On-track in Porsche 918 Spyder. REVIEW

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Approaching a corner I’m invariably carrying massive speeds. The brakes are more than up to the task, although I can feel there’s more than one thing going on when I press the pedal. That said, the way the job of slowing the car is switched between regenerative braking (up to 0.5G purely using the resistance of the motors when I back off the power) and the PCCB discs and callipers is pretty incredible. Brake feel isn’t perfect, but it’s nothing I can’t make up for with familiarity and sensitivity. Also impressive is the balance of the car on trail braking, and unless I’m very abrupt with the stoppers while the car is loaded up, the 918 remains stable as I brake and turn.

Once I’ve got the car slowed, the transition to corner turn-in generates a smidge of understeer which quickly disappears as the clever electronics do their thing and fire the front end towards the apex. Body roll is minimal and the stance of the 918 is racecar flat through the transitions, although there is no disguising that this is a heavy car, a fact highlighted when it drops a car length or two to the nimbler Turbo S through that phase of the corner.

For a car with 944lbft of torque it’s miraculous how early and aggressively I can get on the throttle on corner exit. I stamp the super responsive pedal earlier and earlier every lap and the Spyder just picks up and goes without drama or fuss, rocketing out of corners at barely believable speeds. The exit traction of the 918 is its most impressive performance feature.

I have to remind yourself that the 918 has another party trick up its sleeve and isn’t just about pure performance. The hybrid aspect of the Spyder is equally impressive; you can plug it into the wall and get full charge faster than most smart phones and then travel for 30km on electric power alone. A brief drive around the centre of Valencia also highlights the surprising usability of the 918. It has great forward visibility, a fantastic PDK gearbox, brilliant sound system and a comfortable ride that irons out most road imperfections. It even has a removable roof that stows in the front boot for wind-in-your bald-spot motoring. There are of course concessions as rear visibility is poor, there’s zero inside storage space and the fixed back seats are too upright to be considered comfortable, but as hypercars go it’s pretty practical.

My time in the 918 Spyder left me a bit bewildered and I would have liked more than the miserly amount of time Porsche gave us to scratch beneath the surface of a car that clearly has several layers. However, the 918 is undoubtedly a technological marvel, particularly when you consider that Porsche developed it in just 34 months from green light to finished article. The complexity of the systems at work is mind-bogglingly impressive and as a driving experience it’s unlike anything I’ve experienced before. There is so much to take in and absorb.

However. Based on my brief taste, I don’t think the 918 is a worthy successor to the great Carrera GT in terms of pure driving enjoyment, nor was it ever likely to be, considering the hybrid burden it carries. Porsche’s engineers insist that the 918 is better off due to the presence of the electric motors and I believe them when they say they make the car faster, but a great driver’s car isn’t just about raw speed or lap time. I can’t help but wonder just how incredible the 918 would have been if Porsche had set out to make the best possible performance car rather than the best possible hybrid performance car. I guess we’ll never know.

Porsche 918 Spyder
Engine: V8, 4593cc, two electric motors
Power: 887bhp @ 8500rpm (combined)
Torque: 944lb ft @ 6600rpm (combined)
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Front suspension: Double wishbone, gas dampers, PASM
Rear suspension: Multilink, gas dampers, PASM
Brakes: Vented and drilled carbon ceramic discs, 410mm front, 390mm rear
Wheels: 9.5J x 20-inch front, 12.5 J x 21 rear
Tyres:  265/35 ZR 20 front, 325/30 ZR 21 rear
Weight (kerb) 1674kg
0-100kph: 2.6sec
Top speed: 345kph

Categories: Car Review,Road


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