By Chris Haak
As the Geneva Motor Show is about to open, Porsche has surprised all of us with a third hybrid model – alongside the Cayenne Hybrid and 911 GT3 R Hybrid – at the show. And, although this one is just a concept at this point, it’s something special. It’s also worth noting that Porsche generally does not produce concept cars unless the company intends to put them into production.
So what is the 918 Spyder Hybrid Concept? It’s a low-emission, fuel-efficient, hybrid sports car. Under its hood is a 3.4 liter V8 from the RS Spyder race car, which produces over 500 horsepower. But wait, there’s more: it also has electric motors on the front and rear axles that add another 218 horsepower. Because torque and power peaks don’t occur at the same place on the power curves for both powerplants, you can’t just say it has a “718+ horsepower drivetrain,” but clearly, it’s an extremely powerful one. The engine puts its power to the ground via a 7-speed dual-clutch PDK gearbox.
It’s also very fuel efficient. Thanks to exotic materials such as magnesium, aluminum, and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic, the 918 Spyder Hybrid Concept tips the scales at 3,285 pounds, and returns fuel consumption of 3 liters/100 kilometers (equivalent to 78 mpg US), according to Porsche. The car’s incredible fuel economy numbers makes the fact that it can lap the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife in less than 7:30 minutes, faster than even the Porsche Carrera GT’s time. The 918 Spyder also accelerates from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds and tops out at 198 miles per hour.
Much of the car’s Jekyll-and-Hyde (hairy-chested race car vs. tree hugging plug-in hybrid) personality can be attributed to the four driver-selectable driving modes, which can be chosen using a button on the steering wheel. E-Drive allows the car to travel on batteries alone up to 25 km (16 miles). Hybrid mode automatically transitions between electric power and gasoline engine power based on conditions and needs, whether it be maximum performance or maximum fuel economy, similar to the way a traditional hybrid is set up today. Sport Hybrid mode uses both power sources again, but focuses on performance. Sport Hybrid mode also includes torque vectoring for improved driving dynamics. Finally, Race Hybrid mode focuses on no-holds-barred performance, and – if battery charge levels allow – includes a “push-to-pass” button that boosts electric motor output to fly past the competition as needed.
The car’s interior looks to be very realistic for a flagship supercar. Porsche says that it “offers a glimpse at the potential interior architecture of future Porsche super sports cars.” As noted above, many functions are controlled by buttons on the three-spoke steering wheel. There are three large gauges in the instrument cluster, and it should come as no surprise that the tachometer (with a 9500-RPM redline) is found in the largest one, front-and-center. For a little more entertainment, below is an official Porsche-produced video announcing the concept’s debut.
I think the car looks fantastic, and if Porsche produces the car, as is now expected, and it gets anywhere close to the numbers that the company has put out, the company appears to have done an incredible job of maximizing performance and efficiency. And I thought that the next addition to the Porsche lineup would be a Porsche-bodied version of the Volkswagen Concept BlueSport roadster, shown in Detroit in 2009. That is not to say that a BlueSport-based “baby Boxster” is not in the cards at some point in the future, but for now, let’s enjoy our first glimpse of Porsche’s future performance and technology flagship. Kudos to the folks in Stuttgart.