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2015 Porsche 918 Spyder - First Drive

A supercar as momentous as the 959

Michael Harley
Feb 14, 2014 SHARE

Porsche 918 Supecar Details:

  • 887hp, 944 lb-ft | 0-60mph in 2.5sec | Top speed 211mph
  • Carbon fiber structure | Plug-in hybrid | All-wheel drive
  • 608hp V8 in rear with 156hp electric motor
  • Carbon-ceramic brakes | Hybrid braking | Rear wheel steer
  • 7-speed PDK dual-clutch transaxle | 129hp electric motor in front with its own transmission for all-wheel drive
  • Lightweight Weissach Package option tested

Electronics

  • Five drive modes allowing fully electric or hybrid drive
  • PASM adaptive damping
  • Electric rear sterring, electro-mechanical front steering
  • 7hr battery recharge from 110V AC supply
  • Active aerodynamics

Pros: Design and Performance | Cons: Price


2015 porsche 918 spyder first drive passenger side view 6 Photo 2/73   |   2015 Porsche 918 Spyder First Drive Passenger Side View 6

Nine hundred and forty four pound-feet of torque crushes the competition. Yet Porsche's engineering team downplays the output of the 918 Spyder; the automaker's first new supercar since the Carrera GT was discontinued in 2006. Instead, the men in white lab coats speak about the challenge, and eventual success, of building a new flagship supercar embedded with technology that will serve as the company's gene pool for many decades to come.

The 918 Spyder program was launched in the summer of 2010 and, in short order, a low-slung carbon-bodied coupe was spotted testing. Details leaked of the mule's plug-in hybrid, all-wheel drive powertrain, active aerodynamics and motorsport innovation. Finally, at the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show, Porsche revealed the 918 Spyder supercar had lapped the Nordschleife in 6:57min - setting a new world record for a production vehicle in the process.

2015 Porsche 918 Spyder steering wheel Photo 3/73   |   2015 Porsche 918 Spyder

See this Porsche plug-in hybrid supercar make history: Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid Breaks 7-Minute Nurburgring Record

But it would be months before those not on the company's payroll would be invited to slip behind the three-spoke wheel, snug themselves into the thinly padded carbon fiber bucket seat, insert the key and mash the accelerator to the floor.

The heart of the 918 Spyder is its innovative all-wheel drive propulsion system. Nestled low, just aft of the driver in the carbon fiber tub, is a race-bred, dry-sumped, 4.6-liter V8 that develops 608hp. Sandwiched between it and the seven-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox is a 156hp electric motor. One or both can drive the rear wheels.

2015 porsche 918 spyder first drive gauge cluster 09 Photo 4/73   |   2015 Porsche 918 Spyder First Drive Gauge Cluster 09

The front wheels are powered by a separate 129hp electric motor, able to operate independently or in conjunction with the rear engines, based on demand.

The total system power is rated at 887hp, with an extraordinary 944 lb-ft of torque - most of the legendary Porsche race car models haven't been this powerful!

Ensuring the supercar power remains accessible is the adaptive damping of the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). Electro-mechanical steering systems, on both the front and rear axles, improve agility and stability (the rears turn up to 3? in either direction with electric assistance).

2015 Porsche 918 Spyder front three quarter in motion 13 Photo 5/73   |   2015 Porsche 918 Spyder

The braking system is hybrid, exclusively employing regenerative resistance up to 0.5g of deceleration. Above that threshold, the Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) package, hidden inside the staggered 20 and 21" wheels, provides mechanical clamping on the drilled rotors.

Battery-powered hybrids are notoriously heavy, but Porsche worked feverishly to keep weight to a minimum. Yet even with comprehensive use of carbon fiber, titanium and forged aluminum, the 918 tips the scales at 3692 lb - you can blame 304 lb of that on the liquid-cooled lithium-ion traction battery pack alone.

Yet the mass is placed strategically low (the center of gravity is no higher than the hubs of the center-lock wheels) and carefully balanced (43/57 front-to-rear weight distribution) to produce what Porsche calls "no-compromise driving dynamics."

The options list is short, but a "must-have" is the $84000 Weissach Package, which replaces the leather upholstery with lightweight alcantara, substituting aluminum interior trim for carbon fiber, removing sound insulation, adding magnesium wheels and upgrading the exterior aerodynamics, among other things. This sheds an additional 90 lb compared to the standard model.

2015 porsche 918 spyder first drive magnesium wheel 05 Photo 9/73   |   2015 Porsche 918 Spyder First Drive Magnesium Wheel 05

Performance is spectacular. With launch control, Porsche conservatively states the Weissach model will hit 60mph in 2.5sec, with the instrument panel's digital speedometer reading 186mph just 19.9sec after initial launch. The quarter-mile is devoured in 9.9sec at 146mph, which equals or betters the best from Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and even Bugatti.

There are five drive modes - E-Power, Hybrid, Sport Hybrid, Race Hybrid and Hot Lap (listed in order of ferocity), which are selected from a steering wheel-mounted dial. They allow the operator to choose how the gasoline-electric hybrid will delegate and consume available power. The first two modes are optimized for public roads, providing 19 miles of combustion-free range, and efficiency unheard of in a supercar. In fact, it's predicted that when the EPA releases figures, the 918 should make a BMW 128i look like a gas-guzzler.

The real treat ensues when any of the last three modes are engaged, and Spain's Circuit de Valencia was chosen to display the 918's prowess, with the two-seater attacking the F1 training ground with a vengeance.

2015 porsche 918 spyder first drive steering wheel 04 Photo 10/73   |   2015 Porsche 918 Spyder First Drive Steering Wheel 04

The V8 runs constantly in these three performance modes, with the top-mounted titanium exhaust ports bellowing hot gas with a wicked soundtrack, barely inches behind the driver's ears.

Acceleration is hallucinatory when the combustion engine and twin electric motors are all focused on the same objective.

Cornering is remarkably tame, despite the very high g-forces, because the all-wheel drive, rear-wheel steering and sophisticated electronics manage available grip, making it seem almost benign. The driver is left to focus on the apex, using the sharp steering to put the grippy Michelins on the edge of the track.

Inevitably, oversteer is easy to induce, but a quick steering ratio ensures that a flick of the wrist pulls the tail back in when the throttle is prodded. Even at the limit of adhesion, running over the painted curbs, does little to unsettle the chassis. The suspension tuning is simply superb.

2015 porsche 918 spyder first drive rear wing 03 Photo 14/73   |   2015 Porsche 918 Spyder First Drive Rear Wing 03

Braking is nothing less than fascinating, with the transition from engine drag to mechanical deceleration seamlessly executed even under heavy or rapid-fire modulation.

Overall, it's hard to fault the machine's supercar demeanor. Despite its prodigious power, mechanical complexity and unnerving sticker price, its on-road behavior is as amicable as a VW Golf. Even the 911 Turbo S is more challenging to drive at high-speed on a track.

A short, three-year gestation didn't result in any compromises from the automaker - the Porsche 918 Spyder will truly arrive as the most technically advanced and polished supercar on the planet.

2015 porsche 918 spyder first drive interior 11 Photo 15/73   |   2015 Porsche 918 Spyder First Drive Interior 11


Tech Spec

2015 Porsche 918 Spyder with Weissach Package

Layout front-mounted electric motor, rear-mounted gasoline engine and electric motor, AWD

Engine 4.6-liter V8 32v direct injection, dry-sumped, plus two permanent-magnet AC synchronous motors, liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack

Drivetrain seven-speed PDK dual-clutch rear transmission, separate gearbox for electric front motor

Brakes six-piston Acid Green calipers, 410mm carbon-ceramic drilled rotors f, four-piston, 390mm r

Suspension double wishbones f, multi-link r, electric rear steering

Wheels & Tires 20x9.5" f, 21x12.5" r magnesium wheels, 265/35 f, 325/30 R21 r Michelin tires

Exterior CFRP monocoque, aluminum crash structure, Porsche Active Aerodynamics, Targa roof

Performance

Max V8 Power 608hp at 8700rpm

Max Rear Electric Power 156hp

Max Front Electric Power 129hp

Max Combined Power 887hp

Max V8 Torque 398 lb-ft at 6700rpm

Max Combined Torque 944 lb-ft

0-60mph 2.5sec

Top Speed 211mph

Weight 3602 lb

Economy TBC

MSRP TBC

2015 porsche 918 spyder first drive engine 02 Photo 19/73   |   2015 Porsche 918 Spyder First Drive Engine 02
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By Michael Harley
3 Articles

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