2015 Porsche 918 Spyder first drive review

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It’s not often you’re behind a professional race car driver who’s pushing flat out in a Porsche 911 Turbo S, and you think to yourself, “I wish this guy would pick up the pace a bit.” But that’s exactly what you find yourself thinking when you’re chasing that pro from the cockpit of the 918 Spyder.

And you’re not even breaking a sweat.

The 918 Spyder is just that good. As a speed machine, it’s utterly untouchable by the pantheon of cars that deign to confer with mere mortals. In the newly-discovered territory of the hypercar stratosphere it may have one or two equals, but very few cars in the sub-$1-million class can hang with the 918 Spyder, and none do it with the un-flustered ease of the halo Porsche.

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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

If, at some point, you find yourself executing flawless apexes at speeds that you’d normally encounter at the end of a middling-length straightaway, and wonder to yourself, “Just how in the hell did I do that?”, you’ll have taken the Wizard of Oz’s advice to heart. You’ve ignored the man—or, more precisely, the 80 or so computers—behind the 918’s technological curtain. The giant green-headed monster of flaming speed is very real to you. The illusion is preserved.

Make no mistake: the speed is real. You’re really doing it. But there’s a whole lot going on behind the scenes to make that experience possible. Computers talk to computers, telling each other how much power to apply to the front axle (which has its own standalone electric motor, capable of delivering up to 129 horsepower). Other computers take that information and filter it through their own algorithm, deciding how much power to send from the 156-horsepower rear electric motor to the rear axle, while the 608-horsepower V-8 engine does the same, all of them responding to the requests of your right foot.

In the middle of this 214-mph internet on wheels, still more computers are deciding how to best vector that per-axle power to each individual wheel, pushing and pulling the 918 around corners with grip like an errant bead of JB Weld left overnight on a workbench.

But unless you pull back the curtain, all of this goes on behind the scenes, so transparently, so free of interference with the driver, that it seems as if it’s not happening at all—only the speed is real.

There’s a price for this processing perspicacity, however, paid in weight and in a vague sense of something artificial in the mix. There's a thin film between you and your partner in this salacious asphalt tango, but one felt only as a sort of dim awakening, cloudy at the back of the mind. It doesn't ruin the fun, but it does mute it ever so slightly.

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