It all started in 1986 with the Porsche 959. Then came the Porsche 911 GT1 in 1996. Then in 2004 came the Carrera GT. When I say it all started, I mean Porsche’s drive to make utterly bonkers, stratospherically-priced race cars for the road.
The 959 started out life as a Group B Rally Car and had a 444 hose twin-turbo flat-six. The 537 horse twin-turbo flat-six 911 GT1 was born as a BRP Global GT Series car. The Carrera GT, powered by a whopping 612 horse V10, is the progeny of the blending of the GT1’s styling and the Porsche’s LMP1-98 racer’s technology.
Now Porsche has officially introduced the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder which is derived technologically from the Porsche RS Spyder Le Mans Prototype racer and is a stylistic evolution from the GT1 and Carrera GT. Oh yeah… It’s a hybrid. A 887 horse hybrid with a 608 hp V8, 154 hp hybrid module and 127 hp electric motor, to be exact.
As I’m sure you know, this isn’t the first hybrid supercar or hypercar. Earlier this year, Ferrari introduced the hybrid Enzo successor, the LaFerrari. At about the same time came the much anticipated McLaren P1 hybrid. So hybrids are quite in style in the absurdly fast car world. But what, if anything, makes the Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid special?
Well, anytime you exist in a world where you only have two competitors you’re pretty special. Both the McLaren P1 and the Ferrari LaFerrari may have higher top speeds, are a bit faster to 124 mph and are a few seconds faster to 186 mph, but they are also approximately double the Porsche 918 Spyder’s $845,000 price tag. (I don’t know about you, but I think if Porsche wanted to, they could sell the 918 Spyder for over $1 million. It certainly has the performance chops. The only issue is it doesn’t look as exotic as the McLaren or the Ferrari or the Lambo Veneno or the Koenigsegg Agera.)
OK, let’s look at the facts, shall we. First off, it’s a plug-in hybrid that takes about 7 hours to charge fully on an average 110 volt, 10 amp household line. Plug it into your dryer’s 240 volt, 30 amp socket, and that time drops to less than 2 hours. Park near a factory and steal their 400 volt, 32 amp outlet, and you’ll need a scant half-hour to reach full charge. If you live closer than the 18 mile max range, you can drive home using just the batteries. On full electric only mode, the 918 Spyder will accelerate from 0-62 in 7.0 seconds and hit a top speed of 93 mph. Not bad for putzing around town.
What if you don’t want electric mode? What if you believe that since you have a 608 horse V8 sharing drive duty with 281 horses worth of electric motors, you want to make full use of that combine 887 hp of grunt? Well, then, you’re in luck. The Porsche 918 Spyder is mega-quick from 0-62 mph. Just 2.8 seconds. 0-60 is about 2.6 seconds. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the 124 mph mark passing in 7.9 seconds. 186 comes a bit later at 23.0 seconds. You’ll run out of go at the top speed of a bit over 211 mph.
If acceleration isn’t your thing, the 918 Spyder is perfectly happy in the twisties, too. A prototype version lapped the Nürburgring North Loop in 7:14, some 20 seconds faster than the Carrera GT, making it Porsche’s fastest ever road car. To best the Carrera GT’s time, the 918 Spyder makes use of the Porsche Active Aerodynamic system which alters the downforce and aerodynamic profile of the car depending on the driver’s needs. The suspension is a mélange of double-wishbone front axle with an optional electro-pneumatic lift system. The back is fitted with a multilink rear axle with adaptive electro-mechanical system for individual rear wheel steering. Electronically controlled twin-tube gas-pressure dampers are fitted both front and rear along with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). There’s a lot of technology keeping this car on the ground.
Power comes from a 608 horse V8 (which can rev to 9,150 rpm) joining forces Captain Planet-style with a 154 hp electric hybrid module mounted to the rear axle and a 127 hp electric motor mounted to the front axle. All 887 horses are controlled via a seven-speed PDK transmission which routes the power to two gigantic rear wheels (Rear: 325/30 ZR 21, Front: 265/35 ZR20).
The body is an extremely light, extremely rigid carbon fiber reinforced plactics (CFRP) monocoque with a two-piece Targa-style roof and roll-over protection. The whole thing only weighs 3,715 pounds. Not that the weight really matters that much, in terms of braking at least, since the car has massive 16 inch carbon ceramic rotors up front and 15.4 inch in the rear. The front rotors are 1.4 inches thick and the rear are 1.3 inches. They are some huge brakes. Annnnd, the calipers are chartreuse.
Porsche was smart in designing the 918 Spyder. If you don’t want to go full-eco with the electric mode, and, if you don’t want to go full bonkers using all 887 horse and 940 pound-feet of torque, they included a variety of modes to suit your driving needs at any particular moment. There are five of them: E-Power, Hybrid, Sport Hybrid, Race Hybrid and Hot Lap.
E-Power is full electric eco mode with an 18 mile range and top speed of 93 mph. Sixty-two, as I said earlier, is hit in 7 seconds in this mode. Quiet, smooth and Mother Nature will thank you. Hybrid mode brings the V8 to the party but still focuses on getting the best fuel economy. Mother Nature will nod politely in your direction. Sport Hybrid gives you a bit more oomph and a few less MPGs. Mother Nature will make eye contact with you, but not menacingly. Race Hybrid will charge the batteries when the go-pedal isn’t floor, but otherwise, it’s all go time. All three motors are involved. Mother Nature will give you a death stare and say she’s not mad, just disappointed. In Hot Lap mode, as the name suggests, all eco bets are off. You remember those two electric motors? Yeah, well they’re not there to give you better gas mileage anymore. They’re there to give you more power. Max power is used all the time. The battery is just draining, using all of its juice for speed. Mother Nature has just taken a hit out on you. I’d run. Thankfully, the Porsch 918 Spyder is very, very fast.
All that not good enough? Well Porsche thought as much as has already give buyers a higher performance option, the Weissach Package. The Weissach Package includes special colors and designs based on legendary Porsche race cars along with six-point harnesses. The roof, rear wings, mirrors and windshield frames are made of unpainted carbon fiber, the most beautiful material for cars in existence. Inside, you get more Alcantara an less leather. More carbon fiber replaces aluminum trim. You get less sound insulation and the wheels are now magnesium. Basically, the 918 Spyder fitted with the Weissach Package is 77 pounds lighter. Think Porsche 918 Spyder superleggera.
So, yeah, I’d say the Porsche 918 Spyder is a pretty special car, even when compared to the most recent batch of top dollar hypercars. It’s also the best looking Porsche ever.