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IT’S FRANKFURT Show time, and it was 50 years ago at this venue that Porsche introduced its 911 sports car.
Amazing; a car in current production celebrating its Golden Anniversary. Even the icon Ford Model T was in production for a mere 19 years, 1908 to 1927. Only the original Volkswagen Beetle’s longevity is greater, 65 years, 1938 to 2003.
The Porsche 356 replacement had the internal name Type 901. But French automaker Peugeot’s lock on x0x nomenclature caused Porsche to change the name to 911.
The 911 had an air-cooled 130-hp flat-6 (356s were all flat-4s). On sale in the U.S. in 1965, its price started at $5500 (say $40,800 in today’s dollars). This slotted the 911 considerably above a typical sports car of the era (around $3000 for a Triumph TR4), but not exotic either ($14,000 for a Ferrari 250 GT 2+2).
Come to think of it, this is where the 911 is positioned in today’s sports car marketplace.
Today’s car is the seventh generation in the 911 evolution. The first four iterations retained air cooling. From the fifth generation on, beginning in 1997, 911 engines are water-cooled; this, primarily because water is much better than air at removing heat.
Though this and many other changes took place over the years, the heritage of today’s car is clear. It’s a 911.
Over the past half-century, Porsche has expanded as an automaker. Who would have guessed back in 1963 that eventually its largest selling product would be its SUV Cayenne?
In fact, back in 1963, we’d have asked, “What’s an SUV anyway”?
Also, beginning in 1996, Porsche introduced sports cars of more modest price.
Today’s Boxster roadster and Cayman coupe share the niche occupied by the original 911. Prices of the two range from $50,400 to $63,800.
At the other extreme, $845,000, is Porsche’s fabulous 918 Spyder. This hyper hybrid has been seen before (www.wp.me/p2ETap-PN), but 2013 Frankfurt Show marks the official introduction of its production version.
The 918 is urged along by three modes of propulsion providing all-wheel drive. A mid-mounted 4.6-liter V-8 contributes 608 hp to the car’s rear drive; an electric motor behind it interactively adds another 154 hp. In addition, there’s a front-mounted electric motor providing another 127 hp of front drive.
Porsche claims a 0-62-mph (0-100 km/h) time of 2.8 seconds with all three taking part. Hybrid propulsion options under driver control include E-Power (pure electric, range: 10-20 miles, 0-62 mph in less than seven seconds); Hybrid (interactive optimization for efficiency); Sport Hybrid (V-8 is primary; electric motors provide boost on demand); and Race Hybrid (V-8 primary; electrics at full-go).
Once in Race Hybrid, there’s a separate Hot Lap button that pushes the lithium battery pack to its ultimate.
Porsche has announced an estimated fuel consumption for the 918 Spyder of three liters per 100 km, an amazing 78 mpg, on the New European Driving Cycle.
There’s a certain caveat here, albeit a perfectly legitimate one: By default (and hence in beginning the NEDC), the 918 Spyder starts in E-Power mode.
It’s clear the 918 Spyder doesn’t romp to 62 mph in 2.8 seconds and achieve 78 mpg at the same time. But isn’t it neat that either option is completely under the control of its lucky driver?
To cite F. Scott Fitzgerald in “The Rich Boy,” (1926)—and not the garbled Hemingway version—“Let me tell you about the rich. They are different from you and me.”
They sure are; they could own a Porsche 918 Spyder. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013