Top 4 Hybrid Supercars
If the first decade of the 21st century (or the notties) can be remembered for something within the automotive industry, it definitely has to be the sudden obsession by mainstream car-makers to launch hybrids - cars which run on petrol and are backed up by an on-board electric motor.
When Toyota launched the world's first mass production hybrid car, the Prius in 2005-06, the automotive world hailed it as a significant first step and change in the way cars of the future might be built - especially in the wake of the continuing chaos in the Middle East, Chavez controlling oil-rich Venezuela and turmoil in Nigeria and Angola - the oil is running out and so the gas-guzzling boxes on wheels need an alternate way to stay on the road too.
Hybrid cars have come a long way since the launch of the Prius however, the road has been rather bumpy - the Prius for example was dull and dim-witted to drive (I know, I did rent one 3 times); the all electric Tesla had issues with range and fire breaking out in their Lithium-Ion batteries and other hybrid cars made by Honda and Nissan were expensive and not so good looking to drive.
Nevertheless, over the past 8 years, hybrids have come a long way both in terms of design and power and the creme de la creme of automotive giants have joined the bandwagon too. Ferrari have launched the LaFerrari, McLaren moving in to this niche segment with the P1, BMW launching the i8 and Porsche coming in with the left-hand drive only 918-Spyder. All these cars come with standard petrol-powered engines complimented with an all electric-motor which can be charged by the petrol-engine or be charged using a wall-socket (which makes all these cars plug-in hybrids). The additional electric motor in all these cars boosts the power output to stratospheric levels while reducing fuel-consumption by almost half, proving the dinosaur petrol-head still has a rosy future to look forward to.
Hybrid super cars are quite expensive, even by super-car standards, but they're certainly worthy of mention as they represent what we could expect in the automotive sector in the long run.
Some of you might've read my article regarding my list of top supercars available today - now its time to review the top hybrid supercars as of 2013.
When Tom Cruise thrashed about in BMW's 'Concept-Efficient Dynamics' supercar on the streets of Mumbai in Mission Impossible-4, everybody who's even remotely interested in cars and high-speed car scenes in an action/spy movie immediately fell in love with the machine.
However, as is the case with most concept cars, many car makers usually never make the actual production model resemble anything like the concept and this is especially true in the case of super cars - right until BMW launched the i8 earlier this year.
The i8 essentially can be considered the hybrid version of the more or less confirmed BMW M8, which will be launched in 2016 to celebrate BMW's centenary.
Among the list of super cars which I'll be reviewing here, the i8 (to be officially launched in select dealerships including Australia in 2014) is said to be the most fuel-efficient car in its class, consuming, beggars belief, only 2.5 liters per 100 km in Eco-modes.
The setup of the i8 is also revolutionary as it offers 4 wheel-drive with a twist, the electric engine delivers power to the front wheels (equivalent to roughly 130 bhp) while the 1.5 litre turbo charged engine delivers double that much power to the rear-wheels. All in all, the car can launch from 0 to 100 kph (60 mph) in 4.4 seconds!
The i8 has been manufactured under the stewardship of BMW's brand new 'i' division which specializes in hybrids (The other production model being the compact but rather ugly looking i3). The i8's pricing has not been yet confirmed, but it is expected to retail cheaper than the million dollar hybrids in this league made by McLaren and Ferrari and more or less be the benchmark for Audi and Mercedes (Audi expected to compete with its R8-based e-tron super-car).
McLaren had already pleasantly surprised the super car world when they introduced the MP4-12C, a more compact, comfortable, ergonomically designed and fuel-efficient rival against Ferrari's 458 Italia.
While the hybrid P1 had been conceived at around the same time as the MP4-12C, production didn't really begin until the end of 2012 and only 350-375 units were produced, all of them being sold out as of November 2013.
While the on-board technology on the P1 is comparable with that of the MP4-12C, McLaren say that aerodynamically and in terms of the build of the chassis, the car is more comparable to the F1, which during the late 80's and throughout the 90's was the world's fastest production road-car until the Bugatti Veyron took the helm during the notties.
The P1 uses a similar engine as used in the MP4-12C - a 3.8 liter twin turbo V8 but thanks to an on-bard electric motor which produces around 175 bhp (almost the same as an entire BMW E46-3 series 2.5 liter straight-6!), its combined output is in excess of 900 bhp and can easily complete the dash from 0 to 100 kph in 2.5 seconds! Aided by a Formula-1 style KERS system which offers immediate boosts in power where needed, it is the closest to driving the McLaren F1. Unlike the BMW i8, the P1 is also a rear-wheel drive car with both the petrol engine and the electric motor sending all the power to the back wheels.
The P1 is also available in striking colour combinations (including a very sort-after bright yellow) and unlike the striking but very clinical and utopian looking BMW i8, it looks like its up to mischief (espcially in that yellow colour). Retail prices in select prices were reported to be roughly 1 million Pounds but owners had the option to heavily customize it and it was reported that a McLaren P1 went for sale in Dubai, UAE for almost 2 million US Dollars.
It is unclear whether McLaren will resume production of the P1 in the near future, but one thing is for certain - this is probably the one direction most super car manufacturers would be taking in the long run.
BMW i8 review by Chris Harris on 'Drive'
McLaren P1 review by Top Gear UK
Porsche 918 Spyder
Porsche can easily be considered as having one of the laziest design studios in the world given that their 911's look more or less the same since they were first introduced in the 1950's-60's.
However, things are rather different when on a rare occasion, they decide to build a rare supercar.
Porsche's previous outing in the supercar market was the beautiful but brutal Carrera-GT (the car which sadly killed the Fast & Furious actor Paul Walker). Nevertheless, Porsche capitalized on the success of the Carrera-GT hypercar and had always decided that their next supercar would venture into the largely unexplored hybrid super car market.
The 918-Spyder (the only car available in this segment with a fordable roof) is easily the most beautiful car amonst the 4 I'm writing about here (more beautiful than, dare I say it, the La-Ferrari, which I'll be writing about next) and comes with a mad engineering setup.
Unlike the P1 and i8, the 918 comes with not one but 2 electric motors with different outputs - one transfers power to the front wheels while the other, along with a savage 4.6 liter V6 engine sends power to the rear wheels. The electric motors offer outputs of 154 bhp and 125 bhp and along with the 4.6 liter V6, the car offers a combined output of 887 bhp - while this output's still lower than what the McLaren P1 offers despite the heavier engine and additional electric motors, the 918 compensates by blitzing past the 200 kph barrier in under 7 seconds and it has been reported that it lapped the Nurburging in 6 mins 57 seconds!
The 918 will be manufactured via a limited run during the 2014 production year although I'm unaware of how many units would Porsche exactly build. Unlike the other hybrid super cars available, the 918 will only be produced in a left-hand drive setup, meaning a few countries (including Australia but not the UK) would never greet this beast (as they do not under any circumstances allow left-hand drive cars to be registered for road-legal use).
Retail prices for the 918 Spyderr have been confirmed as starting at $845,000.00 USD and an optional 'Weissach' Package (which from what I can tell is just adding some additional carbon-fiber tinsel including a carbon-fiber spoiler, 6-point race-style harness, track-styled colour combination and stiffer suspension) would cost buyers an additional $100,000.00.
I'm totally in love with this car and I hope Porsche in future can consider offering a right-hand drive version.
Jay Leno's Garage and the Porsche 918 Spyder
It would've been sacrilege to not write about hybrid super cars without mentioning anything about the daddy of all supercar makers, Ferrari.
LaFerrari (which literally translates in English to 'The Ferrari') is the most powerful,fastest and lightest of the lot and will only be sold to 499 select clients. LaFerrari is unofficially also called the F70 (which unlike its predecessor, the F60-Enzo) will be Ferrari's first hybrid special edition super car.and as they say, the best was literally left for the last. The design and specs being loosely based on the F12 Berlinetta, the LaFerrari's combined petrol and electric engines send power to the rear-wheels while the front wheels are left to handle the steering. The petrol engine on the LaFerrari, being a mammoth 6.3 Liter V12 (the only V12 Hybrid super car available at the moment). delivers an astonishing 800 bhp and adding the 163 hp from the on-board electric motor, the car delivers 963 bhp in combined driving mode (which is the closest you'll get to the Bugatti Veyron!). Finished in Ferrari's trademark colour of Rosso-Corsa, this car certainly turns heads wherever it goes.
The LaFerrari costs around the 1 to 1.5 million Pound mark and while that does make it the msot expensive hybrid supercar in this list, this car along with Porsche's 918 Spyder will certainly be the yardstick by which all hybrids of the future in this class will be manufactured (No disrespect for McLaren's P1 and BMW's i8 intended though).
LaFerrari - Full Review by Autocar UK
2013's certainly been a year to remember when it comes to changes within the automotive sector. With the recession more or less behind us and car-makers realizing their drastic changes to design to make their machines more crash/pedestrian friendly and less sporty between 2007 and 2012 didn't exactly fare well in terms of looks - They still had to acknowledge they needed to make more fuel-efficient cars as the oil's slowly running out.
Hybrid super cars, while being still in their infancy considering the whole sector's pretty new and niche, definitely promise the petrol head like myself a rosy future even after the fossils run out and its re-assuring to say the least that the human love to thrash the pedal to the metal on a race-track would last for a long time :)
If you have the cash to buy these technological leaps but prefer the madness of a hypercar instead, then you might want to read my article about the top 5 hypercars; and if you prefer your budget supercars, then I've written about them here.