By Joseph Moss – firstname.lastname@example.org
We are not talking about some secret project coming from Area 51; we are talking about the newest supercars developed and conceived in the minds of the best engineering geniuses of Porsche and McLaren. Ladies and gentleman, here we go again, the British vs. the Germans.
Introduced as a concept back in 2010 on the Geneva Motor show, the Porsche 918 Spyder showed us a glimpse of the future. Porsche used the opportunity to present a car that will replace the mighty Porsche Carrera GT. However, this new car was a hybrid, and petrol-heads usually do not like hybrids. At the same time, a few hundred kilometres from Geneva in Woking, Surrey, chaps called Martin Whitmarsh and Ron Dennis were thinking about the same concept. How can they produce a supercar that will utilize Formula 1 technology such as KERS the best way? Their solution was a car so powerful and so mesmerizing that it would overshadow even the best of the previous lot, such as the Ferrari Enzo or the McLaren F1. (Ferrari worked on their “new age” supercar at the same time, but we will not talk about the Italians just yet.) Nevertheless, Porsche introduced their supercar in 2013 – almost at the same time that McLaren presented their latest creation. Everybody realised that the battle for the throne had begun, and two of the best car-manufacturers in the entire world met head-to-head.
The development of these cars was heavily influenced by technical breakthroughs achieved on Formula 1 cars. All of a sudden, Formula 1 had some kind of hybrid system, and electricity started to play a more important role in the business. Happily, McLaren was in the business, and they actually developed a car called MP4-12C, whose base architecture was used for building this new monster. With a lightweight monocoque carbon-fiber chassis, a retuned 3.8-litre turbo-charged V8 and a newly developed suspension, McLaren wanted to create the best-performing sports car in the world. During the initial revealing of the car, McLaren’s automotive managing director, Antony Sheriff, said, “Our aim is not necessarily to be the fastest in absolute top speed but to be the quickest and most rewarding series production road car on a circuit.” Employing a newly developed lightweight e-motor and a 727 HP powerful turbocharged V8, McLaren created a vehicle with a rear mid-engine, rear- wheel drive layout that produces a combined power output of 916 HP. It is not the sort of power you might expect from a Bugatti Veyron or a Hennessey, but this car is much more than those gas-guzzling monsters. McLaren demonstrated to the world that they are able to build a supercar that can dynamically overshadow anything produced to date, while emitting less than 200 grams of pollutants every kilometre and using an electric motor for electric-only drive. You may like it or not, but this car, with all its batteries, e-motors, a seven-speed dual- clutch transmission and “big boy stuff” such as a luxurious interior, is a bigger technological marvel than any car produced during the golden age of supercars in the beginning of the 2000s.
But, how does it perform!? Well, there is only one place in the world where test-drivers can put the McLaren through its paces and compare it with anything else – the Nurburgring. Although McLaren visited the track with the P1, they have not disclosed any official data about the time the McLaren P1 achieved. However, sources from the McLaren and from the track are saying that the British have created a monster that lapped the ‘Ring in less than 6.50 seconds. Actually, an unofficial statement coming from an unknown source from Germany said the McLaren P1 lapped the ‘Ring in 6.30 seconds. Nevertheless, McLaren P1 really is a technical masterpiece, and the driver will surely appreciate its power, brutal acceleration to 62 in 2.8 seconds and electronically limited maximum speed of 217 mph. However, IPAS and DRS buttons on the dash will be appreciated even more. This is kids’ stuff. The act of hard acceleration while exiting the corner and pressing IPAS and DRS buttons will grant the maximum amount of pulling power and catapult the car to speed. IPAS activates the maximum power of the e-motor (176 HP), and DRS lowers the rear spoiler, retracts down-force wings and basically makes the car more slippery. Remember when everyone wanted NO2 systems in their cars? Well, this is it, only better.
The Porsche 918 Spyder, on the other hand, lacks just that. However, we cannot blame the car as Porsche made it $500,000 cheaper than the McLaren P1. Unlike the McLaren P1, which is aimed at brutal drivers who will use the car mostly on the track, Porsche made the 918 Spyder much more usable and practical on normal roads. By installing a luxurious and comfortable cabin and providing five different driving modes – two of which are called E-Power and Hybrid – Porsche wanted to create a car that you can drive to work, or to the mall (well, not to the mall, but you get the point). Unlike the McLaren P1, the petrol engine in this car is not turbo-charged. Naturally aspirated 4.6-liter V8 produces 608 HP, and this engine is coupled with not one but two electric motors. One operates the front wheels, while the other operates the back wheels. The combined power of the electric engines is 285 HP. However, the combined output of the three engines is about 887 HP. Not bad at all. Based on a specially developed architecture that offers four-wheel drive and has plenty of room to integrate the batteries, the 918 Spyder is a much more street-focused car. It can cover 18 miles on electricity alone (in comparison with six miles for McLaren P1), and it is able to achieve a fuel consumption figure of 70 mpg. Well, probably no one will try to find out whether this is correct, but everyone will try to find out what this car is all about when you floor it. Porsche says that the acceleration to 62 mph happens in 2.8 seconds (probably faster in the “real world”), and the maximum speed is about 214 mph. Well, this does not tell us if it is faster than the McLaren, but the acceleration to 190 mph just might. According to official data, the McLaren can hit 190 mph in 16.6 seconds, while the 918 Spyder needs three seconds more. It seems that the difference is huge; then again, look at the price tag.
Let us now forget about E-Power and Hybrid driving modes, and try to figure out what is hidden behind Race Hybrid or even Hot Lap driving modes. In short, the throttle response is ferocious, PDK transmission changes gears faster and more brutally than ever, and all three engines are at their maximum, working to provide the driver with full power at all times. The basic performance figures remain the same, but the feel, sheer driving drama and the sound are increased. What’s more, the suspension becomes more rigid, providing much more grip, and, as a result, lap times go down considerably. Well, it is not hard to imagine that Race Hybrid and Hot Lap are modes specially developed for the track. Hot Lap mode is only accessible through a red switch on the dash when the car is already in the Race Hybrid mode. Besides providing maximum power available (which is a lot), this mode enables the driver to use all of the juice from the batteries. Result!? Nurburgring lap time of 6 minutes and 57 seconds. It is not as fast as the “unofficial” McLaren record, but it is faster than anything else achieved by the cars in this price range. More importantly, after the hot laps in “hot lap” mode, the driver can just turn E-Power mode back on and cruise to a cafe in the city center (where no one will charge an extra fee because this mind-boggling Porsche is a hybrid).
All in all, these two are the world’s best at this moment. The cars are developed in laboratories, and the lucky ones who get to sit in the driver’s seats of these cars will have something to talk about with their grandchildren. The Porsche is for sure slower than the McLaren; still, it is cheaper, easier to live with, and it can cover almost 20 miles on electricity before being recharged at the electric station in 25 minutes. Great, isn’t it? The McLaren is a more track-focused car. It is fully usable on the road, of course, but the rigid suspension and the sci-fi stuff, such as IPAS and DRS buttons, launch it at the other extreme. The British obviously won the tech war, but with planned production of 918 units, the Germans earned more money. Though these cars represent the jewels of the car industry (together with the Ferrari LaFerrari), there is also one much cheaper car that offers a glimpse of what these cars can do. (Take a look at BMW’s offer, and search under the letter “I”.)