When saying the names Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche, hybrids are not what it usually thought of. In the modern age when everything that be labelled a device is now dubbed, ‘smart’ it seems only natural that the old elite have to change their ways too. For decades, all three of these manufacturers has dished out timeless classics that essentially went faster than everything else in the world, but with a sense of surprise and sometimes extravagant flair too. Ferrari has always been a racing car for the road but even they have been forced to approach new technologies despite desperately trying to cling to a vague notion of simply pushing out one larger engine after another. It was a non-sustainable activity that was bound to meet with increasing pressure from government legislation. No longer is it okay to produce cars that destroy the planet with one turn of their ignition key, no matter how few are made and even fewer miles are driven in them.
Today, these manufacturers have moved on – perhaps reluctantly – but they have moved on and in the direction of hybrid power. In typical Ferrari fashion, they approached the subject from a purely race standpoint. If they were to add electronics into the powertrain, they would do it in the same way as they do for Formula One. To provide maximum power. Porsche on the other hand, had a slightly different approach. Theirs was to make a plug-in hybrid that would be capable of insane speed but equally waft through a city in eerie silence. McLaren were squarely sat in the middle as they were torn between creating a new hypercar that would inevitably receive comparison to their ridiculously enviable first attempt, the F1. They went the route of a plug-in hybrid too, but to keep weight down only gave it a tiny battery, enough for a few miles electric range, but no more. Since these three cars first hit the news, there has been countless talk and rumour as to which is the best. A relative term, I grant you and one that you shall not find a clear answer to in these pages. Every person will have a difference of opinion and none are incorrect. However, to delve a little further into this fascinating world of hyper hybrids, we met with someone who can actually give a reasoned and first hand opinion about all three.
Paul Bailey is a British millionaire who made his fortune the right way – by working hard for it. He sold his company for many millions but rather than sit idly by wasting time in the Bahamas before an inevitable early death amongst silk sheets, he has instead dedicated his time to his passion for cars. He and his wife Selena have amassed a collection of some 70 exotic supercars. Selling the company merely allowed time for Paul to pursue another of his passions; driving the cars.
Bailey has transitioned himself from multi-national corporate to race driver. Having first stepped into the racing seat as late as 2010, while for many simply taking part might suffice, Bailey is a fast learner and in it to win it. On his first attempt he managed to win the Pirelli Ferrari Open and since then, he and teammate
Andy Schulz have accrued quite the collection of trophies. Paul finished runner-up in Class 1 with a Ferrari 430 GT2 in 2012 before taking the top podium position the following year in an unrestricted Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3. Bailey is a privateer racer, but the sort that actually wins races.
Off track Paul enjoys his private collection of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Porsche and more. However, I’m here to talk to him about three cars in particular. Three cars that are currently likely hung on the walls of many a school kid. Three supercars that encompass the very essence that makes a car, ‘super’. They are, the Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder. And, they’re all hybrid.
“You had to be invited to buy one”, says Paul of the Ferrari LaFerrari, clearly honoured he was contacted by them. “Ever since I was a little boy, I always wanted a Ferrari,” he adds.
The Ferrari is a beautiful car to look at. The finish to the revealed carbon-fibre is as near perfect as you could ever hope to see. The distinctive transparent engine cover Ferrari’s are so famous for doesn’t disappoint and externally, there’s nothing to indicate that it is a hybrid at all. In some ways, you can sense an almost reluctance by the designers to display anything about the car as being hybrid. In every other way, it is typical Ferrari. Firstly, it looks like one being somehow both aggressive and dainty at the same time, like the stallion portrayed on the badge. This car’s dark red, which appears brighter in photos than it does in real life, gives it an almost subtle appearance. Of course, if parked at the shops, there’s no doubting that every teenager within spitting distance will be open jawed and happy snappy with their iPhone but given its company called Porsche and McLaren, it is somehow the less ostentatious of the three. That’s not something you’d expect to say of Modena’s greatest and fastest hit to date. I ask Paul which of the three cars he would jump into, “Given the keys to all three at once, I choose the Ferrari every time.” he says without hesitation. “I don’t think it has anything to do with the design, build or hybrid technology or the delivery of performance. I think it is because as a young boy, I always aspired to own a Ferrari. When I received the letter from them, asking whether I wanted to be added to the list to buy the new top of the range Ferrari, a tear rolled down my face because I’d been collecting Ferrari’s for 22 years and had raced them for five. I absolutely love them.”
It’s an interesting choice, given that the other two cars are both plug-in hybrids, which the Ferrari is not. Paul continues, “Ferrari used hybrid power on this car purely for performance. It was nothing to do with the fact that there might be lower emissions. It’s important to note as there is no facility to run it on battery alone, although there is a paid upgrade you can buy to allow you to move it around the garage, but only at 5km/h, so it doesn’t count.”
The two other cars exhibit similar performance on paper, but Paul says there is more to it than that. For the LaFerrari, the battery is replenished via regenerative braking and the engine in a couple of minutes. “It’s astonishing how fast it recharges,” says Paul, “around the circuit, the LaFerrari provides power every single time you need it, all day long. It simply doesn’t run out of hybrid power.” Effectively, the Ferrari uses its electric motor to fill in the gaps in the powerband, inherent in any combustion engine. It means that power delivery is near linear and that acceleration is relentless. “For me, as a performance vehicle, the LaFerrari sits at the top,” Paul adds.
Of course, being the only mild-hybrid here, the LaFerrari also benefits from being the lightest and theoretically the most powerful too. If a hypercar should only be measured in one thing, it is power and the Ferrari has acres of it. Mild-hybrids are being used for performance vehicles more than may initially meet the eye. Formula One and the World Endurance Championship are two notable examples of the highest levels of motor racing that both employ hybrids. The latter example has not been won by any other technology since hybrids were first introduced there. LMP1 cars tend to use flywheel technology, which is very different from the battery electric motor combination used in Formula One and the three hypercars here, but it offers the similar principle of massive instant torque delivery while the combustion engine is still playing catch up.
Although Paul’s reasoning will likely cause debate amongst many, he has more experience in all three than anyone else on earth. “I’m going to claim that I’ve used all three of my cars more than anybody else in the world. We’ve already done 8,000 miles on the P1 and just under 5,000 on the LaFerrari and 918 Spyder.”
Paul’s cars are no trailer queens and instead he practically uses them as everyday machines. They receive a full on routine of pampering and careful hand washing, but it is nice to witness black streaks on the paintwork where a rubber marble from a race track has left its mark.
If the Ferrari sits at the top of the performance tree for the three cars, at the other end of the hyper hybrid scale is the Porsche 918 Spyder. Its design approach was very different to the Ferrari’s as it was always intended to reduce fuel consumption and emissions as well as provide massive performance. It highlights the ‘green’ technology available today and for other Porsche models too, including the Panamera and Cayenne, which are both available in plug-in form. To drive, the difference between the Porsche and Ferrari is that the Porsche takes quite a bit longer to recover its battery power once depleted but while the battery still has charge, it is capable of giving the Ferrari a run for its money. It has more torque although carrying an additional 390 kilos mostly offsets any advantage this might have offered. When driven hard on the track is when the performance differential is most noticeable, but only once the batteries have run out. It is still an astonishingly quick car but it can’t compete with the Ferrari. The big benefit the Porsche has over the Ferrari is that it sports a [slightly] smaller engine and as Paul says, “You can get more than 30 mpg, which from a 900bhp car is hugely impressive. In terms of the technology, in my opinion, the Porsche is ahead of the others,” he adds.
Paul goes onto to explain, “It has an extended range compared to the other two cars and Porsche have evidently designed the car to be run in electric mode as that is the default setting when turning the car on. The P1 and LaFerrari both start with the engine running by default.”
It appears as though a mild-hybrid setup is better suited to outright performance, whereas a plug-in hybrid is better for the road. Understandably, the McLaren sits between the Ferrari and Porsche, although it is the rarest of all three being one of only 375 examples. Paul is understandably proud that his car was the second to be delivered and the first in the world to a UK customer.
McLaren had the arduous task of following their previous creation, the F1, but Paul thinks that going hybrid made sense. “By making it a hybrid, I think they attracted more attention than they otherwise would, if it had been just an ordinary car,” he says.
As mentioned, the P1 rumbles into life with the engine on, although it can be switched to electric or hybrid mode. EV range is roughly 6 miles, but it takes the longest of the three to recharge. Although it is a plug-in hybrid, it behaves more like a mild-hybrid and that has its qualities and negative traits. For one thing, it too will run out of puff if driven hard at a track. Paul has first-hand experience of this as a part of what he does now is to run a charitable company offering experiences in the hyper hybrids. One of these experiences entails Paul and fellow race drivers driving passengers along a runway to experience a true 200 mph. However, to reach this speed time and time again, the P1 and 918 both need to be allowed to recharge their batteries a little before making a run. Paul says, “Once they are depleted, the only way we can guarantee reaching 200 mph is to drive the cars at 50-60 mph along the perimeter track for a couple of miles to get at least one bar on the battery gauge. That’s enough to give the performance needed to reach 200 mph. If you don’t, you can still reach mid-190’s, but you won’t achieve the magic 200 mph. It is noticeably different. The LaFerrari on the other hand, didn’t run out of power at all.”
Batteries are therefore a burden when it comes to all day track driving, which Paul rightly points out is the only truly appropriate location to test them to their full ability. The batteries are the obvious reason as to why the Porsche is heaviest of the three although interestingly the suspension in the Ferrari is unexpectedly a softer setup. All the cars are built using beautifully crafted carbon- fibre which makes the body exceptionally rigid. If you run over a pebble, you can feel it – through the car, the steering and even through the seat to your body. However, the Ferrari has an option to soften the suspension, whereas on the Porsche there’s a button to make it stiffen For Paul, in terms of everyday use the Ferrari wins as a complete package as going down the road to the shops the Ferrari exhibits a more road friendly ride with its softer setting. However, contrary to the apparently superior mild-hybrid system on track, the Ferrari loses out a little to the others as it exhibits more body roll when cornering.
Of course, with two of the cars being plug-in hybrids charging them is advisable. To this end, Paul tells me that each of the three cars,
including the Ferrari, should be stored plugged in at all times to keep the batteries conditioned. He continues, “It’s probably because they assume the cars won’t be used much and keeping them plugged-in keeps the batteries in check, but also they all have a standard 12V battery as well as the hybrid battery.”
Conventionally, the 12V battery in an average car is only used for starting the engine and running ancillaries indirectly once on the move. While driving, the alternator keeps the battery topped up so that the battery is fully charged and ready for an engine restart. The battery naturally depletes a little as time goes by, to the point when it might not have enough power to turn the engine over. If that happens, it’s a simple case of a phone call to a friend and the use of some jump leads.
With the hybrids, it doesn’t work that way. The 12V battery starts losing its voltage and at a certain level it shuts down the car’s battery completely. For example, on a traditional car you might still be able to start the engine with 11 Volts, but for the hybrids at, say, 11.5 Volts the whole system shuts down and you’re forced to enter the car manually and try to find a way to access the 12V battery. Paul adds, “You can’t
simply start the car and instead you have to get a specialist charger to come and jump-start the vehicle. All three of the cars have required callouts just so I could get into them and get them started.”
Paul speaks from experience although he says it isn’t bitter, “When you’re lucky enough to get an early delivery of a car, I’m perfectly happy to work with a manufacturer to advise them of any real world problems that their test drivers might not have experienced. However, all three of the manufacturers agree that by keeping them plugged in should avoid these problems.”
As has been advised from others in the industry, a lack of use is actually more harmful to batteries than excessive use because the batteries deteriorate. On this note, I ask Paul whether he drives the McLaren and Porsche in EV ad hybrid mode or solely relies on the engine. He answers, “When I bought these cars, I never thought I’d ever use them in battery mode. I was wrong. For me, it’s a great experience enjoying the cars as hybrids and I think it makes them unique.”
I never thought I’d ever use them in battery mode. I was wrong.
Paul Bailey, owner of LaFerrari, P1 and 918 Spyder
Paul gives me an example of a recent experience when the silent nature of electric drive worked to his benefit. He and Selena recently
participated in a rally in Italy, where they took the Porsche to drive together. On this occasion, they chose the Porsche not because it was a plug-in hybrid but instead because it is the only one of the three cars to have a removable roof. “Everyone at the rally went through the start line with engines roaring. But, Selena and I just drove through in total silence which impressed the crowd much more.”
Their experience reminds me of my time spent in the superb BMW i8. I ask Paul what he thinks of it, as although not in the same league for speed as his three much more exclusive cars, it offers nearly all the other attributes and at a fraction of the cost. “I love the i8,” he says, “It looks fantastic and whereas most cars at motor shows you see remain as concepts, BMW actually went ahead with it. They designed a car and said, ‘yeah let’s build the thing,’ and I applaud BMW for that.” The price difference between the LaFerrari, P1, 918 Spyder and i8 is enormous with the Porsche costing almost half that of the Ferrari and the McLaren sitting in-between them. The i8 might cost a fraction of the others, but arguably you’re still paying a premium for it because it has batteries. It raises the question as to whether hybrids are actually good value. In the case of the hyper hybrids, there is little to say otherwise since comparable cars in respect of performance (Tesla Model S P90D excluded) cost similar money or indeed more like the Bugatti Veyron. Paul says, “People pay a premium for a hybrid sports car today, but in the coming years that won’t happen. A £100,000 pound BMW sports car is a lot of money, but in the coming years the cost of production will be reduced and volumes will increase leading to lower cost per unit. In the end, batteries will be cheap enough to be installed in most cars so that we see better priced hybrid cars, rather than pure EVs for the general public,” offers Paul as his opinion. It’s likely too, as manufacturers including Porsche and BMW are using their ‘halo’ cars, the i8 and 918 respectively, to showcase their brand’s hybrid tech knowhow. At the top end of the market, premium brands like Rolls-Royce and Bentley are expected to begin bolting batteries into their already several tonne cars. They’ll do this to reduce emissions, increase power and refinement plus keep up with competing marques. Ultimately, it may not be by choice, but customers may well end up demanding it. If Porsche, Ferrari and McLaren have already done it, others are sure to follow.
Alarmingly, some have criticised Paul for using his cars and putting the miles on the odometers that he has. However, the mileage added hasn’t been out of a particular passion for drawing elevens’ or showing off at track days. Instead the cars are often driven for charity. Paul and Selena offer track day experiences in their cars with all the proceeds going to small charities, including for terminally ill children and injured soldiers in the UK. “We wanted to put something back into the community as we had been so lucky in life and we raise as much money as we can for it. We’ve raised more than £44,000 this year already”, says Paul.
It’s admirable to see someone not only make use of his prised possessions, but also to do so for a greater cause. He continues, “Next year, we’re going to be offering 200 mph runs down a motorway in the hyper hybrids but the difference will be you get to drive. It won’t be cheap and we’ll be running it only over six days, but we’re looking to raise £75,000-100,000. That’s life changing money for these kids.”
These three cars are exhilarating in every respect. They represent the creme de la creme of motoring achievement to date. While on the one hand they offer outstanding performance in a dazzling package, they are in many ways the first of their kind. They’re likely to be the trend setters that others follow and although they might be considered hyper by today’s standards, already we’re seeing electric cars including the Tesla Model S achieve similar accelerative speed in a standard road car capable of carrying seven people. It is astonishing to witness the speed of vehicular progress. Just one year ago, nothing came close to these cars on the road, yet already there are rivals waiting in the wings. Are hyper hybrids relevant today and to the average motorist? Yes, very much so. They themselves may only ever be owned by a privileged few, but they’re testament to the success of hybrid technology. They’re what will make you and I think owning a hybrid car is both plausible and reliable. Speed may not be what most road going hybrids are all about, but it is interesting to see that they’re both capable of this and providing reduced emissions. The push for hybrid and indeed electrified powertrains is still in its infancy yet we already have cars capable of incredible feats. If this is the tip of the iceberg, I for one am looking forward to below the surface.
Koenigsegg Regera Hybrid 1500 bhp and 2,000 Nm torque clears any concern over a lack of power and 0-248 mph takes just 20 seconds. Interestingly there is just one gear for the electrified 5.0-litre V8 and a 30-mile EV range is possible.
Honda/Acura NSX Featuring no less than three electric motors and a twin- turbo V6 petrol engine, the 2016 Acura NSX will be monstrously fast. Using electric motors to aid steering ought to make this tech fest handle as good as it looks too.
Worthy of mention…
Jaguar famously created the Jaguar C-X75 hybrid hypercar concept and got as far as making three working prototypes before canning the entire project. Bugatti’s Veyron replacement is said to be a hybrid, featuring a whopping 1,400bhp. Last but not least, American PSC Motors has announced work on a 1,700bhp monster to take on Koenigsegg has begun.
OPPOSITE In good company, the BMW i8 can certainly hold its own against the Ferrari LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder. The McLaren sadly missed its moment of glory in our photo shoot, as it broke down while refuelling nearby after it became stuck between race and road modes.
BELOW E-power cover hides the Porsche’s plug socket.
ABOVE Interior is half racecar, half road car. Creature comforts are plentiful. Twin rear exhausts and acres of wire mesh are pure racecar.
OPPOSITE The P1 is a fantastic looking machine, full of drama and shape – everything a super/ hypercar should be. Interior is void of any creature comforts, this car is all about speed. Carbon fibre is visible everywhere for both function and beauty – the finish is outstanding.
After a few laps, serious heat is built up and is clearly visible leaving the mid-mounted engine. Rearview is curvaceous and almost graceful. The wing is functional, not a boy’s toy.
Details are to be found everywhere and although functional, everything everywhere is designed and executed to perfection; areal engineers tool. Hints of insulating gold foil are visible through the car’s rear gills.
Given the keys to all three at once, I choose the Ferrari every time.
Paul Bailey, owner of LaFerrari, P1 and 918 Spyder.
A sharp sharklike snout means business, but it still manages to be both pretty and delicate. The engine bay is typical Ferrari; a beautifully finished work of art.
The interior is full of buttons and hints to Ferrari’s Formula One roots. However, still a road car, it remains comfortable.
The Ferrari was born for the track and there it comes alive, complete with red hot glowing carbon-fibre brake discs. Despite numerous supercars on track trying their best, it embarasses most with its shocking speed. While they are trailered away, the LaFerrari is driven home, like the true GT sports car it is.
|Engine||6.2-litre V12||3.8-litre V8||4.6-litre V8|
|Power (comb.)||950 bhp||903 bhp||887 bhp|
|Torque (comb.)||970 Nm||900 Nm||1,275 Nm|
|Max Speed||217 mph||217 mph||211 mph|
|0-62 mph||2.9 secs||2.8 secs||2.8 secs|
|EV Range||Nil||6.2 miles||12 miles|
|CO2 Emissions||330 g/km||194 g/km||72 g/km|
|Weight (kerb)||1,250 kg||1,450 kg||1,640 kg|