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Silent night: on the road with Michael Mauer

Silent night? Electric night. Today we listen carefully because it's worth it. A conversation with Michael Mauer, VW corporate design chief and chief designer of Porsche. About? Silence. In the Taycan.

Interview: Michael Köckritz Photo: Stephan Bauer 23.12.2019 3 min

Everything is different today. The driver isn’t longing for the high-rev listening pleasure of the 911 GT3 RS. He gets to enjoy the exact opposite: the silence of the Taycan. That sharpens the senses and hones the perception. From Baden-Baden, the road leads along sixteen winding kilometers and a five-hundred-meter elevation gain up to a saddle by the name of Rote Lache. It delineates the western boundary of the Murg Valley in the Northern Black Forest. This is one of Michael Mauer’s favorite drives. Michael Mauer is the head of design for the Volkswagen Group and chief designer for the Porsche brand.

Mauer has raced just about every Porsche, and plenty of other sports cars, through these curves. A perfect system of reference for comparison purposes. On his first drive along this Black Forest route with the Porsche Taycan, we take a seat in the passenger seat. And our iPhone finally has the ideal conditions to record all the answers in good quality.

Mr. Mauer, what do you feel when you drive a car?

The car has always been a sort of refuge for me. That’s also what the appeal of individual mobility is about. Where else can I be by myself and completely one with myself? Where else can I myself spontaneously decide that I want to go right now to wherever I want?

The Taycan doesn’t have the usual engine noise. Do you miss it?

The lack of engine noise is a novel experience, a new sensory experience for someone who grew up with internal combustion engines. I thought I would miss the sound of the engine. But that’s not the case. I perceive everything even more intensely than usual. With the result that you can experience the car, the driving and yourself with an even more intense focus. It’s almost like yoga.

Is driving without the sound of a combustion engine a meditative experience, or is that going too far?

No, that’s not going too far. Though I would like to say that driving itself has a meditative quality for me. And this is accentuated even more by silence. All the better for me to lose myself in thought, aided by the fact that I usually keep the radio off.

Will we enjoy getting used to the sound of e-mobility?

At some point there will be a generation who will find the sound of an internal combustion engine annoying. There is something liberating about a lack of noise. It would be exciting to know what would happen if one day the usual sound of electric motors was pierced by a lone combustion engine. Will the driver be pelted with eggs or rotten tomatoes? Though perhaps not, because after all we will all be eating only instant powder fifty years from now.

Where do find quiet outside of the car?

When I’m not driving, I find peace and quiet out in nature. I like to sit on top of the mountain and let my thoughts wander. That is best achieved in places where only the sounds of nature form the background noise.

Let’s go a little further. What does silence mean to you?

First of all, silence is about the absence of any noise and the ever-present sensory overload. In moments of silence, I have the chance to think. I can reflect and listen to myself. Without all the noise around me, I can hear my own voice better. In the constant stress of our hectic everyday lives, with all the different sources of noise, we often fail to hear our own voice. In a way, silence offers us the important opportunity of experiencing life at the limits. Silence is also essential to be able to concentrate. It takes away the pressure that comes from outside noise. These recovery periods are important for our wellbeing, but also for our ability to think. Silence offers a space for rest and relaxation and should be an integral part of life. I need silence to absorb all the idea...