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2015 Porsche 918 Spyder: What you need to know

Friday, January 10, 2014

Every decade or so, Porsche creates a supercar that redefines the category. The hallowed list of Porsche elite includes the mid-engine 550 Spyder, the fiber-glass bodied 904 Carrera GTS, the 911 Turbo Carrera, the twin-turbocharged 959, the barely legal GT1, and, most recently, the carbon-fiber Carrera GT. Each of them introduced new technology that trickled down to regular Porsche road cars. They pushed boundaries and set trends, and we have one question: Can the plug-in hybrid 918 Spyder do the same?

The 918 Spyder, like the 612-horsepower Carrera GT before it, has a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis with a mid-mounted internal-combustion engine, but it breaks away from its predecessor with a hybrid powertrain built around a motorsport-derived 4.6-liter V8. The 608-hp engine is aided by two electric motors placed at the front and rear axles. They send power to all four wheels and draw energy from a 230-kW lithium-ion battery mounted on the chassis floor. A regenerative braking system recharges the battery, or a charger can be plugged in when the vehicle is stationary. 

The front motor, with 129 hp and 155 pound-feet of torque, is the sole source of power to the front wheels. The rear motor, mounted between the V8 and the seven-speed double-clutch PDK gearbox, twists out 156 hp and 177 lb-ft and can drive the rear wheels by itself or coupled to the V8. The trio of powerplants pumps out a combined 887 hp and 944 lb-ft, good for a run from 0-62 miles per hour in 2.6 seconds, 0-124 mph in 7.3 and a top speed of 214 mph. Impressive considering the supercar’s relatively hefty weight of 3,690 pounds!

But the 918 also is about efficiency: It can drive the equivalent of 76 miles per gallon under the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). Starting with the all-electric E-Power mode (up to 93 mph, with a maximum range of 20 miles) and ending at Hot Lap mode (the most aggressive hybrid setting), five selectable drive modes progressively amp up the involvement and power delivery of the electric motors, which in turn sacrifices fuel efficiency for performance. When called upon, the electric motors can provide a 279-hp all-wheel-drive boost of acceleration.

The 918's extraordinary balance of performance and efficiency could be the car's lasting impression. The LaFerrari and the McLaren P1 - the 918’s main competition - are both lighter and more powerful hybrid supercars, but they’re also rear-wheel drive, each with only one electric motor sending power to the rear wheels to aid the internal combustion engine.

We could write more about the 918 and its many performance- and efficiency-optimized features (top-exit exhaust system, Porsche Active Aerodynamics, electrical Porsche Traction Management, etc.). But it’s about time to let the facts at hand digest and wait for a test drive with that burning question clear in our minds: Will the 918 Spyder live up to its predecessors and set a new benchmark for future Porsches? On paper, it certainly looks that way.

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