Used 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder
Edmunds' Expert Review
The 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder is nothing less than the plug-in hybrid supercar of tomorrow, available today.
Is the phrase "environmentally friendly supercar" an oxymoron? Not necessarily, at least if that supercar is the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid. That's because the 918 Spyder's front and rear electric motors can propel it up to 93 mph on battery power alone. At the opposite end of the performance spectrum, when the 918's 4.6-liter V8 comes roaring to life, this Porsche will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in an astonishing 2.6 seconds and top out at a dizzying 214 mph. Impressive performance numbers to be sure, but maybe not all that surprising when you consider that the combined output of these three power sources amounts to 887 hp, just waiting for a liberal application of your right foot.
Of course, any car wearing the Porsche badge is about more than straight-line speed. The 918's handling is equally impressive, thanks in part to the engineers' decision to place the heaviest powertrain components below the car's horizontal centerline to give it an extremely low center of gravity. Add a combination of a racecar-style carbon-fiber chassis, a sophisticated adaptive suspension, communicative electromechanical steering of both the front and rear wheels, massive tires and carbon-ceramic brakes and you have a car that's supremely easy to drive ridiculously fast.
Every car has its downsides, though, and the Porsche 918 Spyder is no exception. Its cargo capacity and rear visibility are limited, which is par for the course among exotic sports cars. So, too, is a stratospheric price, which, at $845,000 when new, is well above those of other exotics (or somewhere in the metaphoric price thermosphere). Plus, it can rise to $929,000 with the optional Weissach package of lightweight components that shave 90 pounds off the car's 3,691-pound curb weight.
But really, we're guessing that sort of money won't be of great concern for those seriously considering this über Porsche. The real question will be whether to get one instead of its fellow gasoline-electric hypercar competitors, the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari among them, all of which are capable of putting a smile on your face quicker than you can read this sentence. That said, we'd encourage you not to put off your buying decision for too long, as only 918 examples of the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder will be produced. This means your chances of owning this environmentally friendly supercar may disappear nearly as quickly as all those objects in its rearview mirror.
2015 Porsche 918 Spyder configurations
The 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder is a two-seat luxury sports car with a two-piece removable roof that's offered in a single well-equipped trim level.
Standard features include 20-inch front and 21-inch rear alloy wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes, an adaptive suspension, automatic LED headlights, an automatic windshield wiper, heated mirrors, automatically adaptive aerodynamic body panels, dual-zone automatic climate control, carbon-fiber sport seats (power driver height adjustment, manual fore/aft), full leather interior trim, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, a trip computer, a 7-inch touchscreen interface, a rearview camera, a navigation system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and an 11-speaker Burmester surround-sound audio system with two USB ports, satellite radio, HD radio and an auxiliary audio jack.
Options include a 440-volt fast battery charger, different wheels, a front-end lift system for clearing curbs, an auxiliary heating system (which operates when running in electric mode), racing seats (same seat structure, but firmer padding for increased support), upgraded "authentic" natural leather and a variety of customization options.
The Weissach option package includes a number of additions and deletions designed to save weight. These include ultra-lightweight 20-inch front and 21-inch rear magnesium wheels, a special graphics package in place of traditional paint, reduced sound-deadening material, simulated suede interior trim and additional carbon-fiber components and trim. Note that the dual-zone climate control, Burmester sound system and navigation system are deleted, but can be added back as no-cost options.
Performance & mpg
The midengine 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder is powered by a 4.6-liter V8 that puts out 608 hp and 398 pound-feet of torque. It is paired with a 129-hp front electric motor and a 156-hp rear electric motor, both supplied by a 6.8-kWh lithium-ion battery. Total powertrain output is a staggering 887 hp and 944 lb-ft of torque.
A seven-speed PDK automated manual is the only transmission offered. This sophisticated gearbox can shunt power to the front wheels, the rear wheels or all four, depending on conditions and five driver-selectable powertrain mode settings chosen by a rotary dial located on the steering wheel.
These include Electric, where battery power alone drives just the front wheels under light loads. Hybrid mode calls up power from both the electric motors and gasoline engine and sends it to all four wheels, though in a more relaxed state of tune suitable for everyday driving. Dialing up Sport mode also utilizes all power sources, but sharpens throttle response, steering and transmission settings for a decidedly snappier feel.
Race mode takes those improvements to the next level, and makes all 887 hp available. The final setting, called Hot Lap, is designed for use on a racetrack, as it allows the electric motors to run the car's battery pack down beyond normal limits, relaxes stability control settings and sends more torque to the front wheels for improved cornering.
Porsche says the 918 Spyder will go from zero to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds, or 5.7 seconds in full electric mode. Those numbers will lower when it's equipped with the lighter-weight Weissach option package.
For a car with this level of performance, the 918 Spyder gets impressive EPA fuel economy ratings of 67 MPGe (miles-per-gallon-equivalent) in all-electric mode, and a still respectable 22 mpg on gasoline. The EPA also estimates it can go 12 miles on electricity alone, although that's based on normal driving. Porsche claims recharging the plug-in hybrid's lithium-ion battery pack should take roughly 2.5 hours on a 220-volt home charger.
Standard safety features on the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder include antilock carbon-ceramic brakes, stability and traction control, seat-mounted thorax-protecting side airbags and door-mounted head-protecting side airbags.
With five driving modes to choose from, the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder exhibits a distinctly changeable personality. Turn the key in its default all-electric mode and the 918 is ready to cover up to 18 miles in eerie quiet, with the only sounds coming from the wind rushing over the roof and occasional pebbles shed by the massive tires ticking in the fender wells. Mash on the accelerator pedal, however, and the electrons start flying as the front and rear electric motors respond instantly with an entertaining turbine-like whine reminiscent of the original Batmobile. In terms of performance, those electric motors will take you to a top speed of 93 mph before the gasoline V8 kicks in. In this respect, the experience is a lot like driving any other gasoline-electric hybrid, albeit an insanely fast one.
Turning the round knurled knob beneath the right-hand spoke of the steering wheel engages Hybrid mode, which is the most practical setup for everyday driving, as it brings both electric motors and the gasoline engine online, alternately, depending on driving situation. Unlike other hybrids, however, there's no mistaking the moment that this gasoline V8 fires up, thanks to the loud and angry exhaust note that billows from the twin titanium exhausts located atop the rear deck, just inches behind your shoulders. While this mode is still rather sedate by the 918 Spyder's standards, the eager anticipation of things to come it creates is inescapable.
To approach that higher plane of automotive nirvana, turn the black knurled knob one more notch to engage Sport Hybrid mode. Here the big V8 and electric motors begin working together to propel this 3,700-pound bundle of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic with a still greater degree of urgency. Throttle response and steering feel both get noticeably sharper in this mode as well. For purists who've expressed some concerns over the latter, the electromechanical setup is exceptionally well tuned and feels both precise and nicely weighted.
Twist that knob one more time to select Race mode and the powertrain springs to life with all 887 hp at your command. Laying into the accelerator pedal now brings a full-on wail from behind your head that makes the 918 Spyder sound like the road-going racecar it is. Pushing the red center button in this mode calls up the Hot Lap feature that gives you everything the car's got from both the electric and gasoline motors in case you find yourself ever needing to qualify for pole position. Above 165 mph, the front electric motor decouples as the scenery blurs and the car rockets to its claimed top speed of 214 mph.
While these settings mostly affect the powertrain components, there's a lot more going on here than you might realize. An adaptive suspension delivers firmer settings in Sport and Race modes, for example. Active aerodynamics also comes into play, with the computer opening and closing under-car vents and changing the rear wing angle to produce less drag or more downforce depending on the conditions. The standard carbon-ceramic brakes can feel a little wooden in the more tame Electric and Hybrid modes, when they're called on to help recharge the hybrid system's lithium-ion battery pack, but do a bang-up job of scrubbing off speed in more aggressive driving.
As you'd expect in Porsche's flagship sports car, the cockpit is designed to be very driver-oriented. Three analog gauges, including a large center-mounted tachometer, display important info with a quick glance. The steering-wheel-mounted drive mode switch and other driving-related controls are placed within easy reach. The standard carbon-fiber seats feature significant side bolsters for enhanced support in aggressive driving, and only differ from the optional racing seats in the firmness of the side bolster padding. In other words, this is a car that puts the driver first.
Yet Porsche hasn't built a racecar. Nearly every inch of the carbon-fiber-intensive cabin is covered in soft leather or, for $26,000 extra, it can be upgraded with "Authentic" leather crafted from renewable tanning agents and organic pigments to create a unique, matte finish that will develop a distinctive patina over time. Something to consider for you collectors out there.
All secondary functions are located in a rising center console, with a trio of knobs that allow you to page through menus on the high-mounted cell phone-like display, and provide quick access to regularly used features like audio volume and fan speed. Touchscreen-like switches allow the driver to manage the climate control system, Burmester audio system, rear wing position, headlights and more.
Not surprisingly given its racecar genes, the 918 Spyder is a little short on luggage space. Lift the hood and you'll find just 3.9 cubic feet of cargo room, which shrinks to practically nothing should you need to store the two-piece roof inside.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
It seems an impossible task given its inherent complexity, but the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder has progressed from concept to preproduction form in just two years.
Project boss Frank Walliser explains: "We initially revealed an intention to build a successor to the Carrera GT with a concept that we showed at the Geneva motor show in 2010. But with the change of top management at Porsche, a definitive decision to go ahead wasn't made until 2011. It is a clean sheet project. The whole car has been developed from scratch."
Just how far it has come can be summed up in one set of figures: 7 minutes, 14 seconds. This is the lap time Porsche recorded on the very first outing of the 918 Spyder at the Nürburgring last year, undercutting the old Carrera GT by a massive 16 seconds. No wonder Ferrari and McLaren are eyeing the new car warily.
Behind the Wheel in Leipzig
The first preproduction example off the line rumbles down pit lane of Porsche's Leipzig test track and comes to a halt beside us. It is suitably squat and wide, but the new 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder lacks the visual flair and outright aesthetic impact of the Ferrari and McLaren.
Entering the cabin is tricky given the rather high and extra wide sill that forms part of a carbon-fiber monocoque. Despite boasting the optional Weissach package, the seatbelts in the latest prototype are three-point affairs, so there's no need to wrestle into a full race harness before getting down to business.
Twist the key, which is the same as that of other recent Porsche models, to trigger the ignition. There is no direct firing of the combustion engine, as the power electronics detect there is sufficient battery charge, merely some distant whirring as the electric motors are primed for action.
The windscreen is quite upright, providing an excellent view out front over two curvaceous front fenders. There is no rear window owing to a need to accommodate the lightweight titanium exhaust system, which is mounted atop the engine just an arm's length from where you sit. A reversing camera mounted low down in the diffuser is the only means of seeing where you're going in reverse.
The Traditional Engine
The naturally aspirated 4.6-liter V8 is often described as being derived from the smaller 3.4-liter V8 engine used in the Porsche LMP2 racecar, but Walliser says the only real connection between the two is the 90-degree angle between the cylinder banks. "It is, in essence, an all-new engine. They do not share any components," he reveals.
The dry-sump unit, developed exclusively for the 918 Spyder, produces 608 horsepower at 8,600 rpm in final production trim, giving it a specific output of 132.2 hp per liter. Two brushless electric motors supplement the V8: one mounted up front within the front axle assembly developing 154 hp and another sited at the rear with 127 hp.
In Hybrid mode, the three power sources provide a total of 887 hp, which easily makes the 918 Spyder the company's most powerful road car ever. Its performance numbers reflect that fact, as Porsche says the 918 will hit 62 mph in just 2.8 seconds on the way to a top speed that is put at more than 211 mph.
On the Track
As we join the track and run down into the first corner, it doesn't sound like a car with such immense power. Besides the rumble of tires and the sound of stones being thrown up into the wheel houses, it is all but silent. With sufficient battery charge in E-mode, the new Porsche relies on the front electric motor to provide propulsion at speeds up to 93 mph and a range of around 18 miles.
The steering, which operates on the front axle and rear axle simultaneously, helps to endow the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder with stunning agility. There is whip-crack sharpness to the way it turns in, although the overall weighting of the electromechanical system, which shares components with the similar setup on the latest 911 GT3, is a little lighter than expected. The tires bite hard as the chassis accepts a heavy dose of lateral force. There's extremely little roll to speak of, and the front end remains remarkably calm. It's easy: no plow on understeer, no sudden-death oversteer, just terrific neutrality and masses of grip to allow alarmingly high cornering speeds without ever feeling fidgety.
It's all very friendly, very predictable. The secret to the ease of drivability, claims Walliser, is a decision to package all of the 918 Spyder's major drive systems below the horizontal center line and within its long 107.5-inch wheelbase. All three power sources are mounted exceptionally low in the chassis for the best possible center of gravity and low polar movement.
The 6.8kWh lithium-ion battery, which can be charged to 80 percent capacity in just 18 minutes using a high-voltage plug-in charger, is lower still and is straddled by an 18.5-gallon fuel tank. Both are mounted directly behind the rear bulkhead.
The juggling act between efficiency and performance has resulted in five driveline modes. An E-power program is the default mode, in which the 918 Spyder is propelled by the front electric motor and, at speeds above 16 mph, the rear electric motor. Turn a rotary dial on the steering to select Hybrid mode, and both the electric motors and the combustion engine are introduced to the drive process, though with an emphasis on fuel saving, the combustion engine doesn't run all the time.
A further turn of the dial activates Sport-Hybrid, in which the combustion engine runs continuously and the electric motors operate most of the time. Race-Hybrid adds a further dose of aggression, with torque vectoring introduced to the front wheels and, when required, the rear motor acting as a generator to supply electrical energy to the electric motor mounted up front.
If that's not enough, Porsche has also given its new supercar a so-called Hot-Lap mode that sees the parameter of the battery charge altered to allow the electric motors to draw up to 90 percent of available energy, or 20 percent more than usual.
Race Setup, Street Ride
The suspension, which largely consists of cast-aluminum components, uses a combination of double wishbones up front and multilinks. It is, to all intents and purposes, a racecar setup, boasting adjustable springs and dampers and proper metal-to-metal joints for the lowest possible tolerances and the sort of tactility that really has to be felt to be believed.
Test tracks are never a good place to judge ride quality, but there is sufficient compliance to ensure the 918 Spyder doesn't crash over curbs like a dedicated racecar. There is plenty of give in the springs and damping. Not a lot, but enough to hint it should cope with most roads without too much trouble. Walliser suggests it rides better than the Carrera GT, which should hold it in good stead. The wheels, which come in alloy as standard and even lighter magnesium with the optional Weissach package, are 20 inches in diameter and 9.5 inches wide up front and 21-by-12.5 inches at the rear. They're mated with 265/35ZR20 front and substantial 325/30ZR21 rear tires.
The 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder uses a bespoke regenerative braking system to extend its range. As in the Panamera hybrid, there's no regeneration until you hit the brake pedal. Lifting the throttle engages a coasting function. Despite their complexity, the brakes, which consist of 16.1-inch front and 15.4-inch carbon-ceramic discs, are not only stunningly effective at wiping off speed but deliver true feel, which is not something that can always be said of the stoppers used on many hybrids.
The Flexibility of Huge Torque
Spearing down the front straight of the Porsche test track, throttle pinned hard in 4th gear, the 918's torque makes a huge impression. The combustion engine doesn't deliver its torque peak of 390 pound-feet until you've got 6,600 rpm wound on the crank, but there is colossal shove throughout the rev range thanks to the efforts of the electric motors. All together there is a whopping 940 lb-ft of total torque, which gives the new car a tremendously flexible nature.
Third gear with Race-Hybrid mode engaged is best for an out-of-body experience. The combined efforts of the three power sources and the penetrating shriek of the combustion engine under full load is mind-blowing in its intensity. Same story in 4th, though it takes more commitment. Fifth brings little respite: The torque is so strong you reach huge speeds with little more than a fleeting prod of the throttle. In terms of raw speed and longitudinal stability, it feels as resolved as the Bugatti Veyron.
Carry more speed into a corner, get on the power even earlier and you feel you're no nearer to breeching the heady levels of adhesion. Push harder and the 918 Spyder simply answers the call for more, and you can keep edging up to the dynamic boundaries because along with the stunning level of midcorner grip, that steering, despite its inherent complexity, is also tremendously alert, providing meaningful communication and tremendous weighting as lateral forces are piled on.
A Complete Package
The new 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder feels nothing if not tremendously well sorted for something so inherently complex. And with a few more months before the first production cars begin rolling down a dedicated line at the company's Zuffenhausen plant, it seems there's even more to come. "It is a learning process," reveals the enthusiastic project boss, adding, "We're continuously gathering data that allows us to improve the drive system."
In preproduction form at least, it has exceeded our expectations. We could bang on about its impetuous speed and ability to run on electric power. But the truly extraordinary thing about the new car is the accessibility of its performance. This, and the ease with which you get to grips with it. It's not a car to be scared of by any means. But one you're urged to drive... and hard. Provided, of course, you can forget about the price tag.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder Overview
The Used 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder is offered in the following submodels: 918 Spyder Convertible. Available styles include 2dr Convertible AWD (4.6L 8cyl gas/electric hybrid 7AM), and Weissach Package 2dr Convertible AWD (4.6L 8cyl gas/electric hybrid 7AM).
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Should I lease or buy a 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.