9 things you need to know about the Porsche 918 SpyderMar 26th, 2015
Want to know what it’s like to drive a Porsche 918 Spyder? I was lucky enough to attend a training session in Spain where we spent two days learning about it in-depth, including time spent behind the wheel on a track – one that I’d never driven on before.
Several months on, it’s a car that I can’t stop thinking about or talking about. Here are the most interesting things about the car – and what you’d likely be most curious about.
1. Perhaps the biggest and most pleasant surprise was that it felt like, well, a car. Despite the space-rocket levels of technology in it, it didn’t feel alien or unfamiliar to drive as it juggled between gasoline and electric, as it managed regenerative and friction braking, as it juggled power around between the wheels and steered the rears. In some ways, it feels like an 887-hp Cayman, which in my mind is a great compliment.
2. It’s a lot friendlier than I was expecting, too, given the massive power and torque (900+ lb-ft!). Handling is terrifically forgiving, thanks to the massively sticky Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, a surprisingly smooth and flat ride, and incredible stability.
3. The best way to describe the power delivery? If a turbocharged engine builds like a gathering storm, this is like a flash flood: instantaneous and massive power everywhere. But it’s still linear. With seamless shifts from the PDK, the electric motors filling in the low end torque and massive power as you rev to 9,000, it would, in fact, be a bit anticlimactic were it not for the amazing noise the V8 makes as it comes on song. Thankfully, the tailpipes are pretty close to your ears.
4. Before driving the 918, I drove a few laps of the track in a 991 Turbo S, playing follow-the-leader with our instructor. It’s also a hugely powerful all-wheel drive car, like the 918. But it was, in comparison, a lot more work. There’s the turbocharged power delivery to plan around, for one thing; there’s more pitch and roll; and, surprisingly, you actually feel the rear-steer effect in it.
5. The 918’s steering is beautiful. The tires grip, grip, and grip. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that fast around corners because it’s so secure; throw it into a turn at pretty much any speed and it goes right where you want. Then you steal a quick look down at the speedo, see how fast you’re going, and look up and realize, popping out onto the next straight, that you’re about to drive up the ass of the GT3 that’s leading you around the circuit.
6. Some criticism has been leveled at the car’s brake feel being inconsistent between regen and friction. I don’t think it actually has to do with feel. It does have to do with sound. When regenerating under braking, the 918 makes a funny sound – kind of Jetson-y. When it transitions to the ceramics, the sound changes. Pedal feel seemed the same to me, but the overall effect did change, because of the acoustics. Of course it stops on a dime.
7. Like any carbon-bodied car – and particularly one without much sound insulation – you hear everything. It’s not exactly quiet inside, even with the roof on. But the engine noise quickly drowns out pretty much everything. This is not a bad thing.
8. Do I have complaints? Minor ones. The A-pillars are in just the wrong place for me (I sit way forward) – it’s hard to look around left-hand turns at speed. Most 918 buyers will be taller. Rear visibility is pretty horrible. The roof panels eat up most of the trunk space. It’ll cost a lot to fix if you break it (the mesh cover over the engine and exhausts costs more to make than a Panamera body!). And I can’t afford one.
9. People keep comparing the 918 to the Carrera GT. It’s not like the GT at all. The GT was high-tech, but stripped down, willfully minimalist. The better comparison is to the 959 – a car so far ahead of its time, some of its features (height adjustable suspension) still aren’t common on today’s sports cars. The science in this car is sci-fi-grade stuff, things you’ll see trickle down to regular vehicles over decades, not years. What a thing.