Porsche 918 Spyder promises electrified performance

Porsche's hybrid super sports car has been a long time coming, but with a total of 887 horsepower on tap, it seems to be worth the wait.

Antuan Goodwin Reviews Editor / Cars
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.
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Antuan Goodwin
5 min read
Car Tech
Watch this: 2014 Porsche 918 Spyder

FRANKFURT -- It's been a long time since we first saw the concept that spawned the Porsche 918 Spyder shown this week here at the 2013 International Motor Show. Fortunately, the 887-horsepower hybrid super sports car that debuted at the show seems to be worth the wait.

Hybrid power train
Let's start just aft of the driver's head in the engine bay where you'll find a 4.6-liter, eight-cylinder engine that produces 608 horsepower. To save weight, the engine uses carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) for components like the oil tank and air intake system, titanium for its connecting rods, a high-strength, lightweight steel for the crankshaft, and a thin-walled alloy steel/nickel exhaust system.

The exhaust system is noteworthy for its top pipes, which fire out of the top of the engine bay, providing the shortest exit path for hot exhaust gases, keeping the weight down thanks to shorter piping, and giving the 918 Spyder a mean, race car look.

Porsche 918 Spyder is a hybrid hypercar (pictures)

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The V-8 engine is connected to a 115kW electric motor and the pair are connected to a seven-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission that has been installed upside down relative to its configuration in other Porsche cars to hang its center of gravity closer to the ground. From the PDK, torque travels to the rear wheels. The 918 can be motivated via the combustion engine, the electric motor, both, or neither. The electric motor can be used to boost the output of the V-8 or the V-8 can be used to spin the electric motor to generate electricity to charge the batteries.

The 918 Spyder gains all-wheel-drive traction thanks to a 95kW e-motor that sits on the front axle. This motor turns the wheel at a single gear ratio, so a decoupler totally disconnects the electric motor from the front wheels at high speeds to prevent over-revving.

Total system output from the gasoline and electric systems is stated at 887 horsepower. Torque is trickier to measure so Porsche gives several numbers, the largest being 940 pound-feet for the complete system in seventh gear. Top speed is stated at 211 mph with 0-to-60 happening in "less than 2.8 seconds."

Electricity is stored in a liquid-cooled 6.8kWh lithium ion battery pack that has been designed to meet the rapid-discharging needs of a performance hybrid. Lithium ion batteries typically don't like being abused like that, but Porsche says that the liquid cooling will help the cells retain their performance and offers a seven-year warranty on the battery pack.

Energy is generated by the electric motors when decelerating or by the gasoline engine when the Porsche's computer deems it necessary. The 918 Spyder can also be plugged in to charge the battery with power from the grid.

The onboard 3.6kW Porsche Universal Charger (AC) will fill the battery with juice from a conventional US 110-volt household electrical wall plug in 7 hours. Install a higher-output Porsche Charging Dock to reduce that charging time to just 2 hours. If even that's too long for you, there's an even faster Porsche Speed Charging Station (DC) that can fully charge the battery of the 918 Spyder in just 25 minutes.

Driving modes
The flexible hybrid power train beneath the 918 Spyder's glossy skin gives the driver five different driving modes to choose from.

E-Power mode is the default operating mode when the battery has a healthy charge. The 918 Spyder will electric-slide for about 18 miles in near silence. Unlike most hybrids' EV modes, in this one the 918 Spyder will still hit 62 mph in 7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 93 mph. Doing so will probably take a nice chunk out of that 18-mile range and once the battery gets low, the 918 switches over to Hybrid mode, which brings the gasoline engine to life to work in tandem with the electric motors for efficient driving.

Fuel economy for the 918 Spyder hasn't been yet announced.

918 Spyder by Porsche

The 918 Spyder's five driving modes give the driver access to silent EV efficiency or raucous V-8 performance.

Josh Miller/CNET

In addition to the Hybrid mode, the 918 Spyder also boasts Sport Hybrid and Race Hybrid modes. In these modes, the gasoline engine is the primary source of power, with the electric motors providing support. In Sport mode, there's still some optimization for efficiency, but the track-ready Race mode uses the electric motors to their maximum potential, draining and charging the battery much more aggressively. Race Hybrid mode also puts the PDK gearbox into a more aggressive setting.

While in Race Hybrid mode, the driver can press a Hot Lap button that throws efficiency to the wind by giving the hybrid system a boost to its full power potential, but only for a few fast laps. The 918 Spyder's battery will be totally drained at the end of those laps, as the system makes maximum use of the electric assist in this mode.

Handling tech
The 918 Spyder is built around a carbon-fiber monocoque; in fact, the entire load-bearing structure that the suspension and engine are attached to is composed of carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) for high rigidity and low weight. The Spyder weighs a scant-for-a-hybrid 3,715 pounds and hangs most of its weight low to the ground, which enhances stability. The sports car also sports a slightly rear-biased 43/57 front-to-rear weight distribution, which Porsche's engineers seem to like.

The 918's suspension and chassis are nearly as high-tech as the engine that they cradle. Between the lightweight body and the wheels is the PASM adaptive suspension, which adjusts to meet the needs of vehicle. The rear wheels are steerable, turning with the front wheels at high speeds to increase stability and counter the fronts at low speeds to increase agility.

The vehicle is also equipped with Porsche Active Aerodynamics (PAA), a system of adjustable aerodynamic elements: a retractable rear wing, a spoiler between the wing's supports, and two adjustable air flaps in the underfloor in front of the front axle that can create "ground effect" downforce. Usually, the spoiler and wing are configured to reduce drag and the flaps are shut. However, in Sport Hybrid and Race Hybrid modes, the wing's angle gets progressively steeper to generate more downforce, the spoiler extends to guide airflow, and the flaps are opened to help with front-end grip.

918 Spyder front end

Active aerodynamic flaps underneath the vehicle open to create downforce and intakes below the headlights open to improve cooling.

Josh Miller/CNET

There are also adjustable air inlets below the headlamps that close when the vehicle is in motion for a smoother aerodynamic face and open when the vehicle 918 needs additional cooling.

Nürburgring record holder
Concurrent with the debut of the 918 Spyder at the Frankfurt show, Porsche announced more news related to Nürburg, Germany, where the Targa-topped roadster set a new production car record for lapping the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife in just 6 minutes, 57 seconds. You can watch and hear the 918 Spyder break that record in the video from Porsche below.