When Porsche promises a world premiere you expect something very special and as the curtain went up on the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) this morning, it delivered. The company has taken the drivetrain of the 911 GT3 R Hybrid and spliced it together with the silky lines of the 918 Spyder Concept to create the Porsche 918 RSR – a mid-engine coupé that puts out a remarkable 767 hp at peak using the combined forces of its direct injection V8 engine and electric motors on each of the front wheels.
Porsche announced the innovative 911 GT3 R Hybrid at the beginning of 2010 and the vehicle quickly made an impact, scooping major motorsport awards and tasting racetrack success in its first year of competition.
Like the GT3 R hybrid, Porsche sees the RSR as a "race lab" – a testbed for "new fuel efficient technologies under extreme conditions" that will feed the development of high-performance production hybrids.
The RSR's V8 engine alone produces 563 hp at 10,300/rpm – the secret to its extra punch lies in the hybrid system which accumulates energy harvested from braking in a flywheel power accumulator which spins at up to 36,000 rpm. This additional power can then be delivered through the 2 x 75 kW electric motors at the front at the push of a button, giving the driver a 150 kW "on call" power boost that lasts for up to 8 seconds. The two electric motors also have a torque vectoring function which enables variable torque distribution to the front axle for enhanced agility and sharper steering.
The racing DNA of the RSR is also evident in the carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) monocoque construction, a paddle-operated six-speed constant-mesh transmission and a stripped back interior which drops the passenger seat (making way for the flywheel accumulator) and the touch-sensitive user interface seen on the 918 Spyder Concept in favor of rocker switches.
Of the design, Porsche has this to say:
"From the tradition established by classic Porsche long-distance race cars such as the 908 long-tale coupé (1969) and the 917 short-tail coupé (1971), the Porsche designers created a link to the postmodernism of the "form follows function" philosophy. In the 918 RSR, the lines' elegant flow is dominated by muscular wheel arches, dynamic air intakes and a pulpit-like cockpit. A visible fan wheel between the ram air intake tubes and a rear spoiler with RS Spyder dimensions additionally emphasise the racing laboratory function."
The car's stunning "liquid metal chrome blue" color is also new and the number 22 pays tribute to the 1971 Le Mans win by Dr. Helmut Marko and Gijs van Lennep in a Porsche 917 short-tail coupé. The pair raced 5335.313 kilometres (3315.21 miles) at an average speed of 222.304 km/h (138.13 mph) – a mark not bested until 2010.
So will this technology end up on the road? President and CEO of Porsche AG, Matthias Mueller, had this to say at this morning's press conference:
"With the 918 RSR race lab we are researching methods for further efficiency improvement under extreme racing conditions, with the great potential of these ground breaking technologies not only in motorsports, but perhaps for road-going sportscars as well."