The Porsche 918 Spyder is here and it’s unlike anything that’s gone before. It blends a race-derived composite chassis and 4.6-litre V8 engine with a hybrid drivetrain to create the fastest road-going Porsche ever made.
Along with the forthcoming McLaren P1 and LaFerrari, the 918 is one of a trio of 21st century hypercars that push the boundaries of technology. Described by Porsche as “a car that takes the technical capabilities of hybrid to the limits of what’s possible” the 918 represents the maximum of Porsche’s knowhow.
Under the composite bodywork you’ll find a stiff yet light carbonfibre tub, which the highly complex power sources are mounted around. The battery and fuel tank are sandwiched between the cabin and the V8 engine, which is packaged with the rear electric motor and PDK gearbox. A second electric motor feeds the front wheels and combined they deliver 875bhp and 1,280Nm of torque.
As a result, the raw numbers are staggering. In optional Weissach trim, which sheds 41kg from the 1,674kg kerbweight with titanium bolts and magnesium wheels, the 918 will hit 60mph in 2.5 seconds, reach 186mph in just under 20 seconds and it famously lapped the Nurburgring in under seven minutes. Yet at the same time, thanks to its ability to glide silently in EV mode, has CO2 emissions of 72g/km and fuel efficiency never seen before in a hypercar.
However, purists need not worry - seeing the 918 in the flesh stirs the emotions in the way only a hypercar can. There’s beauty in the simplicity of the lines, while the exquisite detailing complements the stunning proportions.
With a racecar-like stance on the road, the recessed lights, active rear spoiler and tapered tail mean the 918 looks most striking from the rear, while the pure hypercar extravagance of the top-venting exhausts is a delight. Inside, the ultra modern cabin features a tablet-inspired centre console and traditional Porsche dials, which house a clever mix of analogue and digital displays.
Cocooned within the composite monocoque, the driving position is perfect, while the roof panels are easily removed and stored in the tiny nose boot. Refreshingly, for such a futuristic car, the driving experience begins by simply turning the key – although you’re not greeted with the growl of a V8 – just the uncanny silence of electric running.
In E-Power mode the 918 will still reach 62mph in just over seven seconds and do 93mph, and as long as you don’t press the throttle past the kick down point the engine remains dormant. With a full battery charge the 918 promises a range of 18 miles in full zero emissions mode. Gliding silently through town is a surreal but pleasurable experience, and in spite of its size, the 918 isn’t intimidating to drive, while the PASM active dampers mean the ride is surprisingly compliant.
Aside from pure EV motoring there’s four more drive modes to choose from: Hybrid, Sport Hybrid, Race Hybrid and Hot Lap. In Hybrid the electric motors and engine work alternatively, while in Sport Hybrid the engine works constantly with the electric motors chipping in when needed as a boost function. Race Hybrid takes this a step further; here the battery level fluctuates, allowing all the electric energy to be channelled to performance.
Finally, Hot Lap allows you to exhaust all the batteries power for ultimate boost over a couple of laps. On track, the performance of the 918 is simply staggering – we’ve never experienced acceleration like it. But it’s the character of the LMP2 RS Spyder-derived V8 engine that really leaves you-open mouthed.
Switching from electric mode it booms into life with a rich race-engine intensity. It revs so quickly that you find yourself at the 9,000rpm redline in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, the PDK gearbox shifts quickly and has a lovely blip on the downshift. The hybrid tech may grab the headlines but the bespoke V8 engine is a huge part of the 918’s magic - as is the simply staggering chassis. Given that it weighs over one and half tonnes you might expect the 918 to feel a little lazy but you don’t notice the weight.
With a centre of gravity that’s level with the wheel hubs, the 918 feels so planted to the road that you have to recalibrate your expectations of what’s achievable in a road car. There’s no perceivable roll or pitch, while the grip levels are staggering - so high that you’ll feel serious g-force on your body before you’ll notice any hint of the bespoke Michelin tyres losing grip.
The active rear axle steering helps agility while the steering is fast and well weighted, without any of the over-edgy eagerness you’ll find in cars like the Ferrari F12.
Porsche has also worked hard to calibrate the regenerative braking, to avoid the inconsistent pedal feel that blights most hybrids. And by and large they’ve done a great job – on the track with heavy braking you can feel a slight pulsing in the pedal but it’s only at low speeds in E-Power mode that it feels a fraction inconsistent, but never to the extent of upsetting the driving enjoyment.
Mind boggling on track and fascinating on the road, the Porsche 918 is a truly spectacular automotive experience.