October 2, 2022

350lachine

Automotive pure lust

We Drive Porsche’s Mission R Electric Concept Race Car

Electric cars are supposed to be quiet, but this one isn’t. This very loud EV is the Mission R, a 1073-hp one-of-one concept/racer that provides a look at a potential future for customer sports-car racing, a niche that Porsche usually feeds with 911s. While the Mission R might not sound like any race car we’ve ever driven, the same advice applies: Wear earplugs. From inside it sounds like you’re sitting next to a washing machine with a bad bearing as it kills itself during a spin cycle. Credit the two straight-cut reduction gears (one front and one rear) that transmit power to mechanical limited-slip differentials.

Hitting the brakes really makes the thing scream. Like every EV, the Mission R’s two electric motors work to convert speed into electricity through regenerative braking. As the motors fight against the car’s inertia, the noise cavitates your eardrums. As a result of the aggressive regen, the friction brakes are barely stressed. Porsche doesn’t even fit dedicated brake ducts. A full 60 percent of the braking in front is done by the motor, and all the rear braking is handled by the motor—Porsche suggests starting with the battery charged to 85 percent so that regen is always available. The brake pedal is race-car firm and easy to modulate, which is good because there’s no ABS.

Properly slowed, the Mission R turns in instantly with a small movement from the yoke. In goes the nose and then it tucks into the bend. Suddenly, the straightaway calls and it’s time to send the battery’s juice to the motors. The two motors thrust the horizon into the foreground and strain your neck in a way that will lead to a funny conversation with your physical therapist. The 1073 horsepower is available in Qualifying mode, but in Race mode (the one we ran in) peak power is 671 horses. Porsche claims a top speed of more than 186 mph, but this prototype is governed to 62 mph to protect Porsche’s $10 million investment. The Mission R maxes out in a couple of places on the track, but the course at the Porsche Experience Center Los Angeles (PECLA) is tight enough to make us feel like we’re not missing out on much. Accelerating to 62 mph from a stop is claimed to happen in less than 2.5 seconds.

Another odd part of the experience is the lack of gear shifts. Chasing a new 911 Turbo S around the track, you notice how much the 911 is upshifting and downshifting because the Mission R is a direct-drive setup. There’s no need to reach for a wooden shift knob or a paddle, there’s no tachometer to monitor, no shift lights, and you don’t need to think about keeping the engine near its torque peak. The arresting thrust of the motors is there no matter how fast you’re going, a seemingly endless rush of power. To ensure that the power out of the motors doesn’t taper off, Porsche bathes the motor windings in oil to keep things cool. The battery cooling strategy involves a fluid bath too. Porsche promises that the Mission R’s 82-kWh battery makes a 30-minute track session possible.

Based very loosely on a production car—the floorpan is lifted from the current 982 Cayman—the roughly 3300-pound racer is 170.3 inches long, a couple of inches shorter than a Cayman. At only 46.9 inches high and styled to kill, the Mission R looks like a Le Mans prototype left in the dryer a little too long. Inside, the concept has a 3D-printed race seat and some switchgear that does nothing more than look good on the auto-show floor. Clear polycarbonate roof panels let the light shine in. Compact and mean looking, aside from the shrieking drivetrain, the Mission R is easy to drive quickly. There are no tricky handling characteristics, the 40/60 front-to-rear balance isn’t easily upset, and the race slicks hang on tight.

Provided the pits have a fast-charging hookup, the onboard charger can swallow 350 kilowatts, allowing the 900-volt battery to go from five to 80 percent in a claimed 15 minutes. The connection is at the back and the battery isn’t far away, mounted transversely behind the driver.

As a proof of concept, the Mission R works. It’s fun and fast and shows us what electrification will be like on a track. The sounds it makes aren’t particularly pleasant, and from outside all you hear is what sounds like gear whine. In terms of mechanical music, a ripping flat-six will always outplay an electric motor. We imagine that fans of piston aircraft felt the same sort of way as roaring turbines began to invade their airspace. We’re at the beginning of a similar shift, but at least early jets sounded like really loud blowtorches and not dying appliances.


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