Sam Philip02 March 2010

Geneva show: Porsche 918 Spyder

Spiritual successor to the Carrera GT wades straight on and steals the show..

Geneva show: Porsche 918 Spyder

As surprises go, this is right up there with Rachel Riley bursting out of a giant cake on your birthday. Porsche has unveiled the 918 Spyder - a hybrid electric concept that previews a future Carrera GT successor - in Geneva, and it's already looking like the star of the show.

For starters, just look at it. The 918 Spyder is gorgeous: familiarly Porsche without looking 911-generic, perfectly proportioned and bursting with lovely details. Check out those side exit exhausts, the ‘flying buttresses' behind the roll hoops and that carbon fibre rear diffuser. As we said, gorgeous.

But the stuff under that stunning shell is equally important. If you're thinking, ‘oh, great, another bloody hybrid', listen to this: Porsche says the 918 Spyder can lap the Nurburgring is less than 7m30s - that's faster than a Carrera GT.

The concept is powered by the 3.4-litre V8 from the American Le Mans Series RS Spyder, revving to 9,200rpm and putting out over 500bhp, and three electric motors on the front axle with a maximum output of 218bhp. So it's a four-wheel-drive, 700-and-something-bhp supercar that's green. Well, just about.

The 918's hybrid system is different to the technology seen on either the 911 GT3 Hybrid or the new Cayenne Hybrid. Uniquely, it can be recharged from the mains, and will manage up to 16 miles in all-electric mode. Driven conservatively in hybrid mode, Porsche says it will return 94mpg and 70g/km of CO2.

But you want to know about the fastness, right? As well as that Nurburgring-flattening lap time, the 918 will manage 62mph in 3.2 seconds and a top speed very close to 200mph.

That fastness is thanks in part to the 918's reasonably svelte kerbweight. Despite packing a set of lithium ion batteries, it tips the scales at just under 1490kg thanks to a monocoque bodyshell made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFP) with a liberal sprinking of aluminium and magnesium.

There's plenty of clever aero to keep things in check around the Green Hell: those two flying buttresses feature retractable air intakes, while the rear spoiler raises at speed to improve downforce.

So will the 918 reach production? We're optimistic. Porsche knows how to turn racers into road cars: the Carrera GT started life as the LMP2, so the 918 stands every chance of becoming the road-going, production version of the RS Spyder racer.

And, as Porsche CEO Michael Macht claims, his company has never made a concept car that wasn't put into production. Sounds like a statement of intent to us...

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