Laying eyes on the 918’s evocative styling puts an emphatic end to any argument about the car’s intended stature. Rather than be slavishly functional, the shape of the car’s carbonfibre-reinforced plastic bodywork pays homage to just about every important racing Porsche of the past half century. The 917, 935, 906, RS Spyder – all are acknowledged in places. You don’t do justice to cars like that by setting out with qualified commitment to the performance cause.
Neither is this car the product of lesser ambition. It may weigh almost 200kg more than a McLaren P1 – 1740kg on MIRA’s scales – but its lithium-ion battery is twice the size of the P1’s (6.8kWh), its electric motors supply much more propulsive assistance, and the car has 50 per cent more overall torque.
The 918’s underbody consists of a stressed monocoque tub and attached engine carrier subframe made entirely of carbonfibre-reinforced plastic. The body panels and doors are CFRP, too, the bumpers flexible polyurethane. So the car is both necessarily heavy but about as light as it could possibly be.
The suspension and engine are both adapted from what you’ll find in Porsche’s 2005 RS Spyder race car. That means a 4.6-litre V8 made of aluminium, titanium and steel is mounted midships, developing 599bhp, revving to more than 9000rpm and weighing just 135kg.