We'd better deal with the numbers first. Compared with the claims by McLaren for
, [Ferrari says 'the LaFerrari' in its press material, before anyone cries linguistic foul! - Ed.] it doesn't make pretty reading for
the 918 Spyder
Which is kind of crazy for a car that has a claimed 887hp from its hybrid powertrain.
Hugely impressive but already outclassed?
Porsche says the Spyder will hit 62mph in 2.8 seconds, 124mph in 7.9 seconds and 186mph in 23 seconds dead. If the LaFerrari didn't exist, those numbers would be spellbinding, but the Italians claim the LF will cover the same zero to 186mph sprint in 15 seconds. Which puts it in another speed territory to any other car sold with number plates, including this, the fastest Porsche street car ever built.
But should a supercar be judged on its numbers alone? I just don't know the answer to that. Like much else about the 918 and the class of cars into which it will tumble later this year, I know very little and am quite confused. But I have now driven the 918, albeit very briefly.
The fully hybrid 918 is quite a different car to its supposed rivals, but not enough to justify Porsche's insistence that it isn't a rival at all. That's cobblers. People in this area of the marketplace will be choosing between all three. And some will indeed take all three.
We went to Leipzig, home of the Cayenne and Panamera, for a brief technical presentation and then a fairly chaotic rugby scrum to get a squirted three laps on the small test track that backs onto the factory. Fair play to Porsche for letting us have a go behind the wheel so early? Or a big sales push to reach those proposed 918 sales? I'll leave you to decide that.
Fabulous steering, even with all the electronics
The video covers some of the points of technical interest, but we've also got a copy of the presentation slides for you to geek-over.
Pulling away silently in electric mode will be one of the 918's best tricks, and it feels eerily smooth from behind the wheel. But it will need to be a trick that depositors crave because the vast weight of the battery packs and motors create a kerb weight of 1,640kg and only allow 19 miles of electric-only drive, with a maximum of 94mph.
How the car feels is mostly covered in the video (it's a bit rough as you can imagine), but there's much I didn't manage to talk about. Like the steering, which I thought was exceptional and uncorrupted by the torque of the electric motors under full power. And the rear-wheel steering which works imperceptibly but aids a sense of agility completely at odds with the claimed kerb weight.
The hybrid powertrain is very cleverly managed. You don't feel the front axle electric power but the sensation of being dragged from slow turns is impressive. In fact so capable is the car that project leader Frank Walliser insists that a 918 with no batteries (the mythical one I harp on about) would post slower lap times than this car despite weighing significantly less, simply because it wouldn't have the same traction or the clever torque vectoring chassis.
However, the key question remains one of perception. Does being so much slower than its supposed rivals damage the 918's reputation before the contest has begun? It can't help, can it? And much as I admired what the engineers have achieved with the building bricks it was given, the KERS systems on the P1 and LaFerrari does seem to be a better solution - although we need to drive them to make sure. So, to extend the metaphor, was Porsche using the correct set of bricks in the first place?
Faster with hybrid tech than without, it's claimed
Will being able to cover 19 miles silently compensate the 918 driver for having a machine that is so much slower than the other two? I'm not sure. Do buyers of this type of car do so to publically express their eco-credentials, or do they just want the biggest set of numbers and a driving experience that makes your eyes bleed? They certainly want beauty, and the 918 is very pretty indeed.
Right now, I don't know what to think. Maybe the McLaren and Ferrari will prove too insane for public roads? Maybe the 918 will be more measured and therefore more pleasant? Maybe the whole game is slightly out of control?
Maybe we've never had it this good, this exciting and with this much aggro?