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2015 Porsche 918 Spyder REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/5/2017

Con: Limited availability; cargo space and rear visibility both in short supply.

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Interior: As you'd expect in Porsche's flagship sports car, the cockpit is designed to be very driver-oriented. Three analog gauges, including a large center-mounted tachometer, display important info with a quick glance. The steering-wheel-mounted drive mode switch and other driving-related controls are placed within easy reach. The standard carbon-fiber seats feature significant side bolsters for enhanced support in aggressive driving, and only differ from the optional racing seats in the firmness of the side bolster padding. In other words, this is a car that puts the driver first.

Yet Porsche hasn't built a racecar. Nearly every inch of the carbon-fiber-intensive cabin is covered in soft leather or, for $26,000 extra, it can be upgraded with "Authentic" leather crafted from renewable tanning agents and organic pigments to create a unique, matte finish that will develop a distinctive patina over time. Something to consider for you collectors out there.

All secondary functions are located in a rising center console, with a trio of knobs that allow you to page through menus on the high-mounted cell phone-like display, and provide quick access to regularly used features like audio volume and fan speed. Touchscreen-like switches allow the driver to manage the climate control system, Burmester audio system, rear wing position, headlights and more.

Not surprisingly given its racecar genes, the 918 Spyder is a little short on luggage space. Lift the hood and you'll find just 3.9 cubic feet of cargo room, which shrinks to practically nothing should you need to store the two-piece roof inside.

Body: The 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder is a two-seat luxury sports car with a two-piece removable roof that's offered in a single well-equipped trim level.

Standard features include 20-inch front and 21-inch rear alloy wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes, an adaptive suspension, automatic LED headlights, an automatic windshield wiper, heated mirrors, automatically adaptive aerodynamic body panels, dual-zone automatic climate control, carbon-fiber sport seats (power driver height adjustment, manual fore/aft), full leather interior trim, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, a trip computer, a 7-inch touchscreen interface, a rearview camera, a navigation system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and an 11-speaker Burmester surround-sound audio system with two USB ports, satellite radio, HD radio and an auxiliary audio jack.

Options include a 440-volt fast battery charger, different wheels, a front-end lift system for clearing curbs, an auxiliary heating system (which operates when running in electric mode), racing seats (same seat structure, but firmer padding for increased support), upgraded "authentic" natural leather and a variety of customization options.

The Weissach option package includes a number of additions and deletions designed to save weight. These include ultra-lightweight 20-inch front and 21-inch rear magnesium wheels, a special graphics package in place of traditional paint, reduced sound-deadening material, simulated suede interior trim and additional carbon-fiber components and trim. Note that the dual-zone climate control, Burmester sound system and navigation system are deleted, but can be added back as no-cost options.

Driving: With five driving modes to choose from, the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder exhibits a distinctly changeable personality. Turn the key in its default all-electric mode and the 918 is ready to cover up to 18 miles in eerie quiet, with the only sounds coming from the wind rushing over the roof and occasional pebbles shed by the massive tires ticking in the fender wells. Mash on the accelerator pedal, however, and the electrons start flying as the front and rear electric motors respond instantly with an entertaining turbine-like whine reminiscent of the original Batmobile. In terms of performance, those electric motors will take you to a top speed of 93 mph before the gasoline V8 kicks in. In this respect, the experience is a lot like driving any other gasoline-electric hybrid, albeit an insanely fast one.

Turning the round knurled knob beneath the right-hand spoke of the steering wheel engages Hybrid mode, which is the most practical setup for everyday driving, as it brings both electric motors and the gasoline engine online, alternately, depending on driving situation. Unlike other hybrids, however, there's no mistaking the moment that this gasoline V8 fires up, thanks to the loud and angry exhaust note that billows from the twin titanium exhausts located atop the rear deck, just inches behind your shoulders. While this mode is still rather sedate by the 918 Spyder's standards, the eager anticipation of things to come it creates is inescapable.

To approach that higher plane of automotive nirvana, turn the black knurled knob one more notch to engage Sport Hybrid mode. Here the big V8 and electric motors begin working together to propel this 3,700-pound bundle of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic with a still greater degree of urgency. Throttle response and steering feel both get noticeably sharper in this mode as well. For purists who've expressed some concerns over the latter, the electromechanical setup is exceptionally well tuned and feels both precise and nicely weighted.

Twist that knob one more time to select Race mode and the powertrain springs to life with all 887 hp at your command. Laying into the accelerator pedal now brings a full-on wail from behind your head that makes the 918 Spyder sound like the road-going racecar it is. Pushing the red center button in this mode calls up the Hot Lap feature that gives you everything the car's got from both the electric and gasoline motors in case you find yourself ever needing to qualify for pole position. Above 165 mph, the front electric motor decouples as the scenery blurs and the car rockets to its claimed top speed of 214 mph.

While these settings mostly affect the powertrain components, there's a lot more going on here than you might realize. An adaptive suspension delivers firmer settings in Sport and Race modes, for example. Active aerodynamics also comes into play, with the computer opening and closing under-car vents and changing the rear wing angle to produce less drag or more downforce depending on the conditions. The standard carbon-ceramic brakes can feel a little wooden in the more tame Electric and Hybrid modes, when they're called on to help recharge the hybrid system's lithium-ion battery pack, but do a bang-up job of scrubbing off speed in more aggressive driving.

What’s New: The 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder is an all-new model.

The midengine 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder is powered by a 4.6-liter V8 that puts out 608 hp and 398 pound-feet of torque. It is paired with a 129-hp front electric motor and a 156-hp rear electric motor, both supplied by a 6.8-kWh lithium-ion battery. Total powertrain output is a staggering 887 hp and 944 lb-ft of torque.

A seven-speed PDK automated manual is the only transmission offered. This sophisticated gearbox can shunt power to the front wheels, the rear wheels or all four, depending on conditions and five driver-selectable powertrain mode settings chosen by a rotary dial located on the steering wheel.

These include Electric, where battery power alone drives just the front wheels under light loads. Hybrid mode calls up power from both the electric motors and gasoline engine and sends it to all four wheels, though in a more relaxed state of tune suitable for everyday driving. Dialing up Sport mode also utilizes all power sources, but sharpens throttle response, steering and transmission settings for a decidedly snappier feel.

Race mode takes those improvements to the next level, and makes all 887 hp available. The final setting, called Hot Lap, is designed for use on a racetrack, as it allows the electric motors to run the car's battery pack down beyond normal limits, relaxes stability control settings and sends more torque to the front wheels for improved cornering.

Porsche says the 918 Spyder will go from zero to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds, or 5.7 seconds in full electric mode. Those numbers will lower when it's equipped with the lighter-weight Weissach option package.

For a car with this level of performance, the 918 Spyder gets impressive EPA fuel economy ratings of 67 MPGe (miles-per-gallon-equivalent) in all-electric mode, and a still respectable 22 mpg on gasoline. The EPA also estimates it can go 12 miles on electricity alone, although that's based on normal driving. Porsche claims recharging the plug-in hybrid's lithium-ion battery pack should take roughly 2.5 hours on a 220-volt home charger.

Safety: Standard safety features on the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder include antilock carbon-ceramic brakes, stability and traction control, seat-mounted thorax-protecting side airbags and door-mounted head-protecting side airbags.

Pro: Gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain with 887 hp on tap; zero emissions in all-electric mode; awe-inspiring driving experience.

Edmunds Say: The 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder is nothing less than the plug-in hybrid supercar of tomorrow, available today.

Introduction: Is the phrase "environmentally friendly supercar" an oxymoron? Not necessarily, at least if that supercar is the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid. That's because the 918 Spyder's front and rear electric motors can propel it up to 93 mph on battery power alone. At the opposite end of the performance spectrum, when the 918's 4.6-liter V8 comes roaring to life, this Porsche will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in an astonishing 2.6 seconds and top out at a dizzying 214 mph. Impressive performance numbers to be sure, but maybe not all that surprising when you consider that the combined output of these three power sources amounts to 887 hp, just waiting for a liberal application of your right foot.

Of course, any car wearing the Porsche badge is about more than straight-line speed. The 918's handling is equally impressive, thanks in part to the engineers' decision to place the heaviest powertrain components below the car's horizontal centerline to give it an extremely low center of gravity. Add a combination of a racecar-style carbon-fiber chassis, a sophisticated adaptive suspension, communicative electromechanical steering of both the front and rear wheels, massive tires and carbon-ceramic brakes and you have a car that's supremely easy to drive ridiculously fast.

Every car has its downsides, though, and the Porsche 918 Spyder is no exception. Its cargo capacity and rear visibility are limited, which is par for the course among exotic sports cars. So, too, is a stratospheric price, which, at $845,000 when new, is well above those of other exotics (or somewhere in the metaphoric price thermosphere). Plus, it can rise to $929,000 with the optional Weissach package of lightweight components that shave 90 pounds off the car's 3,691-pound curb weight.

But really, we're guessing that sort of money won't be of great concern for those seriously considering this über Porsche. The real question will be whether to get one instead of its fellow gasoline-electric hypercar competitors, the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari among them, all of which are capable of putting a smile on your face quicker than you can read this sentence. That said, we'd encourage you not to put off your buying decision for too long, as only 918 examples of the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder will be produced. This means your chances of owning this environmentally friendly supercar may disappear nearly as quickly as all those objects in its rearview mirror.

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