Porsche Boxster 918 2015 review
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Mark Webber is a magician in a Porsche 918.
Me? I'm rubbish.
When Webber took me for hot laps at Albert Park during the Australian Grand Prix he dug deep into the incredible power and grip and technology of the $1.5 million Porsche hybrid hero, cranking up to 260km/h down the pit straight and hustling it through the corners at speeds to make a V8 Supercars driver worried.
I will never forget the first uppercut of 650 kiloWatts as we came out of the Albert Park pitlane, or the moment when we went off-course at the high-speed flip-flop when Webber mis-judged his braking because he felt like he was back in his Red Bull F1 car. For a second I thought I was heading for hospital.
But when I get to Phillip Island, and slide from the passenger seat across to the action station, things are very different.
It makes an everyday driver look like a superstar
The car is the same one, and still brutally fast in a way that's hard to explain beyond a 0-100km/h time of 2.6 seconds and a top speed of 345km/h, but I cannot believe how easy it is to drive.
It makes an everyday driver look like a superstar, and I find it easy to romp to 250 on the pit straight and corner at speeds that make a Porsche 911 GT3 look pedestrian. I have the controls, but it's the 918 that has the control.
It's an absolutely brilliant car that currently sits at the top of world motoring alongside the McLaren F1 and Ferrari LaFerrari. All three are hybrids, but instead of using their electric motors to green the world they are fitted to give the effect of a battery-boosted supercharger.
In the case of the 918, there are three electric motors which integrate seamlessly into an all-wheel drive package an a seven-speed PDK manu-matic gearbox with paddle-shifters and one of the most intuitive automatic systems I've struck in any car. It is far better at redline upshifts when the V8 petrol engine spins to 9000 revs and makes brilliant downshifts for hot laps.
Yet the 918 will also run for 31 kilometres on pure electric power, while retaining a 6.2-second sprint time and a top speed of 150km/h.
The car is only built in left-hand drive and it costs $1.5 million
There is a lot to like about the ultimate Porsche, and some things to love, but it's not all good news.
The car is only built in left-hand drive and it costs $1.5 million. It's also noisy, pretty cramped in the cabin, and takes some learning with all the electronic complications.
I've only got three driving laps at Phillip Island, but Porsche is preparing me well with track time in both a 911 Turbo and GT3 ahead of the ultimate roller-coaster ride. Both cars feel lovely and fast, with the GT3 a fair bit sharper around a track with an average speed that tops 150km/h.
But the 918 Spyder is something else again, which is why Matthias Hoffsuemmer - chief driving instructor on the car, with more than 40,000 kilometres of seat time - has taken over from Webber as the lead driver. He has flown from Germany to demonstrate the car, but also to ride shotgun to ensure there are no mishaps.
He starts gently, showing how the car performs in full electric mode, before uncorking some of the performance I know from the Webber laps at Albert Park.
The 918 is other-worldly
So I'm ready, but should perhaps give some extra background. After all, I've previously driven a wide range of supercars, from a Bugatti Veyron to a Lamborghini Aventador, and I've tackled both a Nissan GT-R and a Black Series version of the Mercedes-AMG SLS Gullwing around Phillip Island.
But none of them are as whack-me-back as the 918. Or as impressive under brakes. Or capable of building such incredibly high speeds in such a short time and distance.
The 918 is other-worldly. It's so, so, so fast and yet so easy to drive. Goodness knows what would happen if you strapped on slick racing tyres...
To keep me properly in check, Porsche has provided a pace car for my hot laps. It's not just any car but a Carrera Cup racer, with champion driver Craig Baird driving.
It's quickly clear that the 918 is faster than the Cup car in lots of conditions, as I'm able to outbrake Baird and pull alongside as we accelerate down the straight. And he's in a full race car.
To be honest, I'm struggling to keep pace with the Porsche. It's so darned fast that I'm wrung out after three laps, trying to keep my eyes down the road and my reflexes tuned to the speed.
Then I slow, and realise the 918 can also go slow. It's not nearly as much fun, but as my heart rate slows to something more normal I can appreciate the quality of the cabin, and the brilliant dials, and the comfort in the race-style seat, and the incredible visibility.
To finish the day, I get a hot lap alongside Hoffsuemmer. If anything, the car feels quicker than it did with Webber, because I can relax and watch instead of hanging on and screaming inside.
To prove the car's pace, he uncorks a lap in 1 minute 38.02 seconds. For clarity, the Porsche is on road tyres and the track is hot, and the V8 Supercar lap record belongs to six-time champion Jamie Whincup at 1:32.02.
Then it's over. And I'm done.
The 918 Spyder is a 21st century speed machine
But I cannot resist hitting the re-wind button and comparing it with the Porsche Carrera GT, the Germany company's previous supercar. I also drove it at Phillip Island, ten years ago.
The GT was a fast, flighty, nervy car with a hair-trigger clutch and a temperamental engine. I never felt I got remotely close to exploiting its strengths, despite the speed.
In sharp contrast, the 918 Spyder - did I mention the lift-out carbon roof panels, the active aerodynamics with a giant rear wing, or the top-exit exhaust pipes? - is much quicker but much, much easier to drive. And far more rewarding.
There is a decade between the cars but, really, it feels like a century.
The 918 Spyder is a 21st century speed machine that is both a technological marvel and a new high in Porsche road cars. It's going to take a power of beating, but I cannot help wondering what I might be driving at Phillip Island in 2025.
Range and Specs
|(base)||2.7L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$58,080 – 66,770||2015 Porsche Boxster 2015 (base) Pricing and Specs|
|Black Edition||2.7L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$61,160 – 70,290||2015 Porsche Boxster 2015 Black Edition Pricing and Specs|
|GTS||3.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$81,510 – 93,720||2015 Porsche Boxster 2015 GTS Pricing and Specs|
|S||3.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$67,870 – 77,990||2015 Porsche Boxster 2015 S Pricing and Specs|
Lowest price, based on third party pricing data