal (that’s German for flat) chassis balance in its default 999 configuration, but set the PVAV to any pre-998 911, and the suboptimal balance options are where the 999 becomes the 911 of our dreams.
Which brings us to the big one.
Porsche Brings the Soul Back
Okay, the soul of the 911 was never really gone. If it can be said to reside in the rear-weight bias of old, then all that happened is that it shone a little less brightly in the 992 and 998. But those days are over. The 911’s soul is stronger than ever.
Behold, the Porsche DynamischGleichgewichtGleis (PDGG). This is the secret sauce, the light of the 999’s soul, the technology that will keep the 911 alive forever. PDGG, or Porsche Dynamic Balance Rail, controls a third element of the ESS. Even the best ESS requires a smaller Lithium-based battery backup. Why? Graphene-based capacitors don’t retain charge as well as older li-ion batteries.
PDGG exploits the necessity of this extra weight by placing the battery on twin rails that begin just behind the passenger compartment and end forward of the rear bumper. Magnetically suspended above the upper layer of that ESS sandwich, which runs the full length of the car, the backup battery can be shifted along the rail to mimic the location and weight of a 911’s hybrid or internal combustion flat-six. Engage the PVAV while stopped, select your vintage 911, wait up to five seconds and voila: the rear-weight bias purists have been missing!
I predict the 999 will be the best selling 911 of all time. Don’t take a test drive unless you can afford one, because you won’t be able to sleep at night.
The Rest Of It
What about the visual and sonic fakery of the PVAV spectacle? The unfortunately-named Porsche UnterschiedlichBildschirmElement (PUBE), or Variable Display Unit, uses the latest 3-D technology to replicate your favorite classic 911 dashboards on what has to be the largest in-dash screen available outside an S-class. Granted, nearfield holographic gauges won’t convince anyone who’s been in a real 993, but for everyone else, the effect will mesmerize.
As for the Porsche UnterschiedlichSchallSystem, aka the Variable Sound System, it’s both an unprintable acronym, and a disappointment. The music sounded great, but no one buys a 911 to listen to music. It’s a driver's car. Luckily, this is the only bad news. I’ve owned a 1987 Targa for nearly thirty-six years, and the fake sound of its high-RPM wail coming from the 999’s speakers didn’t do it for me. I’ve heard rumors that software upgrades will resolve this issue, but I think a speaker upgrade is in order.
The beloved PorscHÜD is back, and better than ever, but Porsche would rather we use its official name: Porsche LenkenProjektor, or PLP. For those whose only “driving” experience is playing Forza Motorsport and who remain intimidated by the idea of taking even partial control of a car in the real world, PLP is the perfect solution. PLP will superimpose the equivalent of a racing line on your windshield, albeit color-coded to keep you safely within speed limits, and human driving lanes. Does it work? Sure. Did I care? No.
Even The Boring Bits Are Amazing
I could go on, but my eyes are glazing over with all the acronyms. No one will buy a 999 for the non-driving tech. Of course, Porsche’s newest iterations of now-ubiquitous features are impressive, and I’m obliged to list them in return for being the first journo to drive the 999. Here’s a partial list of all the Autonomous technologies we’ll cover in my full road test:
Porsche UrteilsvermögenSteuerungLogik (PUSL), or Discriminating Navigation Unit, which certainly is cryptic. Porsche ProphezeiungLotseGehlife (PPLG), their new Predictive Pilot Assist, which is somehow different from Porsche SelbsttätigLenkung (PSL), their 5th Generation Autonomous Guidance. There’s also the dangerous-sounding Porsche DeckungModus (PDM), or Security/Escape Mode, and Porsche DynamischPunktSucher (PPS), a Dynamic Node Locator whose function I couldn’t parse.
There was one more feature which sounded very interesting: the Porsche VirtuellRennsportModus (PVRM), which translates to Racing Simulation Mode. Something tells me this is more than merely an Autonomous mode. Could this be the on-track simulator they’ve long promised? The one that lets you re-live historic races while lapping real-word tracks? The one that allegedly projects 3D race images on the interior glass of the car?
One can only dream.
Is the latest iteration of the world’s most iconic sports, the best sports car ever made? Technically, yes. But I can’t lie: I wish Porsche still offered the hybrid. Just like I wished Porsche hadn’t discontinued the flat-six. Then the flat-four. But that’s me, a 64-year-old Porsche purist, from the penultimate generation born during the pre-autonomous age of internal combustion.
Get in the 999 in default mode, start driving, and what happens? Everything, and nothing. You’re in the best 911 ever made, theoretically; it’s certainly the fastest, and the best handling. But it’s also the quietest. A lot of wind. A little bit of tire chirp. A tiny bit of electric motor whine.
The 999 is magic, but it’s too quiet, like all EV’s. Progress—I’ll never get over it.
Alex Roy is an Editor-at-Large for The Drive, author of The Driver, and set the 2007 Transcontinental “Cannonball Run” Record in 31 hours & 4 minutes. You may follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.