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First plug-in Porsche approaches production

Electrifying: Porsche's 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid is fast, frugal and fast approaching production.

Porsche ‘confident’ of production 918 as super-hybrid firms as Carrera GT successor

30 Apr 2010

PORSCHE will enter the hybrid race next Saturday (May 8) when the Cayenne S Hybrid goes on sale in Europe – less than three months before it arrives in Australian showrooms – and now it seems the first plug-in hybrid from Porsche is also destined for production.

Porsche development chief Wolfgang Duerheimer told Bloomberg at the Beijing motor show that 1000 serious customers would guarantee production of the Geneva show-stopping 918 Spyder concept, which is reported to have attracted almost 900 potential buyers.

“I'm confident that we will soon reach the threshold of 1000,” said Mr Duerheimer. “We need 1000 seriously interested people to make a sound business case.”

As we’ve reported, the 1490kg 918 plug-in super-convertible is estimated to sprint to 100km/h in 3.2 seconds and be capable of lapping the Nurburgring in less than 7:30, making its Porsche’s finest production model and ranking it among some of the world’s finest supercars.

At the same time, however, the combination of a mid-mounted RS Spyder racecar-sourced 368kW 3.4-litre V8 assisted by an 80kW electric motor on the rear axle and a 40kW motor for each front wheel is said to return combined fuel consumption of 3.0L/100km, along with average CO2 emissions of just 70g/km.

In other words, despite being more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly than the world’s best current hybrids – and featuring a 25km engineless driving range – the 918 Spyder will be a fully fledged replacement for Porsche’s range-topping Carrera GT.

25 center imageFrom top: Porsche 918 hybrid, 918 powertrain layout, 918 cockpit and 918 Spyder with 911 hybrid and Cayenne hybrid.

Porsche sold 1270 examples of the rear-drive, left-hand-drive-only Carrera GT, powered by a 5.7-litre V10, between 2004 and 2006. If demand is sufficient, Porsche could also produce the all-wheel-drive 918, which weighs about 110kg more than the Carrera GT, in right-drive guise for key markets such as the UK, Japan and Australia.

Officially, the 918 remains a “technology demonstrator” while Porsche studies customer response, but in a question and answer segment in the latest edition of Porsche’s customer magazine, Christophorus, Porsche says: “Only one of all the concept cars that Porsche has ever displayed at auto shows did not become a production vehicle. So the odds are very good this car will be produced.”

Further, Porsche has indicated the 918 will come with a similar pricetag to the Carrera GT.

“Of course, it is too soon to announce an accurate price level (for the 918), but its precursor, the Carrera GT, sold for about €450,000 ($A640,000),” says Porsche.

Production of the 918 would see Porsche follow a similar move by fellow Volkswagen brand Audi, which announced on the eve of the Geneva show that it will produce the fully electric E-Tron supercar by 2012.

Mr Duerheimer also said at Beijing that Porsche’s mid-term product strategy will be announced in the next six months, after platform-sharing discussions with Volkswagen as part of a drive to effectively double annual Porsche sales to 150,000 by VW CEO Dr Martin Winterkorn.

While Porsche appears to have gone cold on producing its own ‘Roxster’ version of Audi’s mid-size Q5 crossover to position beneath the new Cayenne – according to reports, because it believes the Q5 has cannibalised too many Q7 sales – the platform-sharing deal could result in a mid-engined compact sportscar based on Volkswagen’s BlueSport roadster concept.

“We’re very optimistic that we’ll be able to further expand our leading position in the sports-car segment,” said Mr Duerheimer.

Well before then, however, Porsche is expected to continue its rollout of Panamera derivatives, led by the V6 variant that debuted at Beijing and next year’s hybrid version, before two-door coupe and convertible versions emerge. GoAuto sources indicate that design drawings of a four-door Panamera convertible that surfaced on the European patent office website are a diversionary tactic by Porsche.

Closer to reality is the upgraded GT2 coupe that will complete Porsche’s 997 Series II 911 model rollout before its 998-series successor surfaces next year. Contrary to some reports, the facelifted GT2 will come with the latest 911 Turbo’s direct-injection 3.8-litre twin-turbo flat six – rather than retain its current port-injection twin-turbo 3.6-litre boxer.

Porsche also said at Beijing that it expects sales in China, its third-biggest market after the US and Germany, to “clearly exceed” 10,000 vehicles this year – up from about 990 in 2009. Porsche says it will double the number of its Chinese dealerships by 2012, from 27 to more than 50.

“We expect that the desire for motorisation in China will continue unabated,” said Mr Duerheimer.

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