So what’s this strange-looking thing?The Porsche Mission E Cross Turismo is basically the beginnings of Porsche ‘doing a Tesla’. The company’s rate of electric vehicle development has been somewhat glacial, but with the Mission E project, it’s now well on its way to releasing a desirable, sporty, battery-powered vehicle along with the charging infrastructure to support it.This particular car is still an early concept – it’s the very model that was driven on stage at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, in fact – and while it’s not strictly road legal, Porsche did let me drive it on the public highway under the condition that I was accompanied by armed police at all times. My reputation clearly precedes me.Haven’t I seen the Mission E name somewhere before?Yes. The Mission E Saloon was a four-door sports car unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in 2015. This is its Cross Turismo cousin, a delightfully bonkers, jacked-up, off-road-ready, SUV-ish ‘cross-utility vehicle’ (CUV) aimed at adventurous types. You know, skiiers, surfers and yoga doers who want to go really chuffing fast.
Will they actually build it?Well, they’ll definitely build the Mission E saloon. That’s set to hit dealerships at the end of 2019. And their confidence in that car is so high that they’re now scratching their corporate chins over derivatives such as this Cross Turismo, which could follow soon after. While it is just a concept, it’s very close to being ‘finished’. A final production version would look a lot like the car you see here, inside and out.OK, I’m intrigued. How chuffing fast is it?It’ll melt your face off. It’s powered by two electric motors, one driving each axle. These are of the uber-efficient ‘permanently excited’ variety and I’m happy to report they are very excited indeed. Total system output is a whopping 600bhp, so unsurprisingly the Mission E Cross Turismo is good for 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds.There’s should be very little let-up in its accelerative force beyond that 62mph. Keep it pinned and it’ll hit 124mph in 12 seconds. I wasn’t in a position to test those figures (it’s remarkable how sensible one’s driving becomes when being followed by men with guns) but if true, it should beat the Tesla Model S P100D to that last benchmark by several seconds.How does it drive?It’s almost pointless talking about the ride or handling at this stage because the car isn’t finished, but for what it’s worth the Mission E Cross Turismo already feels well resolved. It feels good. It feels like a Porsche should.Electric cars can have a tendency to go about their business in a slightly soulless fashion, but this is engaging. The steering is very direct and surprisingly communicative. The low centre of gravity – a consequence of the batteries being mounted low in the floor – helps keep body roll to a minimum, although a liberal dab of Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control helps here, too.The brakes meanwhile, feel surprisingly normal. There’s no aggressive regeneration going on, just progressive, predictable, strong stopping power.The car should be reasonably handy off road, too. There’s decent ground clearance as standard and air suspension allows it to raise an additional 50mm should you need it. I suspect the rugged-looking all terrain tyres might be overkill, but they do look cool.Are there any toys inside?There’s a drone in the boot. An actual flying drone. There’s not a cat in hell’s chance it’ll be included in production models, but Porsche is envisaging a world in which Mission E drivers can push a button to send their drone on missions to take aerial video footage of their cars in motion. It’s a genuinely brilliant idea. Sure, it’s the sort of thing that will inevitably go wrong and cause a massive accident, but it would light up Instagram.What about the screens, looks like there are quite a few?Porsche has abandoned traditional buttons and gauges in favour of touchscreens. Loads of them. There are four main displays including an ultra-wide curved TFT instrument display behind the steering wheel, whose layout changes depending on which of the four driving modes you happen to select via the knob on the steering wheel.A screen in the centre of the dash shows user-customisable content and provides access to a variety of downloadable apps, while a third, passenger-side display lets those riding shotgun faff about with drones or access media independently.Then there are tiny touchscreens on the doors for adjusting the seat and opening the windows, plus tiny touchscreens on each of the air vents for changing ventilation strength. Is the setup as cool as Tesla’s one-giant-screen-to-rule-them-all approach? My inner geek says no, but it’s a clever approach nonetheless.What about self-driving? Any of that?Porsche isn’t really shouting about autonomous tech with the Cross Turismo, but it’ll come with the usual adaptive cruise control and lane keeping shenanigans. A camera trained at the driver’s face lets the car see if you’re paying attention. If you’re not, it’ll administer a warning.That camera, mounted in the interior mirror, can also track the movement of your eyeballs to recognise which bit of the instrument display you’re looking at. Menus you’re actively looking at are brought to the foreground, while the rest shrinks into the background. Smart touch buttons on the steering wheel then allow you to make selections from the highlighted menu.OK, talk to me about range.It’s impressive. Porsche won’t say exactly how big the battery pack is, but we’re told it’s in the region of 90kWh. Whatever the capacity, it’s enough for a range of over 500km – more than you’d get from a top-spec Tesla.The Mission E Cross Turismo leaves its rival for dead with its charging ability, too. Hypothetically speaking. The car uses a new-fangled 800v architecture, double that of the Tesla’s 400v system, meaning it can recharge its batteries in far less time. Porsche reckons it can recharge 80 per cent of its total capacity (worth around 400km of range) in just 15 minutes of recharging.Obviously, there are caveats. That sort of recharging speed requires an 800v charger, obviously. Of which there are currently none, obviously. But at least it’s future-proof.Will Porsche build a network of fast chargers?It’s working with a host of other car manufacturers including BMW, Ford, Daimler and the rest of the VW Group on developing fast chargers through a company called Ionity. Word is they’ll roll out 400 fast charging stations across Europe by 2020, providing a credible rival to Tesla’s Supercharger network.Is Porsche going to actually build this thing?Porsche will build a Mission E, but not necessarily the Cross Turismo. Its first electric model will be the Mission E Saloon, and that will arrive by the end of 2019 under a totally different name. No pricing has been confirmed, but Porsche reckons you shouldn’t have to pay much more than you would for a Panamera S E-Hybrid – so about 90 grand, potentially.Should I be excited?I am. It may have taken Porsche several years to develop something that resembles a credible alternative to the Model S, but in the Mission E, it has a vehicle platform with real potential. Even in this early concept form, the Mission E Cross Turismo is a blast. I’m keen to spend a lot more time with it – preferably away from the watchful eye of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department – because it’s a fast, fun and clever car.The more difficult challenge, of course, will be to deliver the infrastructure to match the Mission E’s lofty ambitions, but it appears things are coming together in that regard, too. Assuming Porsche gets all its ducks in a row, and there’s no insurmountable reason it won’t, then the Mission E, in its many potential guises, should be absolutely electric. Roll on 2019.