Be­lieve the hype

OUR EDITOR HITS THE TRACK IN A PORSCHE HY­BRID HY­PER­CAR

Whangarei Report - - Driven - LIZ DOB­SON

Star­ing at the 918 hy­per­car in Porsche’s Auck­land deal­er­ship in late 2015, I dreamed about driv­ing it, which was about as re­al­is­tic as me hav­ing din­ner with Porsche’s fa­mous driver, ac­tor Pa­trick Dempsey.

Ac­tu­ally at that stage, I had a bet­ter of nab­bing a meal with Mcdreamy be­cause Dempsey was due in New Zealand for the Lead­foot Fes­ti­val held over Wai­tangi week­end.

Though Dempsey was a noshow at Ha­hei due to film­ing com­mit­ments, my other Porsche fan­tasy be­came a re­al­ity. Porsche NZ rang to ask if I’d like to take the 918 hy­per­car for a spin at Hamp­ton Downs.

Yes, I did squeal, and I did a happy dance by my desk at Driven.

With a price tag of $1.4m and the ex­clu­siv­ity of only 918 mod­els of the 918 sold world­wide, I’d thought the clos­est I’d get to the elec­tric hy­brid car in ac­tion was at the re­cent Fes­ti­val of Mo­tor Sport at Hamp­ton Downs, where it was driven in demon­stra­tion laps along­side two ex­am­ples from Porsche’s mu­seum.

But a chance came up for a se­lect group of mo­tor­ing edi­tors to test the su­per-ex­otic sports Spy­der.

It would be the only time the 918 would be driven in New Zealand by a non-porsche NZ em­ployee (and a high-rank­ing em­ployee at that), as it wasn’t reg­is­tered for our roads.

Though the 918 has done 4500km, that has only been on the back of a truck, be­ing trans­ported to deal­er­ships around New Zealand. And with a new price tag of $2 mil­lion, it’s not a ve­hi­cle to have sit­ting around.

The 918 gains the hy­per­car la­bel

thanks not only to its per­for­mance but also its tech­nol­ogy.

That is from Porsche’s rac­ing DNA, with the 4.6-litre, eight­cylin­der petrol en­gine taken from the RS Spy­der, pro­duc­ing 447kw of power and 540Nm of torque. The 918 hy­brid AWD then gains two elec­tric en­gines — one sit­ting on the front axle to pro­duce 95kw and one on the rear pro­duc­ing 115kw. Com­bine all three and you get the eye­wa­ter­ing, and de­light­ful fig­ures of a max­i­mum torque of 1280Nm in sev­enth gear, with 0-100km/h in 2.6sec, 0-200km in 7.3sec and top speeds of 345km/h or 150km/h in elec­tric mode.

The 918 weighs just over 1600kg thanks to a light­weight en­gine of 135kg plus the ex­ten­sive use of car­bon fi­bre re­in­forced plas­tic.

It’s also a Spy­der with two roof pan­els in­serted be­tween the wind­screen frame and rollover pro­tec­tion sys­tem by the head­rests. Th­ese can be re­moved and placed in the lug­gage area.

The 918 is a stun­ning look­ing ve­hi­cle that com­bines an un­der­stated Porsche de­sign with fu­tur­is­tic el­e­ments.

But it’s un­der the stylised bon­net (and axles) that is the most im­por­tant part.

The 918 has five driv­ing modes: E-power (pure elec­tric with speeds up 150km); hy­brid (with the petrol and elec­tric en­gines work­ing al­ter­nately); sport-hy­brid (a dy­namic driv­ing per­for­mance with the en­gine get­ting boost from the elec­tric mo­tors); race hy­brid (giv­ing max­i­mum per­for­mance with the elec­tric en­gine adding max­i­mum power); and hot lap (all three en­gines giv­ing their all for a few, very fast, drives on a cir­cuit).

Due to in­sur­ance re­stric­tions we were only al­lowed to drive the hy­per­car in elec­tric, hy­brid and sport-hy­brid modes, and we had

a driv­ing in­struc­tor next to us to make sure we be­haved. Those three modes were plenty.

I was the first mo­tor­ing editor to test the 918 on six laps at Hamp­ton Downs. I was too ex­cited at get­ting the chance to drive the car to be ner­vous.

The 918 was in pure elec­tric mode for one lap — and that’s when I started laugh­ing. This car is like driv­ing in the fu­ture — there is only a “whirr” from un­der the bon­net and the silent power avail­able.

I got too ex­cited ex­it­ing one cor­ner and planted my foot on the ac­cel­er­a­tor, which in elec­tric mode started the petrol en­gine. My in­struc­tor, Tim Martin, told me that if the driver ex­ceeds the kick­down thresh­old, the car over­rides elec­tric mode.

So back­ing off from ex­ert­ing the power, I en­joyed the in­stant torque from the elec­tric modes in­stead.

Lap two and three were in hy­brid mode and let’s just say, you’re not driv­ing a hy­brid taxi. In­stead the power, aero­dy­nam­ics and han­dling of the 918 see the sports DNA from Porsche kick in and I found my­self fly­ing along the straight, en­joy­ing my­self too much to look down at the speedo.

Lap four and five were in sport hy­brid mode — and this time you could imag­ine how Porsche’s en­durance team (in­clud­ing Ki­wis Earl Bam­ber and Bren­don Hart­ley) felt in the 919 rac­ing hy­brid car.

The power from the 918 ex­ceeds ex­pec­ta­tions. If I hadn’t had an in­sur­ance-wary in­struc­tor be­side me, I could have planted my foot on the back straight.

Lap six was cool-down cir­cuit — more for the driver than car — with my de­light ob­vi­ous as I ex­ited.

I was on high un­til 4pm that day — when I hit se­vere post-918 blues. It was a priv­i­lege to drive the car — and also a taste of the fu­ture when it comes to mo­tor­ing.

And talk­ing of tastes, with the 918 drive ticked off my fan­tasy list, it’s Mcdreamy’s move to make up for miss­ing Lead­foot.

I WAS THE FIRST MO­TOR­ING EDITOR TO TEST THE 918 ON SIX LAPS AT HAMP­TON DOWNS. I WAS TOO EX­CITED AT GET­TING THE CHANCE TO DRIVE THE CAR TO BE NER­VOUS.

Pic­ture / Dil­lon Pho­tog­ra­phy

In­struc­tor Tim Martin and Liz Dob­son took the Porsche 918 for six laps around Hamp­ton Downs.

Pic­ture / Dil­lon Pho­tog­ra­phy

The 918 is a stun­ning ve­hi­cle that com­bines an un­der­stated Porsche de­sign with fu­tur­is­tic el­e­ments, five driv­ing modes and re­mov­able roof pan­els.

Dil­lon Pho­tog­ra­phy

The 918 weighs just over 1600kg thanks to a light­weight en­gine of 135kg plus the ex­ten­sive use of car­bon fi­bre re­in­forced plas­tic.

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