MOTOR goes max attack at Phillip Island in Porsche’s 652kW hypercar.
Didn't you drive the 918 about a year ago? Where's your comparison with this, P1 and LaFerrari?
It's coming! True, we've already reported on 918, thanks to our man in Europe, Georg Kacher, but this was the first, and only time we'll get to drive it in Australia. So consider this a local test - and, at Phillip Island, a very fast local test.
What are the specs again?
In the middle there's a 4.6-litre naturally-aspirated V8, the same in Porsche's RS Spyder prototype racecar, cranking out 447kW at 8700rpm and 540Nm at 6700rpm, thanks to a 9150rpm rev limiter and 13.5:1 compression ratio. Fairly peaky, you might be thinking, and you're right – that's why Porsche also fits two electric motors, one in the front, one in the rear.
On top of the V8's 447kW and 540Nm the electric motors contribute a further 210kW and 585Nm which would still be considerable without that howling V8. And remember, that's 585Nm from 1rpm. Combined, the 918 makes 652kW at 8500rpm, and between 917Nm and 1280Nm, depending on the gear (the higher gear you're in, the more torque available). When you've got 1634kg to shuffle that makes for one ludicrously fast car.
How fast are we talking?
0-100km/h in 2.6 seconds, 0-200km/h in 7.2 seconds, quarter mile in 9.9 seconds, on to a top speed of 345km/h. The crazy part is, the thing will do 3.1L/100km, too.
That's only because it has an electric mode, right?
Correct. There's a dial on the steering wheel, like a Ferrari manettino, where you can select between four modes – E-Power, Hybrid, Sport-Hybrid and Race-Hybrid. In E-Power mode the 918 glides around silently; it can do around 30km on electric power alone. Even in electric-only mode you'll embarrass cars like a Toyota 86 at the lights – silently, with no engine at all, the 918 will do 0-100km/h in just over seven silent seconds. And it feels fast, too, because there's no engine roaring as it pulls through gears – it's just silent, eerie thrust, the building of tyre noise and a subtle but cool electric motor whine.
From a 240V outlet the 918 will fully recharge in less than four hours. Or plugged into one of those newfandangled quick charging sockets we're starting to see at shopping centres? 25 minutes. Or you can put the car in "Race Hybrid" mode and, say you're on the freeway, if you put the PDK auto in manual mode and hold the thing at 5000rpm, the car will fully recharge its own flat battery in 20 minutes. Seriously, this thing is nuts.
Why does it look like it's wearing Dame Edna Everage's glasses?
This car has the optional "Weissach" package – think of it as a 918 GT3, sort of. There's beautiful, wet-looking, glossy exposed carbonfibre everywhere, and in a car that's had all the fat stripped from it, Porsche goes a step further to find another 41kg of savings. Porsche got a little OCD with the weight saving – sound-deadening is reduced, you get gorgeous forged magnesium wheels, but even the balls in the wheel bearings are ceramic instead of steel to save weight.
There's no paint – Porsche wraps the car in a special weight-saving film instead. And Porsche has replaced steel bolts with titanium ones where it can get away with it. All this means the 918 Spyder Weissach is a tenth quicker to 200km/h and 300km/h, a bit noisier inside, and makes you a little more anxious about crashing it. Oh, and you can option some cool retro sticker liveries, like a Martini livery, which will probably be more to people's taste than this red and white one...
So what does 0-100 in 2.6 seconds feel like?
First and second gear is just violent. You could use all the worn-out metaphors you liked – it has afterburners, getting flung from a giant rubber band, etc – but really, the acceleration is just disorientating, it's that brutal. When I gave it full throttle in the first few gears, there was this sensation of my brain wincing, "oh, jesus" and struggling to process what was coming in through my eyeballs. I've personally been in some seriously fast cars in my time and in terms of acceleration, this is the fastest. And the 918's punch off apexes, thanks to incredible all-wheel traction, is just savage.
What'd it do down the straight?
I wasn't looking at the speedo when I was driving (was a bit distracted). But MOTOR got a ride with Mattias Hoffsuemmer, Head Instructor for 918, and we saw 293km/h before faceplanting the glovebox on the brakes into Phillip Island's turn one.
Utterly berserk levels of grip. So get this, the 918 is really a little bit of a supercar fatty even in Weissach mode, at 1634kg, by virtue of its hybrid system. For example the Carrera GT weighed 1250kg. But Porsche says the 918's centre of gravity is lower than the wheel nuts. Sitting low in the 918, in a nest of carbonfibre, it feels wide, like you're driving a street luge. And the sensation on the track – when your brain has half-adjusted to the acceleration – is the weight is crazy low in the car, which means almost zero body roll, perfect change-of-direction (this thing would win the Slalom World Championship) and if you go too fast into a corner, the 918 doesn't really get upset – it just gently overstresses its monster tyres, and understeers, or oversteers, in a way that's clean, predictable and super-friendly.
So it's easy to drive fast?
Fast being the key word there, yes, when your brain has adjusted to the borderline-suicidal corner entry speeds, the crazy mid-corner speed, and getting-fired-from-a-cannon, brutal acceleration, the 918 is in fact quite friendly to drive quick. Importantly it wants to work with you, and be your mate, rather than biting your face off in traditional supercar fashion. And the V8 sounds incredible – there's a crankshaft spinning at 9150rpm not far from the base of your spine, and you're fully aware. It sounds petrifying yet still strangely polite, loud in volume and sending vibration through you like your skeleton is a stressed chassis member. The noise from the thing is just otherworldly.
Cease talking and take my money.
Well, about that. Unfortunately no 918s can be registered in Australia. In fact, Porsche Cars Australia looked at bringing a few in but they just got too expensive with all our taxes, ie, $1.5m, so they bonked it on the head. Maybe a 918 will come to Australia one day, says Porsche, but it'll be used, and probably quite a few years from now.
So what's happening to this Dame Edna version?
It's got a ticket out of the country at some stage. Its build number is just 000 – when Porsche puts this on a car’s build plate, it means it won't be sold to a customer. Indeed, Porsche is making 918 – as in, nine-hundred and eighteen – 918s, and they're all sold. In fact, this car we drove could end up crushed. True story.
Yep, development cars like this are destroyed. About 20 development cars were built, says Porsche, and two or three will end up as promo cars or museum dust shelves, while it'll be to the scrapheap for the rest. Which makes us sad, naturally, as it probably does you – but we're just glad we got to drive one and experience the lunacy. MOTOR's Aussie drive of the 918 was maddeningly, depressingly brief, but it's imprinted itself in our consciousness in a way no other car, short of a P1 or LaFerrari, could.
Is the 918 fun? Sure, but it’ll be sweaty, nervous laughter, hands shaking, needing a good lie down afterwards. Having awed you with its spaceship acceleration, nuts cornering talent, absurd mid-corner speed and brutal brakes – its sheer ability as a performance car – it simply sucks the words from your brain, and leaves you speechless, and you come away with respect for what is one actually special, devastatingly quick car.
Grab MOTOR's July issue for the full nitty-gritty of the 918 driving experience.
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