Meet the 700-hp plug-in hybrid star of the show
By Marc Lachapelle
Advanced showings and calculated leaks have sucked much of the excitement and anticipation from media days at auto shows but we thankfully still get surprised now and then. In Geneva, Porsche did just that by pulling a spectacular new sports car concept out of its hat.
The 918 Spyder is a lean, low, gorgeous roadster that happens to be a plug-in hybrid, no less. A very fast hybrid, mind you. Its powertrain combines a 3.4-litre gasoline-fed V8 mounted between the cabin and rear axle with electric motors that can drive the front and wheels, combining all-wheel drive and Porsche’s ‘torque-vectoring’ technology.
The thermal engine is derived from the V8 in Porsche’s RS Spyder racecar and is said to produce more than 500 horsepower at 9,200 rpm. It’s ‘high-revving’ indeed and connected to a 7-speed dual automated clutch (PDK) gearbox. The total output of the electric motors is 218 horsepower. How quick and fast its 918 Spyder? Porsche says the fully-functional prototype can accelerate to 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds and reach a top speed of more than 320 km/h. The sports car specialist also claims that its hybrid sports car can lap the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife loop in less than 7 minutes 30 seconds, which would make it quicker than its own V10-powered, 600-hp Carrera GT supercar.
Yet, Porsche also assures us that the 918 Spyder can consume as little as 3.0 liters per 100 km and generate only 70 grams of carbon dioxide (C02) per kilometer on the standard European driving cycle. For this, it must take full advantage of the various selectable driving modes. While the E-Drive mode lets you drive up to 25 km on electric power alone, the Hybrid mode uses both the electric motors and gas engine. When Sport Hybrid is switched on, both power sources are used and most of the muscle goes to the rear wheels. And in Race Hybrid mode, all sources are on full power, of course. There even is a ‘push-to-pass’ button for a burst of additional electric power, provided the battery pack is sufficiently charged.
The 918 Spyder has a monocoque body shell made of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFP) with magnesium and aluminum elements that help increase stiffness and reduce total weight to less than 1,490 kg. The lines are said to have been inspired by the legendary 917 racer but the Carrera GT lineage is patent, down to dual cowls behind the seats. There is a mobile spoiler at the rear and retractable air intakes that provide a ‘ram air’ induction effect.
The cabin is also overtly inspired by the GT with its steeply-rising center console. The steering wheel has the new shift paddles seen on the new 911 Turbo and lets the driver control several systems as well as choose between the four driving modes. A computer-driven system called Range Manager uses information from the 918 Spyder’s navigation devices to let the driver pick the proper driving style or strategy regarding the car’s remaining range on gasoline, electric power or a combination thereof.
The ultra-compact, fluid-cooled lithium-ion battery is nestled between the cabin and V8 engine. It can be charged by plugging it in and it gets recharged by regenerative braking, as any good hybrid.
Porsche insists that the 918 Spyder is only a prototype but you can bet good money that this baby is production-bound. And the sooner the better, if you ask us.