Porsche chief executive Wendelin Wiedeking says the Züffenhausen firm's fourth model range will hit the market by 2006 or 2007. But what form would it take? Some say it could be a four-seater coupé, sports saloon, or Boxster-based "sports tourer".

Porsche chief executive Wendelin Wiedeking says the Züffenhausen firm's fourth model range will hit the market by 2006 or 2007. But what form would it take? We have found three artist impressions (some of which are more credible than others!) of the mystery Porsche for comparative purposes.

Some reports suggest the new Porsche could be a new four-seater coupé (in the spirit of the now-discontinued 928), which will have to compete against the Mercedes CL, Bentley Continental GT and BMW 6 Series, but there are also rumours that the model will be a tin-top sports tourer, based on the Boxster roadster.

Most industry experts believe the model will be a four-door liftback saloon fitted with a V8 engine - and its development is also probably further advanced than most people would have thought! CAR quoted Wiedeking as saying that Porsche was keen to enter new markets to further improve the critical mass of the company and make the brand less vulnerable to changes in buying mood.

"We believe Porsche's fourth model plans are already advanced, with the car's development underway, suppliers closely involved and, according to our sources, prototypes now testing on private tracks," a US-based analyst said.

Coded E2 in-house, the new model's production, added to that of the current Boxster, 911 and Cayenne ranges, would push Porsche's annual production to 100 000 units or more.

Costs will be streamlined as a result of the fact that the new sports saloon will share its engine and some of its drivetrain layout with the Cayenne. It will be built alongside the off-roader at the company's new state-of-the-art Leipzig plant.

Initial reports say it will be offered in both rear-drive and four-wheel drive configurations. And, in addition to the fast V8 version, there could be more affordable derivatives, including the V6 power unit now on offer in the entry-level Cayenne.

The new model's four-wheel drive system will reportedly be able to adjust to distribute power between the front and rear wheels in an infinite number of combinations. The flagship model will be fitted with a front-mounted turbocharged V8 with an output of 488 kW and top speed will be in the region of 280km/h.

Insiders also say the car will seat four adults in comfort and that its designers are placing a premium on ease of access for all passengers.

The Volkswagen connection

If the new model was to use parts from the Cayenne, which Porsche developed in conjunction with Volkswagen, it could be based either on an entirely new platform or on another shared with the Wolfsburg-based company.

"As an engineering base it's a toss up between two options," said Mark Fulthorpe of industry research group CSM Worldwide. "One could be the current base that they share with VW for the Cayenne. The other is to get a similar agreement with VW to utilise the platform which VW uses for the Audi A8 and the Phaeton."

Such a move could also benefit VW, allowing the company to get more volume from a luxury car platform which cost several hundred million in research and development costs.

VW has said it is working on a platform for a new mid-sized luxury model which industry experts say could also be used by Italian manufacturer Maserati, and form an ideal base for Porsche's new car. VW declined to comment on that suggestion.

But other analysts said that Porsche had enough cash to develop a new platform on its own and noted the company's high levels of capital expenditure in 2003. Experts also question the logic of rivals helping Porsche develop a car that will ultimately compete with them in the executive and grand saloon sectors of the market.

"Porsche has historically relied on the generosity of the German industry, like developing the Cayenne with VW. If they're going to take the industry on in such a lucrative sector why would anyone help them out," one industry watcher said.

Original article from Car