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BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Car Review

Porsche 918 Spyder

£ 704,000
1010
Published: 06 Oct 2020
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Porsche's hybrid masterpiece, the most complete car in the Holy Trinity

Good stuff

Epic powertrain, sheer scope of usability, all-round mastery

Bad stuff

Grabby brake pedal needs some work

Overview

What is it?

A hybrid hypercar like no other. Two electric motors and a 9,000rpm 4.6-litre racing V8 contained within a two-seat roadster frame that’s almost entirely carbon fibre. Four wheel-drive, 875bhp and an even more incredible 944lb ft of torque, with over half of that available at only 800rpm. Yes, you did read that right. There really is nothing else like the 918 Spyder.

Not even the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari, the other two members of the ‘Holy Trinity’. The plug-in Porsche, with a 6.8kWh battery twice the size of the McLaren’s, 282bhp of e-thrust alone and an electric range of 12 miles is easily the most hybrid of the three. It’s capable of hitting 62mph in a little more than six seconds on electric alone.

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Bring the engine into play and that figure is more than chopped in half. The V8 is derived from the RS Spyder Le Mans car, pushes out 600bhp and gives the 918 a 0-62mph time of 2.6secs, 0-124mph in 7.2secs and a top speed of 214mph. Made almost exclusively of titanium and aluminium and weighing just 135kg, Frank-Steffen Walliser, the man who masterminded the 918 project, has described it as, “the best engine we [Porsche] have ever done”. On the NEDC test cycle it emits just 70/g/km of CO2 and claims 81mpg.

The rear electric motor is mounted between engine and seven-speed twin clutch gearbox, while at the front, drive is purely electric. Above 165mph that motor shuts off, making the car rear-drive only. Like the V8, the aluminium double wishbone suspension is similar to the RS Spyder racer, adaptive dampers are standard and overall the 918 has very little in common with any other Porsche road car. Inside a mode dial on the steering wheel allows you to select four different drive modes – Electric, Hybrid, Sport and Race. In the latter two, the engine is always on.

Developed over the course of three years from 2010, Porsche built 25 prototypes and 25 pre-production cars before assembly of the 918 production cars. In the UK, it was priced at £781,000 including tax.

Porsche’s second-ever hybrid (a Panamera was the first), underneath the carbon body panels the components are packed in very tight. The bodywork doesn’t appear that stretched or spare, but strip it away and the 918 Spyder is like a mechanical Gunter von Hagens exhibit – the skin may have been peeled away, but the underpinnings hold the same shape.

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The rear end is the more dramatic, the front, with its recessed headlamps, a touch soft. The top exit exhausts are a real talking point and unlike its McLaren and Ferrari rivals, the roof panels can be lifted out and stored under the bonnet, opening occupants to the elements – and the noise of that high-revving V8.

Our choice from the range

What is the verdict?

Quite possibly the most complete hypercar there has ever been

Meet the all-wheel-drive, all-weather hypercar. This approachability, this usability could mean the 918 Spyder comes across as less special than the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari, and true, it doesn’t have their machismo, doesn’t deliver the same viscerality and intimidation as the McLaren, nor the incredible driving experience of the Ferrari.

It’s a more tightly briefed car, more controlled and, arguably, more far-reaching in its abilities. The 918 Spyder has such huge capability in so many areas: it really will average 30mpg, it’s knife-edge sharp on a track, able to scare the living wotsits out of you, it dazzles passers-by, dawdles through town silently and howls through the countryside. And if the weather’s kind, you can take the roof panels out and pop them under the bonnet.

But it’s not compromise that’s been at work here, it’s mastery. It’s astonishing, so much more than just the hypercar you can drive everyday or proof that hybrid systems have life AP (After Prius). It’s a step into the future and, right now, quite possibly the most complete hypercar there has ever been.

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