When Porsche first showed off the 918 Spyder back in March 2010, the car looked suitably futuristic. Possibly even more daring was the powertrain, a plug in hybrid featuring a three powerplants - one petrol and two electric. While the looks have been toned down, the power certainly hasn't. The production version will debut next week at the Frankfurt Auto Show.
Three Motors For Exceptional PowerWhile a hybrid powertrain, combining a 4.6litre petrol V8 and an electric motor power the rear wheels, a separate electric motor powers the fronts. Combined output of 653kw is just astonishing, with a quoted acceleration time of 2,8 seconds. But possibly even more impressive is the claimed fuel consumption as low as 3 litres/100km. That's less than a Toyota Prius. Much less.
Sure, driving the car in anger is going to see it become significantly thirstier. However, unlike the forthcoming McLaren P1 and Ferrari LaFerrai hybrid hypercars, the 918 can run solely on electric power for up to 30km. So if you really do just need to grab a coffee on a Sunday morning, you could potentially get there and back without using any fuel at all.
The car has adaptive rear wheel steering - at low speeds, the rear wheels turn counter to the fronts, to reduce turning circle. At high speeds, they turn in the same direction as the front, to increase stability.
The car is almost entirely handbuilt by a small team of Porsche's top engineers. The 918 has a low centre of gravity, apparently in line with the wheel hubs. And even with the Lithium battery pack and three motors, the car weighs in at 1640kg - less than the new Jaguar F-Type. That's carbon fibre for you.
New Porsche 918 Spyder PriceThe thing is, all this is not a cheap exercise by any means. The new Porsche 918 Spyder will list at EU645,000. Which by today's exchange rate is R8,615,974.50. Yes, that's eight million, six hundred and fifteen thousand, nine hundred and seventy four thousand Rand, and fifty cents, in case you were about to write out a cheque.
Why should we care about such a horrendously expensive car. This is a daring project from Porsche. The depth of engineering is impressive, and while rivals have produced stonking cars, none have the 918's laser focus on fuel efficiency.
What The Porsche 918 Really MeansWhile most of us will never own a Ferrari or a McLaren, Porsche shares much of it's technology with the Volkswagen group, and this kind of no-expense-spared project is almost certainly a test bed for future hybrid platforms. In the coming years, we can expect to see some very interesting hybrid sports car, all of which will trace their lineage to this, the 918.
The price of fuel will continue to rise, and traditional sports cars will become unfeasible. We need to move on, we need fuel efficient cars that still make us feel like seven year olds. The Porsche 918 is leading the way.