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918 Alert! Porsche's stinging spyder grows closer to becoming reality

Tue, 15 May 2012

The first fully road-going prototype of Porsche's upcoming 202-mph hybrid-powered 918 Spyder has been seen during shakedown runs at the company's R&D center in Germany.

Porsche released its own lightly disguised photographs of the cars being tested. The mules are “camouflaged” in livery meant to summon the famous 917 racer.

Sporting a look reminiscent of the 918 Spyder concept first displayed at the 2010 Geneva motor show—with a strong resemblance to the RSR version revealed later—the supercar is set to crown the Porsche lineup when it debuts next year with a price of $845,000.

The spy shots indicate that the supercar remains on track, after we drove more primitive prototypes with 911 body panels earlier this year (“Scorching Spyder,” Autoweek, April 16). While it appears similar to the concept, several changes were made in the production process. The front end is smoother, with smaller air ducts on the corners, and the hood doesn't have the air vent of the show car. The windshield sits at a more upright angle, and the cabin was lengthened slightly.

At the rear are more prominent haunches over the wheels and a longer overhang, presumably necessary to house the advanced gasoline-electric driveline concentrated within the bottom half of the structure to provide the lowest possible center of gravity.

While it looks like a coupe, the 918 Spyder will be an open-top. The carbon-fiber roof panel detaches. Also visible on the prototype pictured here are top pipes—exhausts that exit out of the top of the engine bay just behind the monocoque's integral carbon-fiber rollover hoops. The rear wing pictured was created to replicate the downforce provided by the production car's more complex multistage retractable device.

The heart of the machine is a 4.6-liter V8 direct-injection engine based on the smaller 3.4-liter unit used in the 2008 Le Mans prototype class-winning RS Spyder. Claimed to rev to more than 9,000 rpm, it combines with a pair of electric motors—one acting on the front wheels and another within the gearbox housing to provide drive to the rear—for a total of 770 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque.

The 918 Spyder channels power via a single-gear transmission on the front axle and a seven-speed dual-clutch unit at the rear. With a curb weight that Porsche describes as being less than 3,748 pounds, the supercar is claimed to hit 62 mph in 2.8 seconds.

Assembly will be limited to 918 cars, with the first example set to be revealed on Sept. 18, or 9/18 as it's known in some parts of the world.

By Greg Kable