09/12/2013 09:15 | By Chris Chilton

Porsche 918 Spyder review (2013 onwards)

We drive Porsche's incredible new hybrid hypercar, the 877hp 918 Spyder.


Porsche 918 Spyder: summary

Hybrids? They’re for car-hating vegans right? The 2.6sec to 62mph, 94mpg, tofu-hating Porshe 918 begs to differ...

What: Porsche 918 Spyder
Where: Valencia, Spain
Date: 27/11/13
Price: £651,092
Available: on sale now, arriving early 2014
Key rivals:Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1

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We like: performance, sound, handling, impressive e-mode
We don’t like: pricey options, brake feel still not perfect

Porsche 918 Spyder: first impressions

We all know that weight is the sports car’s biggest enemy, so Porsche’s decision to stuff its 918 Spyder with 300kg of battery and electric motor in addition to a traditional V8 seems like madness. But it works, and then some. The 918 is the current production car lap record holder for the Nürburgring Nordschleife, with a time of 6min 57sec, yet it can drive for nearly 20 miles purely on electric power. It is also – and this is the important bit; we’re talking about a supercar here, after all – huge fun to drive.

300kg of battery and electric motor in addition to the V8 seems like madness

The standard 918 costs £651,092, but for an additional £60k, Porsche will add the lightweight Weissach package, consisting of lighter wheels and Alcantara seat coverings, plus a smattering of aerodynamic tweaks. And the chance to spend big doesn’t end there. How about £50k for a paint job? Or £15k for some fitted luggage? When it comes to the target market, rich doesn’t cover it. Porsche will build, appropriately, 918 cars, and currently has orders for around half.

Porsche 918 Spyder - front (© James Lipman)

 

Porsche 918 Spyder: performance

With nearly as much power as a Bugatti Veyron at its disposal and significantly less weight to drag around, it’s little wonder that the 918 is so blisteringly rapid. In pure electric mode, using only the combined 282bhp of the two electric motors operating on the front and rear axles, it gets to 62mph in 6.1sec, making it fast enough to deal with many so called performance cars. But summon the 4.6-litre V8 to the table as well, either by pushing the accelerator past an obvious detent, or engaging Hybrid, Sport or Race modes, and things start to get really silly.

You’ve got a machine that will crack 62mph in 2.6sec

Loosely based on the engine fitted to the Porsche LMP2 RS Spyder, this one produces 600bhp and 290lb ft of torque. Combine the two different power sources and you’ve got a machine that will crack 62mph in 2.6sec and 124mph (200km/h) in 7.2sec. The only thing more jaw slackening than the 19.9sec it takes the 918 to haul itself from 0-186mph (300km/h) is the knowledge that LaFerrari can get there in 15.5...

The barely silenced exhaust pipes exit the body over the engine, just behind your head, so you get to hear every single pop, growl and roar as the V8 does its Mariah Carey antics, changing from gutteral, bassy snarl to full-on horror film shriek in seconds. The engine employs a racing-style flat-plane crank design, like Ferrari’s V8, but this one sounds more melodious, and incredibly, revs even higher – the limiter not calling time until it is spinning at 9150rpm. If you were worried that hybridisation was going to result in a characterless drivetrain, stop worrying right now.

Porsche 918 Spyder (© James Lipman)

 

Porsche 918 Spyder: ride and handling

That the 918 is so fast around a circuit is impressive, whether it’s the smooth Valencia launch track, or the bumpy Nordschleife; that it simultaneously manages to be incredibly friendly to drive while being hustled is far more of an achievement. Despite the huge power outputs, it quickly becomes apparent that there’s nothing intimidating about this car. The electric steering is excellent, returning meaningful feedback to your fingertips, and the car always feels beautifully balanced, with Porsche’s engineers attributing the sense of stability to the rear-wheel steer system, which helps the car turn at lower speeds by turning the rear wheels the opposite direction to the fronts, and gives the sense of a car with a much longer wheelbase at higher speeds by turning the wheels in both axles the same direction.

The steering is quick, but never feels too darty

Away from the track, the 918 is just as impressive. The steering is quick, but never feels too darty, and the ride quality is exceptional. Even the brake feel, so often a problem on hybrid cars, which struggle to seamlessly blend traditional braking with the regenerative kind, is much improved over previous efforts, including the still-new, Panamera Hybrid. But it’s still not perfect. If we were to pick out one area to work on, this would be it.

Porsche 918 Spyder (© James Lipman)

 

Porsche 918 Spyder: interior

Imagine a current Porsche 911, Cayman or Panamera cabin that’s had a good tidy-up and you’ve got the 918 nailed. The architecture – the instrument binnacle with big central rev counter, and rising centre stack – are familiar, but the usual million buttons have been replaced by a simple touchscreen interface that points to the future of Porsche’s entertainment systems. There’s also a Ferrari manettino-style dial on the steering wheel that you use to toggle between the various powertrain modes.

Getting into the cabin is actually pretty easy, by supercar standards. The sills (clearly showing the chassis’ carbon tub) are wide but the doors open conventionally and you can always take the twin roof panels off and store them in the front boot, if you want to make life easier. Visibility forward is great, but with the narrow rear window, it means looking in the rear view mirror is like staring between a camel’s humps. Weissach cars swap heavy leather for Alcantara, and even do without a glovebox in the pursuit of weight saving.

Porsche’s claimed 94mpg figure assumes a full battery

Porsche 918 Spyder: economy and safety

Hybrid power doesn’t only boost the 918’s performance, it makes it an extremely economical car. Ferrari’s LaFerrari and the McLaren P1 both augment their petrol engines with electric power too, but the Ferrari offers no pure electric mode, and the McLaren can only manage seven miles, while the 918 can do nearly 20. When your battery is empty, you can either recharge it using a standard charger (3.8 hours via a standard socket, 2.3 hours using an industrial socket, or an incredible 25 minutes using the optional DC quick charger), or let the petrol engine recharge it for you, at the cost of about one litre of fuel.

Porsche’s claimed 94mpg figure (that’s for the Weissach-kitted cars – 91mpg otherwise) assumes a full battery. You’re not going to get anywhere near that on a long run because you’ll have depleted your ‘free’ battery power after only 18 miles, but Porsche says over 30mpg is possible in motorway driving.

Porsche 918 Spyder (© James Lipman)

 

Porsche 918 Spyder: the verdict

5

Even without the economy angle, the 918 would be a deeply impressive machine. It’s hugely quick, sounds glorious and is incredibly easy to drive. But on top of that, it can drive into a city emitting no exhaust gases. It’s not that it can operate in ZE mode that’s important for car fans, but that it can do it without compromising on the fun to drive bit that supercars must get right. If sports cars and supercars are to survive, they will all need to adopt technology like this, and with the 918, Porsche has shown us that the sports car’s future is very bright indeed.

Porsche 918 Spyder

Scorecard

       

Performance

5

Handling

5

Interior

5

Safety

4

Price

3

Practicality

3

Economy

5

Overall

5

Porsche 918 Spyder (© James Lipman)

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