Porsche 918 Spyder

The Battling Green Hulk

"Once Racing and Now E-Racing"

"The Essential Pureness of Driving"

"Motorelectric Porschphile"

When I heard that I was going to drive the 918 Spyder on the circuit, I jumped out of my seat and said, "That's what I wanted to drive one and a half years ago!" How does this story about the 918 Spyder originate? It begin back to April 2012, when I was invited by Porsche Middle East and Africa to watch the prototype of a car from the middle of the desert where even my smartphone's GPS couldn't locate my exact position… 

I was having a look at the new pictures of the 918 and the old prototype that I saw, and noted that there were not so many differences between the concept and the actual car that I drove on the circuit. The main thing that I did notice were the exhaust pipes that came from below the door to the top of the rear engine, called "Top Pipes".

The new model beat the record of seven minutes for a lap of the Nürburgring Nordschleife, achieving a time of 6:57 minutes.

Driving Impressions
I drove the 918 Spyder on the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, Spain. I admit that driving the 918 is a marginally weird experience to begin with, even though one of Porsche's main targets when fine-tuning the car was to make it feel 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. The mysterious thing in E-drive is that there's no distinguishable sound from the two electric motors. As an alternative, you just turn the key, select Drive, push the throttle and skate away. With the lithium-ion battery pack fully charged, there's about 32 kms of range in E-drive.

In the Hybrid-drive mode, it is still electric when running, but just push harder on the accelerator and VROOM! -  the V8 is aroused. I was driving using a mixture of petrol and electric force. From that point and from within, it revealed its true identity; the 918 is actually still a respectable V8 supercar at its basic. The shift is remarkably suave so long as I was not gawky with the throttle, and if I backed away from the throttle for a few seconds, the V8 engine turned off and I was back to electric drive mode, listening to the air whoosh by.

When I selected the Hybrid-drive mode, I got an instant combination of the combustion engine and electric motors, with relaxed reactions from the throttle and the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

And when I selected the Sport-drive mode, the reaction from everything (engine, gearbox, V8 and both electric motors) turned louder and deeper, leading to Race-drive mode. More violent still is the red button "Hot Lap" which is like a jetfighter plane, in which the ESP permits a bit of slip from the rear and gives out more flat torque to the front under wide throttle openings to handle mid to late apex on the Ricardo Tormo circuit understeer.

Exterior Design
The design of the 918 Spyder pays homage to legendary Porsche race cars. It is firstly based on the 917, which won overall victory for Porsche at Le Mans from 1970, and secondly, on the successful RS Spyder, the endurance winner of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) from 2005. A combination of typical race car proportions, clearly structured form and innovative details produce an aesthetic, balanced design with great dynamic performance. It embodies the synthesis of form and function of Porsche's design DNA.

As typical of the brand, the front bonnet sits deeper than the heavily curved front wings. At the rear, the shoulders are broad and heavily pronounced. At the same time, the 918 Spyder heralds the future of Porsche design with its precise lines and sharp edges. The comprehensive front bonnet makes the front of the vehicle appear wider and more dynamic. As with a race car, the dome-shaped driver's area with curved windscreen arches over the bonnet. The distinctive air intakes, the full LED headlights with four-point daytime running lights, the expressive front diffuser and the front spoiler with double profile made of visible carbon fiber lend the 918 Spyder its important character traits. The strongly shaped wings emphasize the immense power of both driven axles. At the rear end of the front bonnet are the distinctive outlets for the wheel arch ventilation on the side of the wings. The rear wing and the distinctive B-pillar stretch like a second skin around the driver's cab, similar to the Porsche 935 from the late 1970s. The side air intakes extend up to the B-pillar. This makes the overlapping rear of the vehicle appear wider and even more powerful. The rear conveys that the main drive is located on the rear axle. The rear view is defined above all by the wraparound form lip and is reminiscent of historical Porsche race cars, such as the 906, which won the Targa Florio and other races in 1966. Additional distinctive design features of the 918 Spyder are the rear wing integrated into the mudguard, the expressive rear diffuser made from visible carbon fiber and the striking air outlets.

The engine compartment cover on the 918 Spyder is absolutely unmistakable in the prominent scoops that stretch down from the headrests to the rear, and the two polished ends on the top pipes lead out into the open. Above the actual exhaust system is the stainless steel cover of the catalytic converter, which is fitted in a central position. By virtue of its extended openings, the cover guarantees the necessary exchange of heat can take place. The actual engine compartment cover is heavily perforated, making it extremely light. At the same time, this cover is reminiscent of the 918 Spyder's predecessor - the Carrera GT.

The concept for the body and the supporting structure of the 918 Spyder has its roots in motorsport design. Instead of a self-supporting body made from metal, Porsche is using a monocoque with unit carrier as a roadworthy rolling chassis. The parts of the bodyshell are assembled on this monocoque. The structure integrates all of the 918 Spyder's drive sources and energy stores. The monocoque houses the front electric motor, as well as the traction battery and the fuel tank. The unit carrier anchors the rear drive unit, which includes the combustion engine, the rear electric motor and the PDK. The drive train components, as well as components weighing more than 50 kilograms, are arranged as deeply and centrally as possible in the vehicle. The result is axle load distribution of 57% at the rear and 43% at the front. As the emphasis is weighted slightly more on the rear, this is ideal in terms of road holding. Combined with this is an extremely low position of center of gravity, at about the height of the wheel hubs.

As the body shell is separate from the supporting structure in terms of functions, it has been developed to optimal effect with low weight and best aerodynamics in mind. While the body shell and doors are made almost entirely of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic, the front and rear bumpers are made from extremely light and flexible polyurethane (PU). Being made from this material enables them to withstand minor knocks without sustaining damage. The windscreen is made of extremely light, highly flexible thin glass, which offers effective protection against problems such as stone chips. As the name Spyder suggests, the new Porsche 918 is designed as an open and particularly emotive roadster. Two roof panels are inserted between the windscreen frame and the roll-over protection system behind the headrests that form part of the monocoque's supporting structure. These panels are also made entirely of CFRP and can be removed separately and stowed in the luggage compartment. To increase the comfort of open driving, particularly at higher speeds, a wind deflector can be attached to the windscreen frame. The wind deflector is stored in the luggage compartment when driving with the roof closed.

By providing two optional special colors for the exterior, Porsche is offering up a particularly exclusive visual experience. The paint structure and processing technique were developed specifically for the new super sports car. The paint can be applied to carbon surfaces for the first time and gives the appearance of liquid metal. The new type of paint, which is of a particularly high quality, is applied with pinpoint precision in nine layers. As part of this process, the paint structure is applied three times by hand. The subsequent top coat comprises two layers of clear varnish that create impressive light reflections, delivering an extraordinary depth effect. Each light reflection brings the contours and design lines of the 918 Spyder ever more clearly to the surface. The new paint is available in the special colors liquid metal silver and liquid metal chrome blue, and supplements the ten standard colors on offer.

Interior
The driver and front passenger sit in completely redesigned carbon fiber-reinforced plastic bucket seats that boast a lightweight design. These seats provide a glimpse into the future of bucket seats from Porsche. The main focus during the development phase was on a lightweight design and a very low and sporty seating position. To keep the gross weight to a minimum, headrests and airbags were integrated into the seat. The height of the bucket seats can be adjusted electrically; however, the seats are not folding.

In typical Porsche fashion, the 918 Spyder is started to the left of the steering wheel. To the right of the steering column is the selector lever for the D, N and R positions of the PDK. Immediately next to the lever is the button for activating the electric parking brake. Three round instruments provide the driver with all the vital information needed for driving. A special feature in this respect is the power meter ring all around the central rev counter: the upper semi-circle made up of white LEDs indicates the top power of the combustion engine. The lower semi-circle is made up of green LEDs, and indicates the electric power output and lights up during recuperation.

All vehicle functions that pertain to driving are integrated into the steering wheel. The central function is performed by the innovative map switch, which can be rotated to set the four basic driving modes. The Hot Lap configuration is activated in Race Hybrid mode by pressing the red button. The steering wheel incorporates other features, including shift paddles, a four-button module for cruise control and PDK functions. In short, the driver never need take his hands off the steering wheel.

The clear structure and logical arrangement of the new infotainment system is in the horizontal center console; it is intuitive for the driver to use the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system. Ergonomics and readability have been optimized by separating operation between the 7 inch touchscreen in the console and the display in the 8 inch screen in the instrument panel. Using additional control panels beneath the touchscreen enables the driver to navigate quickly through functions and operate comfort, air conditioning, vehicle settings and PCM functions directly from these panels.

Drivetrain
Tuning the three drive sources so they are at their peak is one of Porsche's core competencies and it ensures the 918 Spyder's outstanding performance. Overall, the 918 Spyder achieves maximum system performance of 887 bhp and a crankshaft-equivalent maximum torque of 1280 Nm in seventh gear. That's around one-and-a-half times of a Cayenne S Diesel, which was previously the most powerful Porsche in terms of torque on account of the 850 Nm provided by its V8 biturbo engine.

The term "crankshaft-equivalent" in this context expresses the level of torque the engine would have to produce in the case of a conventional drive to build up and deliver the same tractive force to the drive wheels. The characteristics of the high-speed, naturally aspirated engine delivering significant torque at elevated rpm levels, and the electric motors delivering significant torque even from stationary, complement one another perfectly: within a broad speed range of 800 - 5000 rpm, the torque level remains above 800 Nm at all times.

For the driver, this means virtually limitless power from the very first revolution, paired with fast starts, a powerful response and impressive acceleration. It also ensures enormous driving pleasure when the powerful torque electric motors provide an additional boost to the V8 high-speed engine, delivering catapult-like accelerating power. The vehicle accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 2.6 seconds and from 0 to 200 km/h in 7.3 seconds.

The 4.6 liter engine is taken directly from the power unit of the successful RS Spyder. It delivers 608 bhp at 8700 rpm, with a maximum engine speed of 9150 rpm. The hybrid module connects to the V8 engine. Like Porsche's current hybrid models, the 918 Spyder is constructed as a parallel hybrid. The hybrid module essentially comprises a 115-kW electric motor and a dry decouple that serves as the connection element to the combustion engine. Because of its parallel hybrid configuration, the 918 Spyder can be powered at the rear axle either individually by the combustion engine or the electric motor, or via both drives together. As is typical for a Porsche super sports car, the internal combustion engine assembly in the 918 Spyder has been positioned in front of the rear axle, and does not have a direct mechanical connection to the front axle.

A 7 speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) handles power transmission to the rear axle.

The 918 Spyder features 20 inch wheels on the front axle and 21 inch wheels on the rear. These different wheel sizes fulfil the axle-specific requirements in a particular way; the 20 inch wheels on the front axle support agility and steer ability, while the 21 inch wheels on the rear axle support traction. Moreover, the different wheel sizes underline the dynamic form of the 918 Spyder. All wheels feature a newly developed central locking mechanism derived from Porsche motorsport vehicles.

Special sports tires (UHP = Ultra High Performance) bearing the name Pilot Sport Cup 2 have been developed by Michelin for the 918 Spyder. On a dry road surface in particular, these tires offer a very high level of performance potential with high traction, lateral acceleration and short stopping distances, without compromising the properties on wet surfaces. They also have low rolling resistance to bring about improved efficiency.

Verdict
The best part is how natural and pure it feels to drive. The 918 is a noble machine to jump aboard and take for a spin. Believe it or not, the 918 Spyder was fast, too fast, though it doesn't leave your blood curdling nor make you feel nervous or crushed. It is, without hesitation, pleasant to drive. Unfortunately, all units are sold; the opportunity to buy was unique. But as you all know, there are comparable supercars on the prospect such as the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari, but they will need to be exceptional to convey a broader talent than the 918 Spyder.

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