THE FUTURE NOW
If you want to know what the future holds for #Porsche
, then take a look at the present. The astonishing 918 Spyder is Porsche’s tech and development platform for future 911s and more, and we managed to blag ourselves a drive in this astonishing machine that makes a 911 Turbo feel pedestrian!
For Porsche’s future, you need look no further than the present and the 918 Spyder hybrid supercar. This technical tour de force is the key to the next generation of 911s and beyond. We take it for a brief encounter of shock and awe.
What’s it like to drive Porsche’s 918 Spyder Hybrid Hypercar? In a word: Easy. And, on the flipside – two words this time: Bloody frightening. Let’s take the ‘easy’ bit. Despite all its ferocious power and its mind-boggling systems, the 918 is, essentially, a two pedal automatic. You jump in, you power up with the turn of a familiar Porsche shaped key (exactly the same as you would find on a base model Boxster) and select D for drive via a dash mounted toggle. Then, disengage the electro handbrake and you’re off, moving silently forward on electric power only. Easy, see.
And the ‘bloody frightening’ bit? Well, the opportunity to drive a 918 isn’t the work of the moment. Porsche GB doesn’t have one on the press fleet – hardly surprising, really. It’s not the sort of car that you just hand out willynilly. Drives have been strictly rationed so we had to take our story from a well-connected freelance journalist, when the 918 was launched in late 2013. So we’ve been looking out for opportunities to sample the 918 and, in particular, drive one for this our 25th Anniversary issue, to illustrate the pinnacle of Porsche development since the inception of 911 & Porsche World in 1990. And, as you can see, we’ve done it.
No, this isn’t some sort of tyre smoking track test. This is a real world drive in a 918, that’s now almost certainly been sold, and one of two – this standard spec car and a Weissach model – on the market with our friends at Specialist Cars of Malton. And fair play to the guys at Malton, and the ever ebuliant John Hawkins in particular, for not laughing down the phone at us, when making that tentative initial enquiry.
However, in the cold light of an equally cold March morning, it’s clear that John is somewhat nervous about the prospect. “So, you want to drive it then,” he says. “We do, John,” sensing the moment could be slipping away. “How far?” “Not very.” Long pause. “Alright, just be bloody careful.”
So, you understand this slight nervousness (understatement) at the prospect of getting behind the wheel, not to mention its £800,000 price tag (well above list, but then the 918 is a sell out), and the fact that an unnamed Liverpool footballer was due to come and view it. Yes, I was ‘bloody frightened,’ just from the sheer responsibility. Actually driving the thing? Well, that’s a doddle.
In electro mode the 918 cruises near silently through Malton town centre, making just a low-pitched whine that rises and falls with the ebb and flow of the traffic. It sounds like Joe 90’s twin-jet powered flying car, but I’m showing my age a bit. There is, though, a Gerry Anderson sense of looking into the future. Sure hybrids are nothing new, and I’ve driven Cayenne and Panamera hybrids on electric only power, but somehow this is different. This is a proper supercar, and its hybrid functions are not just for eco gain, they’re for performance, too. The fact that it’s road tax exempt, qualifies for the government’s eco grant and can enter the London Congestion Zone FOC, is a delicious quirk of the laws governing hybrid cars. True to our word, we’re not going to go far.
Hell, this thing has got less than 100kms on the clock. We’re not going to scratch the surface of its capabilities, which on the road would frankly be madness. We’re going to give it a bit of a prod, turn round, hand the keys over and breath a sigh of relief.
Even in electro only mode (that’s 226bhp), the 918 will get to 60 as quickly as a Golf GTI and that motor has strong, immediate thrust, too. There are three modes on offer. Pure electric, on which the #918
will travel for about 15-miles, Hybrid, in which the engine cuts in when required, and Sport, whereby both power sources work together. We switch from electro only to Hybrid and wait for the engine’s wake up call. And when it comes it’s quite a shock, chiming in with a feral V8 race engine bark, the twin exhausts exiting from the rear deck just behind your head. It’s like the industrial revolution arriving at the party all of a sudden. And then as the speed drops the noisy V8 cuts out and it’s back to silently gliding along, listening the birds tweeting and the lambs frolicking. Well, not quite, but you get the idea.
You would be unlikely to use Hybrid mode all the time, because the engine’s arrival is frankly just too rude. Better to stick to electric only for town work and Sport for the open road, which, let us tell you, is other-worldly. So seamlessly does the combo of electric motors and petrol engine work together, to produce the combined 887bhp, it’s near impossible to define what is doing what at any moment, although the feeling is that the electric motors are providing the low-end muscle, while the petrol V8 is joining in at 3000rpm plus. Whatever, the effect is mind-altering, as it should be. The #Porsche-918
has about the same amount of power as a hybrid Formula One engine, which is a sobering thought.
The road is no place for the #Porsche-918-Spyder
, well, not the narrow North Yorkshire lanes that we’re on. A couple of bursts of acceleration are enough. The 991 Turbo S that we arrived at Malton in is about enough, enough to get you into real trouble. It’s hard to conceive of anything faster, but there is and it’s much faster and much, much cleverer too. And that’s what it’s all about, really. Porsche has taken hybrid and eco technology and exploited it in ways that we wouldn’t have thought possible a few years ago. Yes, some of the eco figures are a bit contrived, but so what, Porsche didn’t write the rules. The future is here now and we’ve driven it. True, we barely stroked its potential, but as glimpses go I’m glad I’m going to be around for another 25-years, just to see what’s coming next. Glad to have handed the keys back, too. Cheers, John, we owe you one.