As one of the most famous names in performance motoring it should be no surprise that Porsche has risen to the challenge presented by a hybrid supercar. The concept is not new, but it was always going to take a major league manufacturer to get it right. The 918 Spyder – first seen at Geneva in 2010 – has been a long time in the making, but now the word is production will begin on a limited run in 2013. Porsche is no stranger to high-concept designs – think of the amazing 959 supercar for instance – and has long been at the forefront of technical innovation, but the 918 Spyder really does push the boundaries.
Three Power Sources For Added Benefits
Potential customers for the 918 Spyder will be looking for near perfection, and also for economic promises that are well kept. The two electric engines that combine with the standard petrol power-plant bring this to the party. Green lobbyists may question the true ecological merits of a supercar with a 4.6litre V8 engine producing 580bhp, but it is the two electric engines – one front and one back providing a combined 210bhp and four wheel drive – that are the main draw. The complex nature of the three combined power sources is typical of the modern supercar, and even more typical of Porsche is that the main engine is rear mounted. The company has learned a lot from decades of making 911’s! There is a school of thought that hybrid supercars are a gimmick offering no real benefit, and while there is some truth in this the 918 is still an important vehicle. It is an exercise in future technology and, as a result, should be followed very closely in the next couple of years.
Stunning Performance Claims
With all that power on tap the car is bound to be a pretty impressive performer, and Porsche makes claims that are up there with the very best. The claims include a top speed of over 210mph (330km/h) which puts it firmly in the same class as all but the most extreme hypercars. Acceleration from standstill to 62mph (100km/h) takes just 2.9 seconds, with 124mph (200kmh) in under nine seconds. If you can find somewhere to do it, 186mph (300km/h) is reached in 27 seconds. Those are very bold claims for such a car, but what about the electric motors? Running in ‘E-mode’ – that is with the rear electric motor only – Porsche claims a range of 20miles (32km/h) on a full charge. There is always a smile from petrol heads who dismiss the potential of the electric car when figures such as those are bandied about, and it is easy to see why. 20 miles is going to be no use to 90% of drivers unless they are buying a 918 Spyder to nip down to the shops. It really doesn’t make sense – but the rest of the car certainly does!
Does The 918 Live Up to The Hype?
To be fair, there hasn’t been a great deal of hype about this car. As is Porsche’s way, information across the past two years has come in steady, slow announcements, and the company has in no way pushed the model at the public. However, there are claims of ‘2000 statements of interest’ but converting those into actual sales may not be so simple. Especially when you hear that the 918 Spyder is scheduled to sell at £540,000 ($850,000 at the time of writing). This is serious money – indeed it is the same as the projected price for the upcoming Ferrari F70 Hybrid supercar – and could buy you a supercar from many of the world’s most revered makers, and needs justification. Porsche seems to think that the sheer performance of the car alone is enough to attract buyers, and we feel they may be right. If that is the case, then, what is the actual point of the hybrid configuration? Yes, we understand it achieves amazing fuel consumption and CO2 figures – when in electric mode – but who is going to regularly travel 20 miles in a Porsche 918 Spyder?
Investment or Road Burner?
Perhaps we have hit the nail on the head with that last sentence: it could be that buyers go for the Porsche 918 Spyder for exclusivity alone. It may be that some see the very presence of electric motors as a sign that the driver is ecologically conscious and helping to save the planet – even if, in fact, he is driving the car using a huge V8 petrol guzzling supercar engine. This is the difficulty with high performance ‘green’ cars – they are not truly green at all. This is not, however, to detract from the brilliance of the 918 Spyder, for it is a superb car. Its carbon fibre monocoque and magnesium construction gives it a weight advantage over conventionally built machines and it offers performance that is a cut above the norm, plus it boasts the expertise of Porsche in building fine handling and fun to drive cars. It’s simply that the hybrid part of the deal feels a little lightweight. If the Porsche 918 Spyder can stand as an indication of what is to come, as a sign that we need to proceed down this road, then it has justified its existence.