Porsche says the 918 Spyder was developed from a white sheet of paper around its innovative hybrid drive propulsion system.
At its heart is a 4.6-litre V8 derived from the brand’s successful LMP2 RS Spyder racecar, which is capable of revving to 9150rpm. Producing 447kW and 530Nm, the engine has the most power per litre of any naturally aspirated unit in Porsche’s history, easily eclipsing that of the Carrera GT.
The powertrain features a unique ‘top pipe’ tailpipe design, which expels hot exhaust gases via the shortest possible route.
The V8 is coupled to a 115kW electric motor in a parallel hybrid layout, meaning drive can be channelled to the rear axle by either individually by the engine or the electric motor or by both at the same time.
The Porsche 918 Spyder’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic ‘PDK’ transmission underwent a complete redesign for the application, including being flipped upside-down to create a lower mounting position, in turn lowering the entire vehicle’s centre of gravity.
A second electric motor sits on the front axle, sending 95kW to the front wheels at a fixed ratio and facilitating all-wheel-drive functionality for enhanced traction and driving dynamics.
The electric energy for the electric motors is stored in a lithium-ion battery comprising 312 individual cells. Recharging can be completed in between 25 minutes and four hours depending on the chosen charging method.
All of that translates to an overall hybrid system output of 653kW of power and more than 800Nm of torque – the latter delivered between an astonishingly broad 800-5000rpm rev range.
Flattening the throttle off the line sees the speedometer needle pass triple figures in just 2.8 seconds, while blasting to 200km/h takes only 7.9 seconds. Flat out the Porsche 918 Spyder will exceed 340km/h, and can run in pure-electric mode up to 150km/h.
Porsche also recorded a 7min14sec lap around the Nurburgring in Germany with a prototype in September 2012, and expects to shave seconds off that with a follow-up run in the production version.
Despite its brutal performance potential, the 918 is more efficient than most city cars in normal driving conditions, consuming just 3.3 litres per 100km on the combined cycle and emitting 79 grams of CO2
Porsche has developed five distinct operating modes for the 918 Spyder controlled by an intelligent management system activated by a ‘map switch’ on the steering wheel.
‘E-Power’ is the default mode as long as the battery is sufficiently charged. The 918 can operate solely on electric power for approximately 30km, and can still launch from 0-100km/h in under seven seconds despite the engine remaining switched off.
‘Hybrid’ mode brings the combustion engine to life, though the emphasis of propulsion is on maximum efficiency and minimum fuel consumption.
‘Sport Hybrid’ is intended for more dynamic situations. The engine operates continuously and provides the main propulsive force, with the electric motors providing support in the form of boost and improving efficiency of the engine’s operation.
‘Race Hybrid’ focuses the operation of the electric motors, PDK and battery charging for optimum performance at the racetrack.
‘Hot Lap’ accesses all of the available energy in the battery for a few fast laps, pushing every propulsive component of the 918 Spyder to its limit.
For even higher performance, customers can option the 918 with the Weissach package, which reduces weight by approximately 35kg to 1640kg thanks to the use of carbonfibre for the roof, rear wings, mirrors and windscreen frames; alcantara and carbon in the cabin instead of leather and aluminium; the removal of sound insulation material; and the addition of lightweight magnesium wheels. Weissach models are also made visually recognisable by their Porsche heritage-inspired exterior designs.
The driver-focused cabin combines a traditional instrument panel with a touch-sensitive panel that runs the length of the centre console.
The 918 Spyder has been designed, developed and produced by Porsche engineers who build racecars and the brand’s series production specialists. Insight was gained from the development of Porsche’s racecars for the 2014 Le Mans 24-hour, and vice versa.
While Porsche will build just 918 examples of its hybrid hypercar, it insists the 918 Spyder will “act as the gene pool for future Porsche sports cars”.