Porsche 918 - in showroom guise!
Porsche has spent the last few years telling us practically everything there is to know about its fascinating new 918 Spyder flagship, a two-seat hybrid supercar with a system output of 661kW.
They've even shown us pictures of the prototypes, which were just about the spitting image of the production car, but now - for the first time - we get to see Porsche's new beast in its final showroom guise and gawk over its official performance numbers.
As previously reported:
Described as the "gene pool" for future Porsche sports cars - the 918 Spyder has practically nothing in common with the 911.
Designed and developed in Porsche's racing department, there's been a lot of cross-pollination between the 918 project and the 2014 Le Mans race cars.
Even the basic architecture - a tub and sub-frame forming a rolling chassis under a non-load bearing composite body - is typical of Porsche racing cars.
Hybrid cars are, by definition, extremely heavy, but by building the entire load-bearing structure out of carbon fibre Porsche has kept the 918 Spyder's weight down to an acceptable 1640kg.
THREE POWER SOURCES
The 918 is all about using its three power sources as efficiently as possible, via a five-way map switch on the steering wheel.
When you start the car, it will default to 'E-Power', using battery power alone as long as the battery lasts - usually about 30km.
In pure electric mode, the 918 Spyder can accelerate from 0-100km/h in less than seven seconds and tops out at 150km/h. When the battery's charge state drops below 10 percent, the car automatically switches to 'Hybrid' mode.
In 'Hybrid' mode, the electric motors and the petrol engine work alternately, with the eye on minimum fuel consumption; the ECU will automatically swop the drive from one to the other as needed.
In "Sport Hybrid" mode the V8 stays on all the time provides most of the drive, while the electric motors provide extra grunt when needed; the emphasis is on performance rather than economy.
In 'Race Hybrid' mode the petrol engine charges the battery whenever the driver doesn't have his foot flat, and the electric motors come in whenever he does, at full voltage for maximum race-track performance. At the same time the mapping of the double-clutch transmission is tweaked for sportier driving
The 'Hot Lap' button in the middle of the map switch can only be used in 'Race Hybrid' mode, and pushes the battery to maximum power output limits for a few fast laps. It's the only mode that will allow the battery to drain below 10 percent charge and it'll do that in just a few minutes.
The 918's primary power source is a 4.6-litre dry-sump V8 rated at 453kW, derived from that of the RS Spyder, which explains why it spins to a screaming 9150 rpm.
This engine also makes a characteristic wail; that's because the exhaust ports are in the vee of the cylinders rather than on the outside, which keeps the exhaust heat away from the battery and allows the shortest possible exhaust routing and the lowest back pressure.
Coupled to it via an electromechanical clutch is a 115kW electric motor; because the two run in parallel, the rear wheels can be driven by either or both.
A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (which has actually been turned upside down in comparison to 'normal' Porsche street cars to lower its centre of gravity) handles power delivery to the rear axle.
If the car is coasting along in pure electric mode, the clutches (and the de-coupler of the electric motor) open and the V8 engine switches off.
As is typical of Porsche racing cars, the whole power pack is mounted ahead of the rear axle; there is also no physical connection to the front axle.
The 95kW electric motor in the front axle drives the wheels at a fixed ratio - with an electromechanical clutch to prevent over-revving at high speeds.
Porsche quotes 0-100km/h in 2.8 seconds, 0-200 in 7.9 seconds and 0-300 in 23 seconds, with a top speed of more than 340km/h.
The liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery has 312 individual cells with an energy content of about seven kilowatt-hours, and is guaranteed for seven years. A normal 15-amp cable connects the on-board charger to a conventional 200V mains socket, which will charge the battery fully in about four hours.
If you install the optional universal charger and charging dock in your garage, however, you can reduce that to two hours or, with the optional speed-charging system on three-phase power, to just 25 minutes.
HIGH SPEED CORNERING
The 918's multi-link suspension comes straight off the race-track, supplemented by adaptive dampers and speed-sensitive, electro-mechanical rear-axle steering - up to three degrees in either direction.
In 'Race' mode, the retractable rear wing is set to a steep angle to generate high downforce at the rear axle. The spoiler positioned between the two wing supports near the trailing edge of the airflow also extends and two air flaps in the underfloor, ahead of the front axle, are opened to direct air into the underbody diffuser channels, producing a 'ground effect' at the front axle.
In 'Sport' mode, the aerodynamic control system reduces the angle of the rear wing, which enables a higher top speed. The spoiler remains extended. The underfloor flaps close to reduce aerodynamic drag and increase top speed.
In 'E-Power' mode the car is set up specifically to reduce drag, with the wind and spoiler retracted and the underfloor flaps closed, along with the adjustable air inlets under the main headlights.
These intakes are always open in 'Race' and 'Sport' mode for maximum cooling air intake. In 'E-Power' and 'Hybrid' modes, they close immediately after the car is driven off in order to keep aerodynamic drag to a minimum and they don't open until the car reaches about 130km/h - or starts overheating.
The cockpit is divided into two basic areas: first, there are the controls that are important for driving, which are grouped around the multi-function steering wheel, combined with driver information displayed on three large, round instruments.
Then, there's the infotainment block in a raised centre console, first seen in the Carrera GT. The automatic climate control, wing adjustment, lighting and Burmester high-end sound system are operated by multi-touch with a new type of black-panel technology.
For (very rich) true performance junkies there's also the Weissach package, instantly recognisable by special colours and designs inspired by legendary Porsche race cars, and six-point harnesses for driver and passenger.
The roof, rear wings, rear-view mirrors and windscreen frames are clear-lacquered carbon fibre, sections of the upholstery are finished in alcantara rather than leather, most of the interior aluminium trim has also been replaced with the light stuff and forged magnesium-alloy rims replace the standard cast-aluminium hoops - all of which reduces all-up weight by about 35kg.
Production of the 918 Spyder is slated to begin in the fourth quarter of 2013 and orders are being taken at €781 155 (10.3 million) for the standard model and €853 155 (R11.3 million) for the Weissach package.
Sadly, the 918 Spyder will only be built in left-hand drive format, which eliminates any fantasies about it being sold (in road-legal form at least) in South Africa.
The 918 spider is now also the holder of the record for the fastest lap of the notorious Nurburgring Nordschleife by a street-legal car, set by works racer Marc Lieb in a production-standard 918 on 4 September.
Lieb became the first driver to complete a lap of the 20.6km circuit in less than seven minutes in a road car when he clocked 6min57, a considerable improvement on the previous mark of 7min11, set by the Gumpert Apollo Sport.