What is it?
Off in the distance, the Porsche 918 Spyder rounds a bend and spears toward us, pursued by the high-pitched scream of its petrol-electric driveline. It flashes by the pit wall then arcs into the turn at the end of the straight, revealing a huge rear wing before disappearing from view.
I’ve travelled to Porsche’s Leipzig test track not only to witness rally legend Walter Röhrl display his talent at the wheel of Porsche’s new flagship but also to become one of the first people outside its team of engineers to drive the staggeringly complex 918 Spyder.
It seems an impossible task given its complexity, but the 918 Spyder has progressed from concept to pre-production form in just two years. Even since my ride in the first road-going prototype last year, Porsche has reworked much of the mechanical and electrical package, and the car’s completeness today has me in awe.
The naturally aspirated 4.6-litre V8 produces 599bhp at 8600rpm, giving a specific output of 130bhp per litre. Two electric motors – one mounted within the front axle, another at the rear – add an additional 275bhp. Combined, the three power sources output 875bhp.
This makes the 918 Spyder easily the most powerful Porsche road car ever. By comparison, the rear-wheel drive Carrera GT’s naturally aspirated 5.7-litre V10 produced 603bhp.
But is 875bhp enough? The new LaFerrari’s naturally aspirated 6.3-litre V12 and HY-KERS system develops a collective 950bhp, while the McLaren P1’s twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V8 and single electric motor produce 903bhp. And they are a respective 385kg and 240kg lighter than the 1640kg 918 Spyder.
It is this thought I find myself grappling with as the car rumbles down pit lane for my turn behind the wheel.