The world caught its first glimpse of the Porsche 918 Sypder plug-in hybrid concept in March 2010 at the Geneva Motor Show. Five months later, Stuttgart announced the two-seater would go into production, after being quietly shown (or not-so-quietly, depending on whom you ask) to a hand-picked group of prospective customers, including the swanky Pebble Beach crowd during the week of the famed golf community's Concours d'Elegance.
With its futuristic, multi-faceted (some say overdone) styling, the 918 may someday take its place as the first Porsche supercar since the long-planned and short-lived Carrera GT, a $440,000 mid-engine which ended production in 2006.
The Porsche 918 Spyder is powered by a 500-horsepower, V8 gasoline-powered engine and two electric motors (one each on the front and rear axle) that generate a combined 160 kilowatts of power, roughly the equivalent of 218 hp, for a total of 718 hp. The powertrain is mated to Porsche's dual-clutch PDK transmission for lightening-quick shifts. Energy is stored in a fluid-cooled lithium-ion battery, which can be charged by plugging into a suitable electrical outlet.
Porsche, known for putting out conservative specs on its cars, claims the 918 Spyder is capable of achieving fuel economy numbers equivalent to 78 miles per gallon. But with a 0-to-100 km/h (about 62 mph) time of less than 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 198 mph, we're guessing most drivers won't be out hypermiling.
Performance of the 918 Spyder is largely determined by one of four driving modes:
E-Drive Mode: This all-electric mode is good for about 16 miles.
Hybrid Mode: Like other two-mode-hybrid systems, the 918 Spyder uses a combination of the electric motors and combustion engine, depending on driving demands. Because driving styles and conditions are so variable, Porsche isn't giving any range or fuel economy numbers right now.
Sport Hybrid Mode: Uses both drive systems, but with heavier focus on performance. Power is biased toward the rear wheels and uses Torque Vectoring for enhanced driving dynamics. No numbers here, either.
Race Hybrid Mode: Full power, with push-to-pass E-Boost. Batteries must be fully charged to use this mode, and no doubt EPA ratings are abysmally low. But you'll look great passing the tool in the Ferrari next to you on the freeway.
The 918 Spyder also converts kinetic energy from braking into electrical energy that gets stored in the battery to provide an on-demand power boost for fast acceleration. But this is not to be confused with KERS, which some might recognize as the promising but sometimes problematic technology found in recent incarnations of Formula 1 cars, as well as Porsche's new experimental 918 RSR racecar.
All that extra technology means extra weight. So cutting bulk on the Porsche 918 Spyder was crucial. Porsche used a race-inspired monocoque body shell made of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFP), as well as magnesium and aluminum throughout the inner workings of the concept car to achieve a curb weight of 3,285 pounds. However, Porsche has yet to tell us what type of roof will be used on the production car, which could tweak that number.