2015 Porsche 918 Spyder First Drive
A Hybrid Sports Car and a Real Porsche
Just over one year ago, Porsche announced to the world that the 918 could lap the Nurburgring in 7 minutes, 14 seconds thanks to its 795-horsepower V8 hybrid powertrain. Then just a few weeks ago, Porsche subsequently announced that the car actually develops 887 hp and can lap the Nurburgring in a mere 6 minutes, 57 seconds, which is faster than any other production road car in history.
Make of that what you will, but what matters now is that the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder is here in its final specification, costing $845,000 to start or $929,000 in its 90-pound-lighter Weissach Pack form. And for the time being it is the fastest road car on the planet.
Porsche's official performance claims for the Weissach Pack 918 are nothing short of breathtaking. How about zero to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds, zero to 124 mph in 7.2 seconds, zero to 186 mph in 19.9 seconds and a top speed of 215 mph?
According to Porsche's legendary test driver Walter Rohrl, the 918 is "quite a lot quicker than the [Bugatti] Veyron up to 180 mph," beyond which it's debatable whether anything else matters.
As Quiet as a Prius in EV Mode
Driving the 918 is a slightly strange experience to begin with, even though one of Porsche's main targets when fine-tuning the car was to make it as natural and intuitive as possible. In E-drive mode, for instance, it's powered purely by the two electric motors: one for the front axle, the other for the rear. Together they generate enough power to launch the 918 from zero to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds.
The spooky thing in E-drive is that there's no perceptible noise from the two electric motors. Instead you just turn the key, select Drive, press the throttle and glide away. With the lithium-ion battery pack fully charged, there's about 20 miles of range in E-drive.
Press harder on the accelerator and — boom! — the V8 is awakened and you find yourself being propelled by a combination of gasoline and electric power. At that point the monster from within reveals its true colors and you realize that the 918 is, in fact, still just a good old-fashioned V8 supercar at its core.
The transition is surprisingly smooth so long as you're not clumsy with the pedal, and if you then back away from the throttle for a few seconds, the V8 will switch off and you're back into electric mode again, listening to the air rushing by the massive 21-inch diameter, 325/30 Michelin Pilot Cup 2 tires rumbling away beneath.
It Has a Mode Called "Hot Laps"
Select Hybrid mode and you get an instant combination of the gas and electric motors, but still with relaxed responses from the throttle and the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Select Sport and the responses from everything (engine, gearbox, V8 and both the electric motors) become sharper and keener, and then you can go up again to Race mode. Even more aggressive still is the "Hot Laps" program, in which the ESP allows a bit of slip from the rear and dishes out even more torque to the front axle under wide throttle openings to dial out mid-to-late-apex understeer.
But it's the initial hit of torque from the electric motors that provides it with such shattering response. In 7th gear at 50 mph it picks up with the same kind of thump that a GT3 delivers in 3rd gear at 70 mph, no exaggeration. And that's in cuddly old Hybrid mode, remember.
Twist the dial on the steering wheel round to Race and then hit the throttle and the response goes from "good" to "good grief." And in "Hot Laps" mode it goes up a big notch again to the point of feeling uncomfortably explosive in the way it leaps forward at the mere whiff of a decent throttle opening.
Don't even try to think about what it feels — or sounds — like at 8,000 rpm in a low gear because things happen so fast in the first three ratios that you won't actually be able to recall the details. Only by selecting a high gear at low revs is it possible to drink in what occurs in this car in its most potent setting, and even then the din from the V8 is so loud, and the speed with which you are thrust toward the horizon so completely overwhelming, that you may not be able to remember much about that either.
The way it changes direction is astonishing for something so big. Understeer is pretty much nonexistent at sane speeds, and the flatness with which it corners — and the composure it displays as a result — boggles the mind. The steering is also quite brilliant in both its accuracy and precision, even though it may lack the last millimeter of feel beside the very best analog systems. The rest of the driving experience is so intense that there isn't room for a hit of old-school-style driver appeal. Better still, Porsche would appear to have all but eradicated the artificial feel to the brake pedal that early prototypes apparently suffered from.
This Is the Sports Car of the Future
In isolation the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder is a really quite fantastic amalgam of ultra-high-tech and conventional engineering and, as a result, provides a hitherto undreamt about combination of massive performance, reasonable refinement, surprising drivability and quite incredible real-world economy for a car of this kind.
But the best bit about it is how natural and pure it feels to drive. At its core, and despite its dizzying technology, the 918 is just a cracking good thing to climb aboard and go for a blast in. And it's cataclysmically fast, too, without ever feeling scary or edgy or overwhelming.
Most drivers could, after a while, get quite close to what this car can do near its limit. It really is that friendly to drive. And some people will get closer to the edge in it than ever before. There are other similar supercars on the horizon like the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari, but they will need to be very special to deliver a wider range of abilities than the 918.
|Year Make Model||2015 Porsche 918 Spyder 2dr (4.6L 8cyl 7AM)|
|Estimated MSRP||$929,000 (Weissach package)|
|Assembly location||Stuttgart, Germany|
|Configuration||Longitudinal, midengine combined with front and rear electric motors|
|Engine type||Naturally aspirated, port-injected V8, gasoline with auto stop-start|
|Valvetrain||DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, variable intake + exhaust-valve timing|
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm)||608 @ 8,600 rpm|
|Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)||390 @ 6,600 rpm|
|Fuel type||Premium unleaded (required)|
|Combined horsepower (hp @ rpm)||887|
|Combined torque (lb-ft @ rpm)||940|
|Battery capacity, rated (kW-hr)||6.8|
|Plug-in driving range, mfr. claim (mi.)||18|
|Transmission type||Seven-speed automated manual|
|Final-drive ratio (x:1)||3.09|
|Suspension, front||Independent double wishbones, coil springs|
|Suspension, rear||Independent multilink, coil springs|
|Steering type||Electric-assist rack-and-pinion steering|
|Tire make and model||Michelin Pilot Cup 2|
|Tire size, front||265/35R20|
|Tire size, rear||325/30ZR21|
|Wheel size, front||20-by-9.5 inches|
|Wheel size, rear||21-by-12.5 inches|
|Wheel material||Magnesium (Weissach package)|
|Brakes, front||16.1-inch two-piece ventilated cross-drilled carbon-ceramic discs|
|Brakes, rear||15.4-inch two-piece ventilated cross-drilled carbon-ceramic discs|
|Track Test Results|
|0-60 mph, mfr. claim (sec.)||2.5|
|Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)||18.5|
|Dimensions & Capacities|
|Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)||3,616 (Weissach Pack)|
|Track, front (in.)||65.5|
|Track, rear (in.)||63.5|
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.