Intelligent Performance : Michael Mauer über den neuen Elfer

Intelligent Performance: Michael Mauer on the new 911

Design makes the difference. It tells the story and becomes a statement. Looked at in this way, we can definitely celebrate the new Porsche 911 as yet another clear and effective pronouncement. We spoke with head designer Michael Mauer about perfecting a legacy, about evolution and about that one word that sums it all up.

Interview: Michael Köckritz Photo: ramp.pictures 18.12.2018 6 min

What is taping all about?
Taping is a central element of agile development, which is always referred to as “sprint”. Taping allows for ultra-sprinting. Within minutes, you can decide if a line is perfect – or you immediately try another direction.

So, it’s a relevant and quick process?
Yes, in design modelling taping is still one of the most important activities. Because you can find out very quickly if lines work. By using a tape you can check if the lines that were created mathematically are also clean in reality. If I look at the car from the back, for example, I’m able to optimise lines very delicately by using tape.

Intelligent Performance : Michael Mauer über den neuen Elfer
Intelligent Performance : Michael Mauer über den neuen Elfer
Intelligent Performance : Michael Mauer über den neuen Elfer
Through its shape the new 911 shows joy in form.
Michael Mauer
Intelligent Performance : Michael Mauer über den neuen Elfer

And which are the typical 911 lines we can recognize in the Porsche 992, the new 911?
The basic form of the original 911 introduced all the lines that make up a 911 to this day. The new model also has that side view with the characteristic sloping roofline – what we call “our flyline” – merging into the back. Then there is the typical 911 window graphic that emphasizes this line even more. The 992 doesn’t have one line too many, its sideview lives entirely off the tension of its shape. Then there’s the greenhouse tapering off towards the back, and the strong shoulders over the rear wheels that are now even more pronounced.

Which other good views are there?
From the front, the 992’s dominating features are – as always – the headlights, the wings and the movement along them. This topography is based on the fact that this car has its engine in the rear. It gives us a level of freedom at the front, that’s a very typical 911 feature. There’s no grille but an air intake, and headlights that are more or less round and create a harmonious ensemble with the front wings and the bonnet that is low and plane. At the rear, there’s the exhaust pipes and the low mounted registration plate. At the back the view is now defined by the striking new light band in harmony with the exhaust pipes and the low registration plate and the formal integration of the rear window and the engine grille. It’s all clear and clean at the same time. The third brake light becomes an exclamation mark, an intentional provocation. You’ll recognize right away: that’s it! That in front of me is the new 911.

Overall, the body now looks more compact, how did you do that?
It’s a general phenomenon that cars are getting bigger all the time. Compared with its competition, the 911 is still quite delicate. We aimed at making the car look more compact again, crisper. The thing I had in my mind was Arnold Schwarzenegger in a wet T-shirt that is slightly too small and lets you see every muscle. A 911 should always look well-trained and shouldn’t have an ounce of body fat.

And the way to get there?
Strictly speaking, we’re using a neat design trick used successfully with the first Turbo, the original 930. It’s keeping the body slim by draping the wings in extreme fashion over the wheels. Suddenly everything appears more compact and wider at the same time

Does the interior use the same 911 design language?
The inside is dominated by uncompromising driver orientation. The feeling of sitting in a car that presents itself to you as a driver. Knowing that the essentials are always clear to see. Whether its consciously or subconsciously. Depending on the situation and the mood. In the 992, the classic 911 rev counter remains an analogue instrument and is placed strategically in the centre, framed by digital instruments on the outside. The slightly rising centre console while a blade profile on top of the dash emphasizes the width of the interior.

The ignition?
Left.

Will this always be the case?
Right now, I would say that, yes. I’m not sure it’s always going to be a key, though. One thing is clear: a Porsche is woken up on the left side of the steering wheel.

Is there anything else that will never change?
The reduction to the essential. The requirement that technology and form are intrinsically connected to each other in a timeless way. A 911 will never look old.

Porsche is the epitome of a sports car, the 911 is a design icon. Is there respect or even fear in approaching a new 911 design?
Respect yes, fear no. I always say jokingly, it is a completely normal process. But I would be lying if I said this is all following the same scheme all the time. The development needs intensive discussions. After all, the 911 is the core of our brand.

Intelligent Performance : Michael Mauer über den neuen Elfer
Intelligent Performance - Michael Mauer Interview

That’s why the car continues to be of vital economic importance to the brand? Is that something you keep in mind as a designer?
Well, as a designer my default position is to assume that design is the main reason people buy the car. From that perspective design indeed has a great influence on the product’s success. Porsche stands for a way of life, and those who buy a Porsche don’t just consider the product but all the experiences associated with it. That way design sends out a strong signal, it creates an identity, it becomes contact area and something to relate to. Design makes the difference. To the looks, the touch, the senses.

How do you sum up the task?
Every 911 displays a clear product identity – while also clearly being THE NEW 911. Also, for every 911 evolution we develop new design elements which have the potential to find their way into other model lines.

What role do colours play?
Colours are obviously a case of individual taste. Everybody sees something different in a colour, and we know that everything we experience leaves an emotional foot print. Personally, I like the lighter shades more as they let you evaluate the lines a lot better.

If you were to associate the new model with an expression, what would it be?
For me, the 911 is a super sportscar with an enormous performance potential. Through its shape the new 911 shows joy in form. Nothing is over the top or brash. The car exudes power. It doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody. “Supreme performance” would be a term that sums it up nicely.

ABOUT

Michael Mauer (*1962) studied car design in Pforzheim. He led several projects at Mercedes-Benz, developed the 9-3 and 9X models as Executive Director of Design at Saab, and has been Chief Designer for Porsche since 2004. Since 2015, Mauer has also headed the Design division of Volkswagen AG.

Info: First appeared in the ramp rampstyle #17