by Jackie Buys
Photography by Gary Pennington
2010 has been a momentous year for Porsche. Sixty years from when the small auto manufacturer from Stuttgart, Germany, began exporting sportscars through Max Hoffman of New York City, spectacular machines now are offered to the enthusiasts showcasing Porsche Intelligent Performance.
On display for the first time in the US, during the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach over the weekend of August 13-15, were three of Porsche’s most amazing technologically advanced models: the Cayenne S Hybrid, 911 GT3 R Hybrid and their newest supercar, the 918 Spyder Hybrid.
Expected to begin US delivery in the fall of 2010 is the Cayenne S Hybrid, while the Panamera Hybrid should arrive in 2011. We have seen the brilliant performance of the 911 GT3 R Hybrid, which was designed exclusively for racing, on the world’s most challenging track, the Nürburgring-Nordschleife. Competing in the Long Distance Championship (VLN) this past March, the 911 Hybrid finished Sixth followed by a Third place finish at the VLN on April 10th. Porsche Motorsports fanatics were hoping for a sure victory at the Nürburgring 24 hours, as the Hybrid racer maintained its lead overall for a solid 8 hours, only to experience a failure in its gasoline motor and retire at hour 22. Clearly, as stated by Michael Macht, Chairman of the Board at Porsche AG, “It wasn’t enough for a win, but the Porsche hybrid technology clearly proved its potential at one of the world’s toughest races. We will continue developing this innovative drive concept.” Now, the US is eagerly anticipating the running of the 911 GT3 R Hybrid in Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta the weekend of September 30-October 2, 2010.
Why the emphasis on racing? Because the history and success of Porsche is built upon just that. The first production 550 Spyder was designed and built to race. And it was a winner! The small manufacturer from Zuffenhausen records more than 20,000 race wins over a 45 year history, more than any other manufacturer. Motorsports has always been a proving ground where engineering ideas are tested under the toughest competition. Questions of performance, engineering and design are answered on the world’s most challenging tracks and translate directly to sports cars driven by Porsche enthusiasts every day. Inherent in every Porsche model is its racing lineage.
However, while we expected a visit by the Cayenne S and GT3 R Hybrids at the International Auto Show in Geneva Switzerland this past February, we knew nothing of the existence of the 918 Spyder Hybrid until hours before the start of the show. The newest Porsche super car was certainly Porsche’s best kept secret in years. Even the various automotive media groups were amazed by what they saw and learned during the unveiling. Many of us were left wondering whether this machine would be produced or remain simply a concept car. For this writer, it quickly outshined the Koenigsegg, which had been the object of her Supercar love affair.
As we read the press release from Porsche AG and reviews from independent automotive blogs, we could not help but be blown away by the look and feel of the 918 Spyder, in addition to what it could produce. Imagine an open-cockpit two-seater sports car powered by a 500 bhp V8 at max engine speed of 9,200 rpm, coupled with two electric motors on the front and rear axles producing an extra output of 218 bhp. All this power magically delivers a 0-100 km/h in just under 3.2 seconds with a top speed of 198 mph, and still averages an unbelievable fuel economy of 78 mpg. Reports boasted a new lap record on the Nordschleife of less than 7 minutes 30 seconds, faster than the Carrera GT. And what about the weight? With the monocoque body, comprised of CFP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic), in conjunction with magnesium and aluminum, the 918 Spyder comes in at 3,285 lbs. Body style and cockpit design have similarities to the Carrera GT from every angle. Interior appointments are super luxurious. The carbon fiber seats are covered in the same high grade leather as the steering wheel, dash and instruments.
Another factor making the 918 Spyder a legend in the making is related to its mid-engine design, allowing for perfect weight and balance in any track situation. The V8 engine is engineered from the highly successful 3.4 liter power unit featured in the winning Porsche RS Spyder. Porsche Intelligent Performance is also carried over in the transmitting of power to the wheels by the seven-speed PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe) which also feeds the power of the electric drive system to the rear axle. Front wheel electric drive powers the wheels through a firm transmission ratio. Applying the brakes converts kinetic energy into electrical energy which is fed into the battery, becoming the source of the extra kick for fast and dynamic acceleration.
Those familiar with Porsche’s family history already know that electric powered automotives were designed by Ferdinand Porsche as far back as 1900. Yes, Dr. Porsche was behind the building of the first standard hybrid power unit for k.u.k. Hofwagenfabrik Ludwig Lohner & Co., a firm of coachmakers in Vienna. His Lohner Porsche ‘Semper Vivus’ was powered by two combustion engines, with an electric hub motor over each wheel using energy stored in a battery and capable of covering some 80km (50 miles) without recharging. The impressive design was awarded the Grand Prize of the 1900 Paris Universal Exposition.
To the delight of all Porsche enthusiasts Porsche’s Supervisory Board in Stuttgart announced on July 28th that the 918 Spyder would indeed go into production. With this announcement, Michael Macht stated “Production of the 918 Spyder in a limited series proves that we are taking the right approach with Porsche Intelligent Performance, featuring the combination of supreme performance and efficient drivetrain concepts.” Development of the 918 Spyder will take place in Weissach with assembly in Zuffenhausen.
On Saturday, Aaugust 14th This past weekend in Monterey, the stunning 918 Spyder was unveiled to the press and a limited number of guests and customers. Already since the announcement 1000 have been pre-ordered. We were excited to learn that three pre-orders have made by a local member of the Porsche Club of America here in New York. Although production details have not yet been released, you can be sure we will schedule, no, beg for an up-close-and-personal look whenever the first one arrives. We were told that if we were very good, we might even be allowed to sit in one. This writer is ready to grovel.
Raceshotsresource wish to thank Gary Pennington for sharing his images of the 918 from Monterey. To read Gary’s impression of the 918, click here..
And I want to thank David Wilks of raceshotsresource.com