It might seem superfluous to say this but, given that the 918’s mechanical specification is so different from other models in its maker’s range, it bears spelling out: to drive, the 918 feels like a Porsche. It rides like one, steers like one and, mostly, handles like one.
The 918’s ride is more 911 GT3 than Cayman-on-tall-sidewalls, but given that it tightens the 918’s body control – and because of the weight, it needs to be well tied down – that’s a price worth paying. The adaptive dampers serve to knock the edges from the harshest surfaces.
There’s relative heft to the steering – a common Porsche trait – which retains a Germanic stability and solidity around straight-ahead. A touch more weight comes in as lock builds with total consistency.
There’s less oiliness to it than a P1’s delicate rack and real weight to it nearer the limit. But at all speeds, it’s loaded with road feel, albeit marginally less satisfying, our testers thought, than the more agile, natural-feeling P1.
The 918’s tight body control, though, plus its responsive steering, make it an enjoyable road car even at sensible speeds. The engine is always engaging, the gearshifts quick. The 918 has its own variant of the Ferrari-style manettino, and the engine and gearbox increase their intent as you flick through them; but somehow it’s always preferable in manual mode.
On a circuit, meanwhile, the 918 is astonishing, displaying the same kind of all-day-long indefatigability of a 911 GT3 but at a pace beyond a lot of racing cars. There’s extraordinary traction, terrific grip and a willingness to change direction on the throttle. The brakes are sensational, too. In the dry, it stops from 70mph in just 37.8m. That’s 3.1m shorter than a P1 takes. Terrific pedal feel is offered and there's precious little dive from the body. Bleeding them off on the way towards the apex feels entirely natural and quells any initial understeer. So far, so Porsche.
What happens next isn’t like any other production Porsche although, in some ways, there’s a blend of Carrera 4 S traction, Cayman adjustability and Macan weight — all thrown in with some GT3-style motorsport feel and, at 1.21g, an astonishing grip level.
Mid-bend, where a P1 would respond to a big prod of throttle by lighting up its rear tyres and pushing sideways, the 918’s line barely tightens as the front motor does its work, and it exits the corner at an extraordinary lick. Indeed, the 918 Spyder lapped our dry circuit 1.1sec quicker than a P1.