German automobile manufacturer Porsche is best known for its sports cars, but it also builds performance sedans and SUVs. The brand is now owned by Volkswagen AG and is recognized as one of the most prestigious automobile brands in the world.
Officially known as Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Porsche was founded by Ferdinand Porsche in 1930 in Stuttgart, Germany. Ferdinand’s expertise as an engineering master was long established, having built in 1900 what would have been the first hybrid model, a vehicle combining an internal combustion engine with a pair of electric motors located on the front wheel hubs.
In the 1930s, Porsche designed for the German government a “people’s car” known later as the Volkswagen Beetle. After the war years, that model became the best-selling vehicle in the world and was produced into the 21st century. Also during that decade Ferdinand himself oversaw the design and production of the Auto Union (Audi) Grand Prix cars.
In 1948, Porsche began production of the first car to bear its name, the 356. This model is a rear-wheel drive two-seater with a rear-mounted, 40-horsepower engine. Initially hand built in Austria, the 356 set the groundwork for the development of the iconic Porsche 911, itself debuting in 1963 and remaining in production since.
The Porsche 911 has remained true to its styling roots and is sold in coupe, convertible and targa body styles. Until 1998, all models were powered by air-cooled engines. The water-cooled 911 (known internally as the 996) introduced the current engineering in 1999.
In the 1970s, the Porsche 924 made its debut. The 924 is a 2+2 sports car replacing the previous Porsche 914. The 924 was followed by the 944, which was then followed by the Porsche 968.
Through the years, Porsche introduced numerous permutations on the 911 theme, including a turbo version known as the Porsche 930. The company’s internal classifications have been many; enthusiasts are familiar with names such as Speedster, Carrera, GT3, 4S and others.
Mid-engine models are also a Porsche staple and include the Boxster, which was introduced in 1996 and the Cayman, which was introduced in 2005. Like the 911, these models are powered by horizontally-opposed six-cylinder gasoline engines. Through the years, Porsche innovation has been evident as the marque introduced the world’s first manually operated automatic transmission (Tiptronic) in 1990.
Porsche has been a leader in steering and handling technologies, an early user of lightweight materials and has advanced many other innovative technologies. The Porsche name is also one and the same with racing, having notched wins in tens of thousands of races that include the prestigious Le Mans series.
Modern Porsche has brought to the world new models, including the Porsche Cayenne SUV in 2002 and the Porsche Panamera sedan in 2009. In 2014, the model line was expanded further with the introduction of the Porsche Macan, a smaller SUV.
Porsche also briefly built the 918 Spyder: an $845,000 hybrid model with a 2.2-second 0-to-60 mph time, which is unparalleled among production cars. Production of the limited-edition 918 ended in June 2015, when the 918th model was built.
Some would argue that the Porsche 911 has no true competitors. The automaker’s sedans and SUVs, however, can be cross-shopped with Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Cadillac, Lexus, Infiniti and Acura. Audi, another Volkswagen AG company, might also be considered.