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A modern Safari? Porsche testing high-riding 911

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High-riding Porsche 911 prototype spy shots - Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

Perhaps the best sign the crossover craze has taken a step too far, Porsche is out testing a high-riding 911.

Porsche hasn’t confirmed plans to launch a high-riding 911, though the automaker’s sales and marketing chief, Detlev von Platen, said in a 2018 interview that such a car “could be a good idea.” He even said such a car could be launched as a limited-edition model.

High-riding Porsche 911 prototype spy shots – Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

The testers are riding on much taller suspension than normal. They are also fitted with widened wheel arches and on some of them there is a prominent rear spoiler whose design has never been seen before. Earlier testers featured thick foam lining the wheel arches, a feature typically seen when testing suspension systems. It helps the engineers determine how close the wheels get to the vehicle body. It’s possible the foam was also added to hide whatever suspension setup is being used.

Porsche has been down this road before. Recall, the automaker launched the 911 SC Safari rally car in 1978. Porsche also built a trio of 911-based 953 rally cars which it entered in the Dakar Rally and eventually took home the victory.

The first all-wheel drive Porsche 911 and winner of the 1984 Paris-Dakar Rally

The first all-wheel drive Porsche 911 and winner of the 1984 Paris-Dakar Rally

The popularity of those early rally cars has led to some companies offering Safari-style conversions for old 911s. Several famous Porsche tuning houses, such as Gemballa, Ruf and Singer, have also teased their own modern successors.

Porsche itself investigated the idea of a modern 911 Safari with a secret concept developed in 2012. Known as the 911 Vision Safari, the concept was based on the 991-generation 911 and never ended up receiving the green light for production. It looks like this won’t be the case with the current 992-generation 911.

Porsche 911 Vision Safari (2012)

Porsche 911 Vision Safari (2012)

The 911 Vision Safari concept featured raised suspension and flared wheel arches, just like we see on these testers. It also had underbody protection and roof-mounted lights.

A Safari-style 911 from Porsche would likely be aimed at buyers in markets like China and Russia, where drivers are often faced with poor road conditions that make it difficult to daily a low-slung sports car, hence the popularity of performance SUVs in those markets. We’re sure a few would turn up in the United States, too, given the popularity of high-riding models here. Heck, it could even prove popular in Porsche’s home market of Germany where parking with two wheels up on the curb is often necessary. Currently we expect the car to be revealed in 2022 as a 2023 model.

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Autos

Aston Martin to phase out manual transmission by 2022

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Tobias Moers

Aston Martin will no longer offer a manual transmission in any of its cars when the Vantage sports car is given an update in 2022.

CEO Tobias Moers confirmed the plans in an interview last month with Australian media, including Car Advice.

He pointed to low demand and the need to have separate compliance to the automatic cars as the reasons for the manual’s demise.

His predecessor, Andy Palmer, saw the manual as a point of differentiation among the exotic car brands since none of Aston Martin’s rivals still offer one.

Tobias Moers

Palmer as recently as 2019 promised to offer a manual in a mid-engine Vanquish supercar, vowing at the time that Aston Martin would remain the last manufacturer in the world to offer manual performance cars.

In his efforts to return Aston Martin to profitability after a disastrous 2020, a year which saw Aston Martin shed 500 jobs and its share price bottom out 94% lower than its IPO price just two years earlier, Moers has also decided to abandon a new V-6 engine developed under Palmer.

The V-6 was due to make its debut in a new Valhalla hypercar. Instead, Aston Martin will rely on powertrains sourced from Mercedes-Benz AMG, including new plug-in hybrid setups, as well as the company’s own V-12.

Moers has also said that Aston Martin will begin transitioning to electric vehicles mid-decade, and the company plans for half of its cars to be fully electric by 2030 and the rest electrified.

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Harley-Davidson to make LiveWire a standalone brand

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Harley-Davidson LiveWire charging at Electrify America charging station

The Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle will spawn a standalone all-electric brand, the company announced Monday in a press release. The first LiveWire-branded motorcycle will be unveiled July 8, ahead of the International Motorcycle Show, the company said.

That marks a departure from the initial Harley-Davidson LiveWire, which was launched in 2019 as a single model within the Harley brand. It’s similar to the progression of Hyundai’s Genesis and Ioniq nameplates, which started out as individual models within the Hyundai brand, before expanding to standalone brands.

LiveWire will be “headquartered virtually,” with staff located in Silicon Valley and Milwaukee, according to Harley. The new brand will get its own engineering team dedicated to electric powertrains, but will also lean on Harley’s existing resources for engineering and manufacturing (the current Harley-Davidson LiveWire is built at the same York, Pennsylvania, factory as other bikes).

Harley-Davidson LiveWire charging at Electrify America charging station

Harley is also planning dedicated LiveWire showrooms, starting in California. However, the company also said LiveWire “will work with participating dealers from the Harley-Davidson network as an independent brand” and will “blend digital and physical retail formats,” indicating online sales may be a possibility.

Unveiled at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show, the initial Harley-Davidson LiveWire sports a 110-mile range and 0-60 mph acceleration of 3.5 seconds. It hit the market in late 2019 with a $29,799 base price (before destination), which typically buys a higher-tier gasoline bike.

Several dedicated companies have launched electric motorcycles, but Harley is the only legacy manufacturer to wade in so far in the U.S. Polaris bought electric-motorcycle firm Brammo in 2015, and has a partnership with Zero Motorcycles, but so far it’s only discussed electric ATVs. Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha are working to develop a standardized swappable battery system for the Japanese market.

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Porsche Sonderwunsch program to rival Ferrari Special Projects

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Porsche Sonderwunsch program

Ferrari for years has been offering its most loyal—and deep pocketed—customers the opportunity to dream up their ultimate car and have it built on the chassis of a contemporary model.

It’s a program called Ferrari Special Projects, and over the years it’s resulted in some real stunners, as well as some real head scratchers.

Porsche had a similar program back in the 1970s called Sonderwunsch, German for “special request,” though it was much more exclusive than Ferrari Special Projects. One of the cars developed via the original program is the 993-generation 911 speedster, of which just two were built. One of those was built for Jerry Seinfeld.

Now Porsche wants to invite more customers to its Sonderwunsch program. Like Ferrari’s program, Sonderwunsch will enable a customer to work closely with Porsche’s designers to dream up a car that can be built as a true one-off or as a limited series.

Porsche Sonderwunsch program

For the less brave, Sonderwunsch will also enable a customer to customize colors and materials—on both existing cars as well as new cars yet to be built. This will be particularly useful for owners of classic Porsches that may want to update some elements to modern standards.

Examples of some of the options that will be available include custom wraps, custom paint finishes, racing numbers, prints on the floor mats, puddle lamps, accessories, and even performance parts.

Porsche said some of the options available will start showing up on its online configurator.

“It is our goal to provide customers around the globe with even more accurately tailored and demand-based products within the context of classic, existing and new cars,” Alexander Fabig, head of the individualization and classic departments at Porsche. “Starting with new possibilities for individualization and personalization of individual components, through the additional range of performance parts, up to the realization of uniquely individualized sports cars, we have the right option for every customer.”

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