Redefining a classic: Why this might be the most powerful Porsche yet

Story highlights

  • The Porsche 911 was first introduced over 50 years ago
  • While distinctly designed, the 2017 model is still similar to the first 911

Jared Zaugg is author of "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!" a book on classic sports and racing cars. The views expressed here are his own.

(CNN)Porsche -- the longtime underdog of high-performance cars -- has just unveiled its 2017 lineup of 911s.

What is particularly noteworthy isn't the fact that the company's flagship model is now more powerful and efficient than ever, but that it quietly represents significant milestones in automotive culture and history.
    Although Porsche's humble beginnings in Austria are 85 years old, it was the introduction of the model 911 over 50 years ago that changed the course of the brand's history.

    Constant evolution

    Designed by the grandson of the Porsche founder, F.A. "Bützi" Porsche, the 911 was introduced in 1963 as a replacement to the marque's first signature car, the 356.
    The international reception of the 911 was immediate and enthusiastic. From then until now -- 54 years with the debut of the 2017 models -- it's the best selling model in the company's history. It is now one of the most recognizable cars in the world, and considered by many to be the most successful sports car in history.
    In the decades since its launch, countless upgrades have been implemented, and many hallmark variations introduced. However, what separates the 911 from competing performance cars is that, in spite of its evolution, it has remained essentially the same.

    The 'ultimate victory'

    Porsche's identity has always been informed by a blend of Bauhaus values and organic forms. Indeed, founder F.A. "Bützi" Porsche insisted that the brand's design must always be "altogether free from excess and exaggeration." Yet he was no Brutalist, calling design "elegance of function."
    To him, aesthetics and purity, performance and efficiency were not were not mutually exclusive, but in fact complimentary concepts. This philosophy of synergy seems to have guided Porsche's progression.
    The visual connection between a 50-year-old 911 and the newest model is immediately clear. There's a harmony of technological advancement and consistent design that sets the model -- and, indeed, the Porsche brand -- apart.
    More than anything, the 911 a reminder of Ferry Porsche's -- father to Bützi and creator of the defining 356 -- foretelling comment:
    "If you can create something time cannot erode, something which ignores the eccentricities of particular eras or moments, something truly timeless...this is the ultimate victory."