FRANKFURT/SAN FRANCISCO -- First there was derision. Then mockery turned into admiration. Now a battle is unfolding between two powerful names in the automobile world, Porsche and Tesla.
The venue of the showdown: Germany’s Nuerburgring, the racetrack considered the most challenging in the world. The circuit boasts 73 tight turns (Silverstone in the UK has 18), changing elevations and a brutal length of more than 20 km (12.4 miles) winding through leafy forest, earning it the nickname Green Hell.
It’s here that Porsche’s new Taycan Turbo S set the record as the fastest four-door electric car last month, clocking in at 7 minutes and 42 seconds. The feat was not lost on a rival sitting thousands of miles away in California: Tesla’s Elon Musk. Always one to relish a good fight, Musk picked up the gauntlet and has dispatched a Model S to the German hinterland to reclaim the bragging rights as king of the electric sedan.
The car confrontation has all the ingredients of an epic battle between incumbent and upstart, infused with social-media feeds that have energized die-hard fans on either side of the Atlantic wondering which of the two cars can shave those vital extra seconds off their lap time. Adding to the frenzy is former Formula One racing champion Nico Rosberg, who chimed in on Twitter to pilot the Tesla, an offer that Musk happily accepted.
Musk has a lot riding on the challenge. After Porsche unveiled the Taycan Turbo and Turbo S as its first electric cars last week, Musk teased the brand for its “turbo” nomenclature because a turbocharger is only found in a combustion engine. Following the initial ribbing, he found more charitable words in a later tweet, acknowledging that the Taycan “does seem like a good car” and that the Nuerburgring track time “is great.”
The stakes are equally high for Porsche, which has watched Tesla turn itself into a veritable alternative for customers seeking a high-performance car but with an electric engine, an open flank that the Stuttgart-based automaker now hopes to protect with the Taycan.
Musk posted on Sept. 6 that a Model S would make an appearance at the track “next week.” Indeed, a modified Model S has been spotted testing on the Nuerburgring Nordschleife, according to Car and Driver, which appeared to show the car on the track as part of a general driving session open to others. The model sported flared fenders and an enlarged opening at the front, probably for extra cooling.
When exactly the car might attempt to break the Taycan’s record remains shrouded in mystery. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment on its plans for the Nuerburgring.