Porsche 918 – The Tale of Porsche’s Hybrid Hypercar So Far

With the McLaren P1 and the Ferrari LaFerrari still dominating the conversations in some circles when it comes to supercar discussions, it’s perhaps quite easy to forget about Porsche’s upcoming hybrid speed machine – the 918 Spyder.

Indeed, you could argue that the recent announcement of the production car’s full statistics, and letting a few automotive journalists have a quick go in a 918 development prototype, were mostly so Porsche could attempt to get its pride and joy back into the spotlight.

This, if you ask us, is a bit of a shame. Especially as the 918 has a back story that’s as amazing as its claimed 79g/km of CO2 emissions are; if not, more so.

In fact, how about we dabble in the history of Porsche’s premier plug-in performance car?

A Long Time Ago…

Porsche 918 Martini

Theoretically, the 918 project really kicked off when the concept car made its world debut at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show: the incredibly positive reaction was perhaps what really convinced Porsche that they should make a hybrid supercar.

However, to find the moment the Porsche 918 was actually conceived, you have to go further back than that. By about another five or so years.

According to a brief interview with Chris Harris for evo magazine, Wolfgang Durheimer (Porsche’s Head of R&D at the time) declared the project had “more or less started when we finished the Carrera GT”.

To put that into perspective, when Porsche’s engineers downed tools on the Carrera GT, the LaFerrari was still a pipe dream, and McLaren Automotive wasn’t even a glint in Ron Dennis’ steely eyes!

Which perhaps goes some way to backing up the point as summarised in the following subheading…

918: The Most Forward-Thinking Supercar To Date?

Porsche 918 rear

With all the brouhaha over the Porsche 918’s porky weight (1,640kg at its lightest) and the gargantuan batteries that go some way to tipping the scales in that direction, it’s easy to forget that, in principle, the 918’s a hugely innovative car.

Think about it: in 2010, all the Formula One teams that were competing in that season had decided the KERS energy recovery system wasn’t worth bothering with. Yet, in the same year, Porsche had unveiled a supercar (albeit in concept form) that used a nigh-on identical system.

Factor in the car’s active aerodynamics and the incredible focus on shedding as much weight as is humanly possible from the 918’s kerb weight (even the dashboard panel is made up of carbon fibre!), and you genuinely have the recipe for the most technologically impressive and revolutionary supercars to date.

If that’s a tad OTT, then I’ll rephrase and say the 918 is certainly the most sophisticated Porsche you can buy today. That is, as long as you’re the sort of person who’s got approx. £800,000 going spare, and you’d love to spend it all in one massive transaction…

Porsche Could Race It

Porsche 918 RSR

Almost a year after the 918 Spyder concept car debuted at Geneva, Porsche brought back the hybrid supercar for another outing at the North American International Motor Show.

However, this time there was a twist: the 918 now came with a fixed roof, a Gulf Oil-esque paintscheme and an ‘RSR’ moniker on the back.

Inside and out, the 918 RSR certainly looked the part when it came to being a racing car. The interior had been gutted out, the aero package was more aggressive, and the passenger seat had been yanked out so the Porsche engineers had somewhere to place the legit KERS flywheel.

Nothing was said about the 918s future on the track, bar when the production car and prototypes would be setting their respective lap times around the Nurburgring, but it is tempting to believe the 918 could have a future as a racing car.

After all, it’s powered by a tweaked version of a 4.6 V8 racing engine, a whole plethora of racing technologies have found their way into the 918 production car and Porsche has gone on to win in its class at endurance events with racing 911s that had KERS flywheels bolted onto their drivetrains.

To add more speculative fuel to the fire, and as stated in the accompanying video to this segment, the Porsche 918 was envisioned as a “super sports car that could as well become a racing car”.

It’s almost certainly going to be a pipe dream at best, but there is at least enough feasibility in the 918’s packaging, architecture and ethos to make a competition version at least an extremely mild possibility.

Or is that just naive optimism shining through here?

One of the Greenest Cars Ever…Is A 200mph+ Porsche?

Porsche 918 interior

Even at the best of times, the carbon-dioxide emissions and fuel consumption claims for hybrids of any sort are misleading – the reason why so many hybrids can wriggle under the 100g/km of CO2 barrier is as much due to them being able to exploit loopholes in the current structure as it is to do with their cleanliness when it comes to exhaust emissions.

That’s not to dumb down Porsche’s achievements with the 918, though. Whilst the people who buy them will never get anywhere close to the claimed 85mpg figure (nor will they most likely be that bothered by it, given they’ll be loaded with money anyway), it is true that Porsche has engineered one of the most frugal supercars the world has ever seen to date.

Mostly because, unlike its rivals from McLaren and Ferrari, the Porsche can actually operate as a proper hybrid – when in the appropriate setting, the 918’s drivetrain can shut down the combustion engine, depending on how much throttle’s being applied and how much juice is left in the batteries.

Essentially, when driven under normal circumstances, there’s no denying the 918 would use less petrol than its predecessor, the Carrera GT. Maybe even a 997-gen GT3 or Turbo, perhaps.

Porsche 918 Martini static

Or, you could dispense with that stuff, flick the dial into ‘Race Hybrid’ mode, crack the 0-62mph sprint in 2.8 seconds and stick two fingers up at everyone in petrol forecourts, eking out as much fuel from the pump nozzle as they can without tipping over their budget by that one measly penny.

Of course, with the 918 still in the final stages of development, that’s pretty much the main chapters in the Porsche’s timeline to date covered for now.

All that’s left to do now is the epilogue, in the form of the production-ready 918’s critical reception at the hands of the motoring press…

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