This week I drove the Porsche 918 Spyder, and my goodness, was it worth the wait. There are many reasons for this, but here are the top 10...
1. In the metal, and without the garish Martini paint job (which costs an additional 20,000 euros by the way) it looks stunning. There’s a simple purity to the styling of the Porsche 918 that makes both the McLaren P1 and the LaFerrari look fussy and over-complicated by comparison. In silver, especially, it looks knee-tremblingly beautiful in the raw. And while I appreciate that beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, you really do need to see this car in the flesh, in amongst other ordinary cars, to understand just how elegant it is.
2. Forget the 94.1mpg claim for the combined cycle because no one is ever going to get that sort of economy out of it in the real world. But what you will see, and what Porsche’s test drivers have recorded time and again during the zillions of development miles they’ve covered, is a genuine 28-30mpg in normal driving. That’s nothing short of phenomenal for a car with this sort of performance. A Bugatti Veyron, for example, will quaff more than twice as much fuel on the same journey, sometimes three times as much if you open the taps properly.
3. Talking of 918 versus Veyron, Walter Röhrl – who has extensive experience driving both – reckons the 918 is “quite a lot faster than the Veyron” up to about 180mph. When we road tested the uber version of the Veyron, the 1183bhp Supersport model, in March 2011, it did 0-60mph in 2.6sec and 0-124mph in 7.1sec. Porsche says the 918 will do 0-60mph in 2.5sec and 0-124mph (200kmh) in 7.2sec. Crikey.
4. Despite costing 781,155 euros (or 853,155 euros in 41kg lighter Weissach Pack specification) Porsche won’t make one single cent out of the 918 Spyder, even if it does manage to sell all 918 examples that it is due to build. This much was confirmed to me by Mr 918, Frank Walliser. But what he also said was that the technology the car contains, and the lessons Porsche has learned during the three years it took to develop, are priceless.
5. Does this mean that the next 911 Turbo, or even just the next 911, will contain similar forms of technology? Yes, without question. Will it be a hybrid like the 918? Almost certainly, at which point the loss-leader aspect of the 918 very quickly begins to make sense.
6. The Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres that are fitted to the 918 are the exact same tyres used on the Ferrari 458 Speciale, although in each case the exact compound specification is bespoke. The wear rate of this tyre is, according to Michelin, 50 per cent better than a normal Cup tyre, and yet in the rain grip level is “in a different league” compared with other tyres of this kind. According to the man at Michelin.
7. The lithium ion battery pack of the 918 weighs 314kg, so without it the Weissach Pack version would tickle the scales at just 1320kg. As it stands - with its hybrid system in place - the car develops 875bhp and weighs 1634kg, which gives it a power-to-weight ratio of 535.5bhp per tonne. Remove the hybrid system and the power-to-weight ratio would in theory drop to 454bhp per tonne (given that by removing the hybrid system you’d also lose the additional power it generates, in this case a combined 275bhp). Which is the reason why Porsche claims that without its hybrid powertrain, the 918 would be more than five seconds slower around the Nürburgring, even if it weighed a theoretical 1320kg. Are you still with us at the back of the class?
8 Good, because talking of Nürburgring times, Porsche is convinced that the 918 can circumnavigate the green hell a fair bit quicker than it already has. The current official time is 6m57s, set by Porsche’s ace wheelman Mark Lieb on September 4 of this year. But Lieb claimed after his run that both he and the car were capable of going quicker. The idea of a 918 lapping in the 6m40s is not, it seems, unrealistic.
9. The most you can spend on a 918 Spyder is about 920,000 euros. On top of the Weissach Pack option – which brings magnesium wheels and a weight reduction of 41kg, and will set you back an additional 72,000 euros – owners can also be relinquished of their funds by specifying the “liquid paint” option, a carbon interior, bespoke 918 Spyder luggage and, get this, a button that raises the nose by a few centimetres so that speed humps don’t ruin your day. You’d think that for 781,155 euros they might throw this feature as standard, but no.
10. The steering wheel on the 918 Spyder apparently cost some 20 million euros on its own to develop. And this is why the exact same steering wheel (less a few key buttons, such as the one that allows you to switch between hybrid and hot laps modes on the move) will appear in the forthcoming Macan junior SUV. So now do you understand why this car won’t make Porsche a bean?