Porsche explains why the 911 will receive much bigger engines in 2026

The future looks grim for the naturally-aspirated variants

2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S
2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S
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Porsche recently spent millions of dollars downsizing its range of engines, yet new regulations scheduled to come into effect across Europe in 2026 will force it to upsize once again. One of the company's top engineers predicted the next round of engines developed for the 911 (pictured) will be bigger than the units currently available.

"In 2026, the next wave of regulations will come with EU7. This will be the worldwide toughest regulations considering emissions, especially in the spread between real driving emissions and what we see on the test benches," explained Frank-Steffen Walliser, Porsche's head of sports cars, in an interview with Wheels.

These draconian regulations passed to coerce automakers into going electric will put a limit on relative power per liter of displacement, meaning an engine's horsepower output will legally and directly depend on its displacement. Carmakers allocated a considerable amount of time, money, and energy into pursuing the exact opposite (making big power from a small engine) in the 2010s, hence why the base 911 gets a turbocharged, 3.0-liter flat-six.

"I expect 20 percent more displacement on average for these EU7-capable engines. Many manufacturers will jump from four to six, or from six to eight [cylinders]," Walliser predicted during the same interview. "The regulations are completely counterproductive to CO2 regulations, so this will go up," he added.

Upsizing will trap carmakers into an expensive pickle. Bigger engines inevitably burn more gas and emit more CO2, yet they'll need to comply with ever-stricter emissions regulations. This leaves engineering departments with two options: compromise power, or invest in more advanced anti-pollution technology. Porsche is taking the second route. Walliser said making engines compliant will require catalytic converters that are three to four times bigger than today's, resulting in a "small chemical industrial factory" on board to keep emissions in check. In turn, this will increase the cost of developing and manufacturing a car, and consumers will pay the difference.

"This means all-new engines, and especially for the 911 this gets really, really difficult," he said. "But, we will never give up. Whatever it takes, we will do it. We want to keep six cylinders, for sure, but we will have to overwork it. We will have to make a new engine. That's the fact. Again."

He stated the days of high-horsepower, naturally-aspirated 911 variants (like the GT3) are also numbered, because making an emissions-compliant engine will become too complicated. "There will come a day, within the next 10 years, when we have to say 'now this is the last of its kind,'" he warned. Of course, Porsche hasn't ruled out making different variants of the 911 (including naturally-aspirated high-end models) for markets where looser emissions regulations allow them, like the United States and Australia, if the numbers add up.

With all of this in mind, it's no surprise that the entry-level 911 Carrera will never again come with a naturally-aspirated engine. The 4.0-liter flat-six developed recently for the smaller 718 GTS models won't fit in the 911, Walliser told British magazine Evo, and developing another engine from scratch doesn't make financial sense.

On the bright side, Porsche pledged it will continue to offer the 911 with a manual transmission for as long as there is a genuine demand for it from buyers. Here again, though, the end of the stick is looming on the horizon. "We will offer [a manual transmission] for as long as possible, but one day it will not be possible to do so," he told Evo without going into further details. "I hope that day is a long way away."


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