Porsche 918 spyder
Surely there’s no better way to confirm the blistering quickness of the Porsche 918 Spyder than on a hot-lap at Phillip Island, riding shotgun with German race instructor Mattius Hoffsuemmer.
Hoffsuemmer has put in over 40,000 kilometres behind the wheel of the Spyder, testing it at many of the world’s most famous race circuits. It’s no surprise he’s supremely adept with Porsche’s ultimate super sports car.
But for those, like me, who have only ever seen the car as a static display – a few facts and figures are worth considering before we strap in.
The two-seater 918 Spyder is a mid-engine plug-in hybrid, road-legal supercar, powered by a naturally aspirated 4.6-litre V8 engine developing 447kW at 8700rpm (maximum engine speed is 9150rpm) and two electric motors delivering an additional 210kw, for a combined total of 652kW. Peak torque is between 917 and 1280Nm, depending on the gear.
A seven-speed dual-clutch (PDK) handles power to the rear axle, while the second electric motor has a mechanical effect on the front axle, so electric all-wheel drive is available almost at all times and performance is beyond ballistic. The 918 Spyder can blast from 0-100 kilometres per hour in a staggering 2.6 seconds. It will hit 200km/h in an inconceivable 7.3 seconds. The quarter-mile sprint is all over in 10 seconds flat, or 9.9 seconds if you option the ‘Weissach Package’. Top speed is an autobahn-devouring 345km/h.
But it’s not just the Porsche’s appetite for sheer speed that impresses, even more convincing is the fact that on September 4 2013, a Porsche 918 Spyder fitted with the ‘Weissach Package’ set a new lap record at the infamous Nurburgring Nordschliefe, achieving a time of 6:57 minutes, making it the first series production car to break the 7 minute barrier – and all this from an emissions-green hybrid road car.
Despite such breathtaking performance, the Spyder is also fantastically fuel-efficient. Porsche claims CO2 emissions are a Prius-punishing 72 grams per kilometre, while fuel consumption is listed as 3.1 litres per 100kms – even in standard (non-Weissach) guise.
Thankfully though, we’re not here at Phillip Island to test those frugality claims. Rather, we’re here to get behind the wheel of one of the quickest road cars ever built and have a proper crack at it.
Prior to the hot lap with Matthias, I had my own moment of glory behind the wheel of the 918, but only after a couple of warm-up sessions in the hard-core 911 GT3 and the ballistic 911 Turbo – in an attempt to get accustomed to the mind-warping acceleration of this super-powered Porsche.
I’ve driven the GT3 at Queensland Raceway on a previous occasion and was mesmerised by its on-track performance – a proper racer for the road – though the fiercely fast Porsche 911 Turbo was a new experience, especially on the blindingly fast Phillip Island circuit.
Any preconceived negative notion you might have against the validity of hybrid-powered supercars is well and truly quashed from the moment you strap in to the 918 and leave pit lane.
It looks the business, especially with those top-mounted exhaust pipes, it is capable of extreme speeds (on and off the track), and uses next to no fuel in the city. No noise, either.
The Porsche 918 Spyder is a limited edition supercar (only 918 will be produced) and is available in left-hand drive only. The cost is $1.5 million, but bear in mind that more than $300,000 goes directly to the Australian Government as Luxury Car Tax.
Armed with a 3.8-litre flat-six engine developing 383kW and 710Nm (with overboost) of torque, the Turbo can accelerate from 0-100km/h in just 3.2 (with Sport Plus) seconds and 0-200km/h in an eye-watering 10.8 seconds.
Make no mistake; this thing is brutally fast and a noticeable step-up from the purist GT3, at least far as sheer explosive pace goes.
With the junior Porsche sessions over, it’s time to get acquainted with the only 918 Spyder in the country (no pressure, then).
Thankfully, I’ve got Hoffseummer riding shotgun for what should be both a thrilling, if not daunting track experience – at least for me. Of course, he’s also here to make sure that any of this small group of journalists lucky enough to get a steer in the $1.5 million Spyder does so without incident.
The first surprise is that climbing in and out of the 918 is as easy as any other Porsche road car.
Our pace car is a full-blown 991 Porsche Carrerra Cup racer driven by former Carrera Cup champion Craig Baird – are they kidding?
The idea, as Hoffseummer explains it, is to start off in pure electric mode for a couple of corners before rotating through four of the five driving modes as we wind up the pace before a flying lap.
‘E’ for E-Power is the default setting when you turn the key on the left-hand side of the steering wheel. Even in electric mode this thing will still do 150km/h.
Porsche has built a futuristic super sports car for the here and now, a car that would satisfy anyone from the corporate highflyer to a Formula One race driver, and everyone in between.