Porsche 918 Spyder review and video evo

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Porsche 918 Electric Cars

Porsche 918 Spyder review and video

Our first taste of the new Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid hypercar on the road and track. Review and video here

December 2013

What is it?

The new Porsche 918 Spyder. On the face of it, it’s Porsche’s answer to the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari. but the boffins from Stuttgart clearly believe it’s a much more complete car, thanks to a true hybrid petrol-electric drivetrain and greater concessions to everyday use. It even has cupholders!

Technical highlights?

There’s a full carbon chassis and a fabulous high-revving 4.6-litre V8 derived from Porsche LMP2 programme, but re-engineered for durability and tractability, yet still capable of producing 612bhp at 8600rpm. The redline is 9150rpm. In addition the hybrid electric motors contribute a further 270bhp, bringing the 918’s total combined power output to 875bhp.

Power and torque are distributed via all four wheels (petrol motor through the rear axle, a pair of electric motors through the front and rear axles) and the latest generation PDK transmission offers remarkable shift times as quick as 0.05sec.

Attention to weight saving is borderline OCD, but then is has to be with the battery packs and motors weighing hundreds of kilos. A ‘Weissach Pack’ shaves 40kg by use of magnesium wheels and a body wrap instead of paint, but there’s no denying 1640kg remains heavy for a hypercar (the old Porsche Carrera GT was 1380kg). Aerodynamics are also critical, both for generating downforce (though nothing like the crazy McLaren P1) and also for reducing drag to increase efficiency.

Intakes open and close automatically and the rear wing is busy raising, lowering and altering its angle of ….

There’s also a rotary ‘Map’ switch located on the steering wheel for selecting the five driving modes E-Power, Hybrid, Sport Hybrid, Race Hybrid and Hot Lap which control the full spectrum of the Spyder’s performance, from electric-only to full-beans.

What’s it like to drive?

You start the Spyder with a key, but there’s no sound for it always moves away on battery power alone. The Spyder will run for 20 miles like this, but use the last bit of the throttle’s travel and, much like kickdown in a conventional automatic car, the V8 awakens, at which point you’re in Hybrid mode. The systems are impressively integrated; apart from the very obvious and welcome noise from the V8, you’re unaware of what contribution the batteries are making to your progress, just that the car shifts with the ease and muscularity of a car with a big, torquey engine.

Each turn of the Map switch awakens and intensifies the Spyder, sharpening throttle maps and shift times as normal, but also giving more (and more) of the battery power more of the time.

The steering is immediately impressive. It’s quick, but not unnaturally so, the rate of response matching your expectations perfectly. There’s abundant grip and an encouraging balance, with just enough body roll to know how hard you can lean on the front-end, but not so much as to diminish the sense of flat cornering.

When it does slide it does so like a rear-drive car, so again feels natural.

Of course it’s a hugely rapid machine Porsche claims 0-62mph in 2.8sec, 0-124mph in 7.9sec and 0-186mph in 23sec — but for a car that has the best part of 900bhp and more than 900lb ft of torque it doesn’t feel crazy-fast. Bluntly, if Ferrari and McLaren deliver on their promises a 918 Spyder won’t know which way they went.

Porsche 918 Electric Cars

There are shades of 458 and MP4-12C about the V8’s sound and response, but when you really stretch it this motor is sharper and even more feral. It sounds mighty, too, thanks to a huge amount of work on the top-exit exhaust system. Coupled to the latest generation PDK transmission it makes for a searing race car-like experience.

This is a very accomplished car on track. It’s hugely impressive and, to my relief, really enjoyable. It also has far more finesse and fire in its belly than the earlier development prototype I drove.

The brakes especially are hugely improved, performing in a manner a world away from the horrible, dangerously inconsistent stoppers that I was disappointed by at the Leipzig test.

You can still feel there’s more than one thing going on when you press the pedal, but the way the job of slowing the car is switched between regenerative braking (up to 0.5G purely using the resistance of the motors when you back off the power) and the PCCB discs and calipers is pretty miraculous. Brake feel isn’t absolutely perfect, but it’s nothing you can’t compensate for with familiarity and sensitivity. That McLaren chose not to attempt to incorporate regen braking into the P1 hints at the scale of the technical challenge it presents.

How does it compare?

In Top Trumps terms, not brilliantly. Both the LaFerrari and McLaren P1 boast far greater performance, thanks to less weight and more power.

Porsche would contend the Spyder is a much more complete vehicle: one that functions as a true plug-in hybrid (you can fully juice-up the batteries in 25 minutes using Porsche’s bespoke high-speed charger) and is as refined and capable as a Cayman or 911. Whether we ever get 918, P1 and LaFerrari together for the group test of the year remains to be seen.

Anything else I need to know?

There’s a Hot Lap mode, which draws 20 per cent more power from the batteries (90 per cent of total power) for all-out performance. It also sends more energy to the LED headlights, making them more intense for qualifying lap get-out-of-my-way attitude. We kid you not

There’s an in-depth Porsche 918 Spyder feature in evo issue 192, on sale Tuesday 31 December.

Porsche 918 Electric Cars
Porsche 918 Electric Cars
Porsche 918 Electric Cars
Porsche 918 Electric Cars
Porsche 918 Electric Cars
Porsche 918 Electric Cars
Porsche 918 Electric Cars

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