5 things I learned while driving the $845,000 Porsche 918 Spyder (2024)

Executive Editor Sam Smith travelled to Spain to discover if the Porsche 918 Spyder lives up to its considerable hype. Here's what he learned.

Deadly cars just aren't built anymore.

Even if the Carrera GT was a killer—and it most emphatically was not—the science of carmaking has evolved. The 918 produces 887 hp and 944 lb-ft oftorque. It tops out at a whopping 214 mph. It locates much of its mass in the middle of its chassis, where supercars have for decades, and it produces farmore power than most people can handle. Unlike the traction-control-only Carrera GT,it has both traction and stability control standard because both arerequired by law in America.

But this is different. Yes, stability control is there to save you if you're a bonehead. But this has to bethe most civilized 944 lb-ft on the planet.The monster torque is always predictable. The engine's righteous pull never catches you off guard. Around town, the car is quiet and relaxed when you want
it, loud and angry when you don't. It rides well. Stability control doesn't intervene unless you drivelike a jerk. And, most importantly, the car has boththe balance and the chassis tuning to be approachable for novices. It feels like a balanced all-wheel-drive sports car because it is, butit*reflexes andtrack behavior carry few of the configuration's traditional drawbacks.

The weirdest thing is that none of this is surprising. Think about that for a second. We live in an era where a manageable 944 lb-ft of torque is somethinglike ordinary. Where journalists are piled off a plane onto a race track they've never seen and an 887 hp car they've never driven for quick lapping, and noone bats an eye from worry. Where something like the Carrera GT—a machine that demands respect, but far from a killer—can be demonized simply because itisn't idiot-proof. Progress is a funny thing.

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Speed is relative.

One of the journalists on my wave of the 918's press launch was Daytona and Le Mans winner David Donohue. Two things about this: One, his father, Mark, wasa racing legend who did development work on both the Porsche 917/10 and 917/30. Mark Donohue is one of my heroes, and David's no slouch. And two, afterclimbing out of the car, David passed on a quote from former Brumos teammate Hurley Haywood. I don't remember the exact wording, but it was something like,"Fast is relative to what you're driving."

Even the slowest and most timid of the journalists at the 918 launch cranked down the track's front straight at 160 mph. At 160 mph, a 918 does not feelfast. It feels like it's barely moving; the way a Camry feels at 55 mph. This is part aero tuning, part chassis genius, and it's thoroughly expected. In thesupercar world, it's far from rare. But that doesn't mean you're not gobsmacked when you see it.

It marks a sea change in how cars are built.

Everyone will say it, but few will actually consider what it means: This is a revolutionary car. I spent a lot of time talking to the 918's engineers aboutthe problems they encountered during development. Most of them can be summed up in the phrase, "And then we solved that, but man, it was a pain in the
ass." This is normal with new car development, though admittedly not in such quantity.

More telling was the fact that half of the technology on display couldn't be easily explained by the engineers who built it. It wasn't a language orknowledge barrier; this is a group of guys who are fluent in English, some of the smartest and most resourceful engineers on the planet. I've been on a lotof Porsche launches, and these dudes aren't easily stumped. They're used to making complex concepts understandable for people with a decent tech backgroundbut no master's degree in engineering (read: your author). I lost count of the times one engineer had to grab another engineer to help him explain howsomething worked. Or when one of the guys had to shrug and say, "I'm not sure."

The Carrera GT was a stake in the ground, and there's no denying its significance in the supercar pantheon. But it was essentially a roadgoing Le Mansprototype; racing technology adapted sensibly for the road. Most of its innovations lay in materials science. The 918 isn't a race car and wasn't intendedto be one; moreover, race cars are no longer the street car proving ground they once were. This was an effort to make a rewarding, efficient, fast car thatfell outside the traditional mold—heavy, hybridized, and purposefully complex instead of purposefully simple. And it worked.

Like the 959, the 918 is a conscious effort to advance the science of the automobile in every way possible. It's a machine built solely to push theenvelope. And thirty years from now, we'll see more of the 918 in street cars than we will the Carrera GT.

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Porsche's greatest talent is in making the extraordinary ordinary.

By definition, supercars aren't everyday things. They almost always ship with caveats, small or large issues that prevent them from being as usable orpractical as your daily commuter. Owners overlook this stuff because of what they get in return. Unless they buy Porsches. At which point there's very
little to overlook.

For all its talents, the 918's greatest party trick is akin to that of the 911—or the 959, or the Panamera Turbo. It gets out of the way. Save the massive whonk the engine makes when it lights off, the hybrid system is nearly seamless. It feels small and practical in traffic despite being roughly aswide as a city bus. Getting in and out isn't easy, but it's easier than it was in the Carrera GT and easier than doing the same with a Ferrari Enzo. Thereis almost no trunk space, but you could say the same about a Carrera GT.

I've driven a lot of high-dollar exotics. Almost all of them have one thing in common: They never stop reminding you that you're in something crazy. The918 reminds you, then quietly shuts up and lets you go about your business. You have a good time, and if you want the crazy again, you get that, too. Andthat's an achievement in itself.

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The state of the art is holy-hell-crazy-pants-impossible fast.

The best way to illustrate the 918's speed potential is to describe what happened on the press launch. And to talk about the 2014 911 Turbo S.

The '14 Turbo S is as fast as unholy snot. It produces 560 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. Porsche claims the car can sprint to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds—just a fewtenths slower than a Bugatti Veyron—and early tests indicate the car circles a skid pad around or slightly above 1.0 g. You stand on the throttle in thatthing, and the earth reverses its rotation and spits your spleen into your spinal column.

There was a Turbo S at the media drive. It was driven by Porsche test driver Timo Kluck, an affable dude with a driving resume a mile long. Each journalistgot seven laps in the 918 playing chase to Kluck in the 911. And two laps in, almost all the journalists present had to lift to avoid running Kluck

This is not a statement about the driving talent of the average journalist. Far from it; journalists aren't known for being decent drivers. (Ahem! Exceptyours truly, who is a super genius in everything he does.And also incredibly attractive and modest.) And Kluck is a pro. But it speaks
volumes about the 918's insane thrust and eye-sucking grip.

Kluck was on the ragged hairy edge in the Turbo S, one of the fastest street cars on the planet. He was skittering over the limit and generally driving thewee out of the car. And the 918 might as well have been driven by a dead hamster for all it took to keep up. You can knock the 918 for weighing close to
two tons. You can wonder what it would be like in a purer, simpler world, where hybrid this and battery that didn't exist. You can talk all day long abouthow you'd buy a Carrera GT or a Ferrari Enzo or God knows what instead if you had the cash. But you can't deny just how bloody capable the thing is.

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Sam Smith


Sam Smith is a freelance journalist and former executive editor at Road & Track. His writing has appeared in Esquire and the New York Times, and he once drove a Japanese Dajiban around a track at speed while being purposely deafened by a recording of Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." He lives in Tennessee with his family, a small collection of misfit vehicles, and a spaniel who is scared of squirrels.

5 things I learned while driving the $845,000 Porsche 918 Spyder (2024)


What is the 918 Spyder facts? ›

The total system delivers 652 kW (887 PS; 875 hp) and 1,280 N⋅m (944 lbf⋅ft) of torque. Porsche provided official performance figures of 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) in 2.6 seconds, 0–200 km/h (0–124 mph) in 7.2 seconds, 0–300 km/h (0–186 mph) in 19.9 seconds and a top speed of 345 km/h (214 mph).

What is the problem with the 918 Spyder? ›

(Porsche) is recalling certain 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder vehicles. The connecting shafts of the longitudinal and transverse control arms may fail due to stress corrosion cracking, impacting vehicle handling.

Why is the Porsche 918 so good? ›

Combined with its regenerative braking system, the 918 Spyder converts more kinetic energy into electric energy than any other hybrid vehicle, allowing for dynamic driving experiences while significantly minimising the fuel consumption.

How much is a 918 Spyder worth today? ›

Q: What is the lowest sale price of a Porsche 918 Spyder? A: The lowest recorded sale price was $1,144,000 for a 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder on May 7 2021. Q: What is the average sale price of a Porsche 918 Spyder? A: The average price of a Porsche 918 Spyder is $1,861,333.

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