Porsche 918 Spyder 2015 review
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It takes a very special car to make a Carrera Cup racer look slow.
The Porsche 918 Spyder is that car.
Not just that, but the 918 can make an ordinary driver - let’s call that me - look good against a champion racer called Craig Baird.
As we hot lap at Phillip Island, a track where the 918 will wind around past 280km/h with ease and generate race-car grip on road-car tyres, I’m having no trouble at all in keeping pace with Baird in the Cup car.
The 918 can make an ordinary driver look good against a champion racer.
The 918 gobbles him up out of every corner, keeps pace through any turn, and can brake much, much later than the track-only 911 while also offering the chance of full electric driving for 31 kilometres at up to 150km/h.
This is a car that’s all about the car. I’m just along for the ride, even when I have control of the steering wheel and pedals.
It’s so easy to go quickly that I have to suppress the sort of five-year-old enthusiasm I have not felt in years. It’s woo-hoo fun, and so, so, so fast.
Yet the 918 is also a new-age hybrid that can run for 31 kilometres on pure battery power, and also accelerate up to 150km/h - with a 0-100 sprint time of 6.1 seconds - without dipping into the onboard batteries.
If you could buy a 918 in Australia it would cost $1.5 million. But that’s irrelevant, not just because it’s only left-hand drive and cannot be registered but also because all 918 cars already have customer names against them.
This 918, with the Weissach package, is in Australia for a whistle-stop tour that included hot laps at the Australian Grand Prix and a couple of very special days at Phillip Island.
That’s where I get my chance to drive, and have all my benchmarks for a road car comprehensively re-set.
It’s the same track where I drove a Porsche Carrera GT a decade ago, and also where I’ve sampled flat-out laps in a Nissan GT-R and a Black Edition Mercedes-AMG SLS, although my (very) brief time in a Bugatti Veyron was at the Sandown race course.
For comparison, the Carrera was fast but nervy, with a trigger-action clutch; the GT-R was ballistic quick but awful on public roads; the Black beast was fast but felt very heavy, and the Veyron was awesome in a straight line but not a car I’d like to own.
When it comes, it’s almost too much.
The 918 is nicely quick in full electric model and easily quicker than the Turbo and GT3 in Sport model. Then I turn the switch to RACE and it’s like hitting the afterburner switch.
The car now accelerates far quicker than the Cup racer and can brake far, far later. It’s incredible to think that is a road car on road tyres.
Yes, there are some downsides. Apart from the price, the legroom is not great and it’s very noisy at any speed.
But I cannot help falling in love with the way it fires down the road whenever I touch the throttle, how it challenges me through the corners, and how it stops like I’ve dropped the blade on a bulldozer.
It’s also incredible to feel the way so much technology - remember there is a petrol engine, a battery pack, three electric motors, and four-wheel drive - is seamlessly integrated.
Would you believe it’s also at its best as a fully automatic. There are flappy paddles for the seven-speed PDK gearbox, but I don’t use them and it doesn’t need them.
Right now, 30 minutes after I have stepped from the 918, I’m still processing everything from my four laps at Phillip Island. I’m in sensory overload.
But I know, for sure, that I have memories that will last for the rest of my life.