Porsche Mission R prototype quick drive review: Tomorrow's GT racer, today
Just over a month ago, Porsche unveiled its Mission R concept. When the lights fell in Munich and they pulled the sheet and there sat the company's vision for an all-electric GT racing future, I was utterly stunned. I couldn't speak a word because it looked so good -- and that's despite already having spent the previous day staring at pictures of the thing.
At the time, I was amazed at how detailed every aspect of the car was. For a mere concept, it looked awfully buttoned-up. The fit and finish was better than some production EVs I can think of and it all just looked very, very polished.
A couple of weeks later, I found out why. I received a message from a Porsche representative who told me that the car wasn't just a concept, it was a fully functional prototype. He then asked whether I'd like to drive it. I didn't require much convincing.
If you missed my initial coverage of the Porsche Mission R, it's meant to represent what electric GT-style racing (cars with doors and roofs) could look like in just a couple of years -- 2025 to be exact. It's built around an 85-kilowatt-hour battery pack and has not one but two motors, one for each axle, giving the Mission R all-wheel-drive and something over 1,000 horsepower in qualifying trim, though it runs closer to 600 in race mode.
On the day of my drive, I'd have to guess that power was turned more toward the low end of that spectrum, with Porsche also limiting top speed to a mere 130 kph -- about 80 mph. That was partly to give more range, but mostly to keep some ham-fisted journalist from stuffing the thing in the wall at the tight, twisty, bumpy and wildly narrow 1.3-mile track at the Porsche Experience Center in Los Angeles.
For most of my first stint on the track, that speed limit wasn't much of a restriction. The Mission R is such an overwhelming experience that it took me a couple of laps just to get my head around the thing and really start to open it up. The interior is absolutely wild, a futuristic cocoon with a clear roof, making the cabin far brighter and less claustrophobic than most other GT racers I've been in.
All the better for me to appreciate the details. There is lots of exposed carbon fiber everywhere, including a roll cage made of the stuff, which makes up the roof of the car. All the various bits of switchgear are tightly integrated and beautifully presented, and I gotta say, even the seat is quite comfortable. But it was the noise that was really throwing me for a loop. We've come to expect road-going EVs to be very hush-hush things, an asset that makes them eminently smooth and relaxing to drive.
The Mission R is anything but quiet. It is seriously loud -- far louder than even the Formula E car I was lucky enough to drive a few years back. But the Mission R has twice the motors, plus an enclosed resonance chamber with you, the driver, strapped in its core. I needed earplugs to be comfortable in there, such is the ruckus from the straight-cut gears in the drivetrain, as well as the many fans and other components contributing to the cacophony.
That noise is distinctive, but not unlike that of a humble radio-controlled car -- just way bigger and infinitely meaner. It sounds epic to my ears.
The steering wheel is a petite thing, with a rainbow of buttons and controls around the edges. The only one I needed was a radial input, which I was instructed to turn to Mode 1 to get underway. After that, pulling out of the pits couldn't have been easier. No hand-clutch with a short throw and an unforgiving bite like many racers. In the Mission R, you just step on the right pedal. Accelerator and brake pedals are quite large and sit next to a giant dead-pedal with ridges to keep your left foot firmly in place if you're a right-foot braker. As for me, I prefer to brake with the left foot, and the Mission R is perfectly set up for that.
The Mission R's steering is wonderfully light but razor-sharp, the chassis cutting and diving with such eagerness you'd never know it weighs around 3,300 pounds. The grip from the slick race tires, this set on the harder side of the Michelin tire range I was told, was prodigious and, most importantly for me, very progressive. When I did get comfortable enough to start pushing, the tires let go gradually and with good feedback, regaining grip just as cleanly.
The car rode the track's many bumps and curbs without fuss and let me brake hard in a tricky downhill section without trying to spin. On rear- or mid-engined cars like a 911 or 718, that kind of situation can be a real handful. Here, even though the Mission R is rear-batteried, it simply shed its speed and tucked into the apex at the bottom of the descent. Get hard on the brakes and the car easily tells you whether you cinched your belts tight enough before heading out of the pits, performance that is largely handled by regeneration, not friction. The brake-by-wire system seamlessly switches between regen and physical braking. Just step hard when you want to stop and the car figures it out.
But it's the go that really impresses. The Mission R surges forward without any squirm or tail wiggle, requiring hardly any correction even when the bumps of the track seem to threaten doom for the overeager.
After clambering out of the cockpit for the final time (and bruising my shin against the expansive side strakes in the process), I was left all the more impressed with Porsche's prototype. I gave it all I could over three hard stints with just 10 minutes break between. By the time I'd taken off my helmet and head-and-neck support device and had a drink, the car was juiced up and ready to go again, sucking down sweet DC at 900 volts through the same chargers that Porsche uses to top up its fleet of Taycans.
As futuristic as this thing looks, the experience and the logistics all feel finished and ready. I can't wait for the rest of the racing world to get there, too.