Porsche 918 Spyder – Ownership First Impressions

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After a couple of weeks of ownership, it’s about time I shared my first impressions of the Porsche 918 Spyder. I have deliberately been biting my tongue until now because I didn’t want to make any premature judgments. The 918 is a lot of money and for this reason it could be very easy to persuade yourself it is the best thing ever. In fact with any car it’s very easy to say whatever you own at that particular point is the ultimate. I will try to be as impartial as possible.

the components well exceed the asking price of the 918 Spyder

Woppum Porsche 918 Spyder Initial Review Shots-9
Photograph by Alex Penfold

I was drawn to the 918 as soon as I saw the first pictures, sadly when the opportunity was there to buy a 918 at list price direct from Porsche I bottled it, I couldn’t get my head around spending that amount of money on one car. The irony is, with the strengthening of Sterling against the Euro, all the UK cars worked out much cheaper than originally planned. Not only that, as soon as the independent reviews about the 918 started to emerge, the last batch of cars sold out pretty much overnight and there was a global waiting list of around 400 cars! Buying at a premium is never an easy pill to swallow but it’s obvious that even at an inflated price, the components well exceed the asking price of the 918 Spyder, just like in the case of the Bugatti Veyron. So even at today’s prices I believe there is still value in the 918.

the standard wheels in my eyes are the just best looking wheels on the planet

Firstly I must say a big thank you to the previous owner that ordered my 918 Spyder new from Porsche, he really did do a good job of speccing it up, I don’t think there is anything I would change. The seats are half leather, half Alcantara, this is definitely my preferred choice as they hold you in place better than full leather. Plus, the Alcantara is much more pleasant to the touch. My only slight concern about this combination centres around the fact that the 918 is a convertible, on those occasions you do get caught out in the rain – the Alcantara may mark. I’ll probably look into ways of protecting the fabric at some stage, just something for me to manage in the meantime. The rest of the car is spot on. I’m very glad he didn’t select the Weissach Pack, I feel it distracts from the cars beauty and, to a hobby driver like me at least, doesn’t make a lot of difference. In addition those carbon aero pieces would just be asking for trouble navigating a tight car park! Massive fan of the standard wheels, in my eyes are just the best looking wheels on the planet. I remember thinking when the concept car came out that there is no way they will get anyway near them for production! Well they did and to me they set the car off perfectly, much more so than the slightly higher content magnesium BBS style ones. Not a wheel to curb however!

Woppum Porsche 918 Spyder Initial Review-7Next point to mention is just how impressed I was with the set up at Porsche Reading. Stuart Jenkins and Andy Keywood instantly made me feel like one of the family. I have their mobile numbers and after the most enjoyable and informative handover ever I was told to call them no matter how trivial the question. I can tell already I’m going to really enjoy this relationship in exactly the same way as I do with Paul from Porsche Guildford. Over the years I have been lucky enough to have the pleasure of managing relationships with the likes of Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Bentley and Maybach, so I know I am going to get some of the best service with these guys from Porsche Reading and Guildford. Seriously impressed.

drive it hard and it will drink fuel in no time

Woppum Porsche 918 Spyder Initial Review-1I suppose I better start talking about the 918 driving experience now… Since collecting from the previous owner I have covered about 350 miles and used two tanks of fuel. A tank is 60 litres which suggests as you would expect, drive it hard and it will drink fuel in no time. However, drive it ‘normally’ and it will do over 50mpg!

Those of you familiar with Porsches PDK boxes may know that the computers that work the shifting in auto mode are so sophisticated that they know better than you on how and when to change cog. In the 918 the blisteringly quick Nurburgring time of 6 minutes 57 seconds was actually done in auto mode I believe and Porsche actually advise owners that for the fastest track times that you should keep it in auto mode. In manual mode the box is not as aggressive or responsive as the box in the Ferrari 458 Speciale. It’s not as quick witted. Now thinking about it as I type I wonder if it’s partly the electric torque that accentuates this issue. There is a way around it, which is to hold onto gears for longer, rev to about 4,000-5,000rpm in each gear and you get more power from the engine to offset the electric torque. I have noticed changes are sharper and crisper plus the noise is miles better.

Woppum Porsche 918 Spyder Initial Review-8With around 300bhp instantly on tap, thanks to the twin electric motors, you can be in any gear, floor it and shift like nothing else that is road legal. The way it delivers power though feels outlandish, totally different from a naturally-aspirated supercar, because you can both hear and feel the electric motors at work. Elaborating further, in a conventional supercar you have to wring its neck to be in the power band, whereas in this you start accelerating rapidly right from idle rpm. As you accelerate through the rev range there is a noticeable transition from pure battery power to mostly combustion engine power. This makes your job as a driver very easy but the feeling is a little synthetic or in other words, false. All is not lost though, once you hit 3,000rpm, out of the 9,000rpm on offer, the noise really kicks in and bellows the most guttural noise all the way to the redline. With the roof down it sounds really mega actually, helped by the unique high mounted exhaust pipes behind your head. However, I do wish it made more noise lower down the rev range. I’m going to have a word with Andy about whether the valves can be opened earlier or something – I suspect however that this would not be advisable, in this case I’ll just get used to it. A minor point maybe but being used to Ferrari’s with after market exhausts it can be a little quiet low down.

the way other cars disappear in your rear view mirror is frightening!

The power is relentless, I have never been in or driven anything that is as quick. You can be in manual or auto mode, 8,000rpm or just 1,000rpm – when you put your foot down you are going to bolt toward the horizon so quickly that if you’re not careful you’ll end up in a lot of trouble. It’s the first time I have said this and truly believed it – this car is way too fast for the road! Because the car is so flat and low, the sense of urgency when you accelerate can somehow be slightly masked as you don’t always feel like you are going quite as quick as you are. Pay attention to the speedo, plus the rear view mirror to see what’s really going on. The way other cars disappear in your rear view mirror is frightening! It’s not every day you shake a Carrera GT like it was a BMW M3 trying its luck against a Ferrari 458, the difference in power you have to any other car on the road really needs to be respected, as well as admired.

the 918 is on rails, almost magnetised to the road

Woppum Porsche 918 Spyder Initial Review-10Considering the power and the torque I’m flabbergasted how well the car puts it all down. There is no fuss at all and the car stays so flat, so composed. You can take corners at speeds where I think the 458 Speciale or even a new 911 Turbo would be starting to scrub. The 918 is on rails, almost magnetised to the road. The steering is heavy but with zero slack and pinpoint accurate. It is a bit dead at low to normal speeds, where the Speciale will be dancing around in your hand the Porsche feels numb. When you start to push on though it starts to weight up nicely with load. I’d like to try it on a track and see how it feels because on the road you are unable to get anyway near its limits. It’s a fun car to drive flat out, but despite its crazy power it is ultra civilised and controlled, it’s not a neurotic puppy like the Speciale – still exciting but in a very different way.

the mixture of carbon, leather, Alcantara and black chrome inserts set the interior off perfectly

Woppum Porsche 918 Spyder Initial Review-5The cabin is a work of art, the quality of materials and just the way it’s put together places it in to a class of its own. Forget what you have seen in a Bentley, Ferrari, Rolls Royce or Maybach – this is the new benchmark for luxury. With all that said though it’s far from opulent or flashy. It’s German – functional and fit for purpose. Personally my favourite part of the cabin are the seats. The mixture of carbon, leather, Alcantara and black chrome inserts set the interior off perfectly. I hear these are the same seats that are going in to the new 991 GT3 RS, which is fantastic. All the technology and touch screen interfaces are somewhat overpowering at first. My first thoughts were, as I’m not using the car every day I’ll never get used to them, but after the handover at Reading and a weekend behind the wheel I think I know how to do most things. The systems are pretty trick really, the screens are all ultra-high definition, as clear as an Apple iPhone 6 – one interface has a picture of the car, it’s battery and the electric motors. When you drive the car hard you can see the battery life drain away, but when you brake or accelerate in sport mode you can see the car using its power to recharge the battery. After a weekend in one of these not only does any other car feel slow, but rather basic too.

Woppum Porsche 918 Spyder Initial Review-6The car gets a lot of attention, but I wouldn’t say more-so than the 458 Speciale. Because it’s black it’s less shouty I suppose, however it looks like nothing else on the road and people either don’t know what it is or they do know and then are party to just how special the car actually is. The 918 is super cool in a way no other hypercar is, stylish and surprisingly understated. The quality inside and out is first class. I have never seen another car this well put together. Every inch of the Porsche 918 Spyder feels special and I now fully appreciate that it is worth every penny. I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time behind the wheel.

every inch of the Porsche 918 Spyder feels special

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