Those top-mounted exhaust pipes aren’t there just for looks.
Porsche has proved time and time again that it is one of the best supercar manufacturers in the world, but it hammered the point home when it released its top of the line hypercar, the 918 Spyder. Like the 959 of the 1980s, the 918 changed the supercar game forever. It wasn’t as popular or expensive as its McLaren and Ferrari competitors, but it did offer more comfort, luxury, and the ability to save the environment all while keeping up with or surpassing the other two hypercars on the race track.
How does the Porsche 918 do it? Weighing in at 3,692 pounds (or 3,602 with the Weissach package), it’s the heaviest of the hybrid hypercar trinity, but that extra mass doesn’t all go towards luxury amenities. Unlike the Ferrari LaFerrari or McLaren P1, the 918 puts its 887 horsepower to the pavement through all four tires, not just the rears. This means that extra motors had to be placed up front, weighing the car down but offering a much higher degree of control. Helping the driver tailor the experience are five driving modes; E-Drive, Hybrid, Sport, Race, and Hot Lap. The first two help to conserve fuel in a crisis and helps the 918 achieve lower emissions numbers than a Toyota Prius.
The last two modes are the most aggressive and the Hot Lap function unlocks an all-out acceleration mode that dumps kilowatts and horsepower onto the pavement with enough ferocity to make the IPAS system on the McLaren P1 worry. Aiding the assault on the other two hypercars is a four-wheel steering system that makes the car turn more quickly. At low speeds, the 918 turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction as the front wheels to supply faster corners. To allow for greater high-speed stability, the 918 turns the rear tires in conjunction with the fronts. Combined with the all-wheel drive system, the rear axle steering system helps make the 918 incredibly usable unlike Porsche’s last flagship supercar, the Carrera GT.
With the all-wheel drive system, the 918 becomes the fastest accelerating production car ever made despite technically being a convertible (the top must be manually removed and stored in the frunk). If things get too sunny, drivers can put the top up and flip down the bespoke sun visors, which come together after 200 stitches and 45 minutes of Porsche employee toiling go into it. Even though the 918 takes three times as long to build as a 911, it has one of the lowest turnaround times as any hypercar. At full tilt, the Porsche factory can crank out as many as 4 918s per day, although due to the limited availability of rare parts like a carbon fiber anti roll bar and ceramic wheel bearings, only seven Weissach spec’d 918s can be made per week.
That’s okay because Porsche charges $84,000 for the package that only cuts 88 pounds from the car’s mass. It does this by removing comfortable extras like the air conditioner, swapping leather for Alcantara, and using magnesium wheels. Even the steel bolts that hold together the subframe and suspension components are replaced with magnesium copies on the Weissach package. Each of these bolts costs ten times as much as their steel counterparts, but are 60% lighter. The obsessive pursuit of weight savings extends to the engine too, because the 918’s 4.6-liter V8 weighs 309 pounds, 220 less than the power plant in a 911. This is achieved with help from Inconel, a lightweight alloy that stays strong even under high temperatures.
Heat management is important to the 918 and not just because of its high performance engine. The low mounted battery also needs help keeping cool. To do so, the engineers build the engine with its heads on backwards. Instead of venting exhaust gases out of the sides, the used gasoline is pumped towards the center of the V and up through the top-mounted exhausts pipes. This fancy system helps to keep the hot gas from getting near the battery and impeding on its lifespan or performance delivery. As we’ve found out before, no 918 owner wants to replace the battery or any defunct part on the hypercar because parts can quickly add up to make the $65,000 liquid metallic paint job look like a bargain.
A replacement transmission alone costs more than a base BMW M4, and the engine unit carrier demands an $88,176 premium just to be able to hold the $262,951 engine. As crazy as those prices seem, it’s this level of absurdity that helps elevate the 918 into the hypercar realm. At the end of the day, this is what billionaire buyers look for in a hypercar; a piece of automotive technology that does it all. They want a car that breaks records, looks cool, is assured entry into the automotive hall of fame, and is exclusive enough to make any driver feel special. Giving the car's parts high prices helps, but it’s the outlandish engineering extremes delivered by Porsche’s engineers that make the 918 one of the most desirable cars of the decade.