Porsche bumps the Panamera to 550 hp with the Turbo S!

The four-door Panamera gran turismo may be a new type of vehicle for Porsche, but the Stuttgart automaker is following the same basic pattern that has prevailed for all of its previous entries. That is launch the basic model and then augment it with a steady flow additional variants with more power power, better handling, less mass etc.

Following the debut of the Panamera hybrid at the recent Geneva Motor Show, a more powerful flavor will be arriving at the New York Auto Show in a couple of weeks. The Panamera Turbo will gain the always desirable S suffix to indicate the extra 50 horsepower and 37 pound-feet of twisting force generated by the 4.8-liter V8 engine. That translates to peak values of 550 hp and 553 lb-ft.

But wait, that’s not all! The Turbo S comes with the Sport Chrono Package which includes driver selectable Sport and Sport Plus modes. When either of those modes are enabled and the driver stabs the go pedal and triggers a transmission kickdown, a time limited turbo overboost mode will bump the output to 590 pound-feet!

Using launch control, the over two-ton Panamera Turbo S sprints to 62 mph in just 3.8 seconds and hits the wall at 191 mph.

This extra juice comes courtesy of  a pair of turbochargers with new lighter titanium-aluminum alloy turbine wheels that spin up faster and revised calibrations in the engine management system. All of the other techno-goodness that’s included in the regular Panamera Turbo carries on including the torque vectoring all-wheel-drive system, stability control and active roll control.

The S is visually distinguished from lesser Panameras with sill extensions from the Porsche Exclusive range and 20-inch Turbo II wheels with a wider rear track. The Panamera Turbo S goes on sale in Jule with  starting tab of just $173,200. Your friendly neighborhood Porsche retailer will happily help you inflate the bottom line with the vast list of customizations that are available for any Porsche.


Porsche 918 Spyder production starts September 18, 2013, costs €645,000

Can you wait 30 months? If you want a Porsche 918 Spyder, the company’s pending plug-in hybrid sports car, you can. The decree went forth from Stuttgart today that production of the 918 Spyder will begin on September 18, 2013 (9/18 get it?) and dealers are now officially taking orders. Continuing the numerology, just 918 units of the gasoline-electric-plug-in supercar will be built over an undisclosed time frame.

If  you have to ask how much it costs…you know the rest. But for the truly interested, it’s €645,000.  That’ll help ensure exclusivity, and as with every Porsche, buyers will be able to fatten the bottom substantially by selecting custom paints and interior finishes among other options.

The 918 Spyder debuted last year at the Geneva Motor Show with a through-the-road plug-in hybrid powertrain. The concept featured the same 3.4-liter V8 engine mounted amid-ship that powered the RS Spyder to numerous victories in the American and European Le Mans Series over the past five years. The production version will have a road going version of that V8 with a displacement over 4.0-liters pumping over 500 horsepower.  The V8 will send power to the rear wheels via a seven-speed PDK dual clutch transmission.

The hydrocarbon ingesting power unit will be supplemented by a pair of electric motors with one at each axle that put out a combined 218 horsepower. The motors will be fed by a liquid cooled lithium ion battery that propel the 918 electrically for about 16 miles. With 218 electric horsepower and that much battery available, the 918 will be able to complete most of the EU driving cycle on electrons alone which is expected to help it achieve over 78 mpg in the test.   Of course using any of that 500 hp behind the driver’s shoulder will cause that mileage number to plummet just as fast as the quarter mile time.

While waiting for their 918 Spyder, customers can also order a 911 Turbo S “Edition 918 Spyder” that features the same color and trim as the hybrid along with a badge on the glove box that bears the same build number as their 918.  Only 918 of the limited edition 530 hp 911s will be built with a starting price of €184,546 and deliveries starting in June 2011.

Porsche 911 GT3R Hybrid 2.0 gets more power and efficiency

After a successful first season of competition with the flywheel-equipped 911 GT3R hybrid in 2010, Porsche is coming back with a more powerful and efficient Ver. 2.0 for this year. In its debut campaign, Porsche proved out the effectiveness of the basic electro-mechanical flywheel system even finishing first among all GT cars at the season ending race in Zuhai, China.

Version 2.0 is primarily about refining the car and the hybrid system to reduce weight and size as well as improving the aerodynamics. The flywheel system still spins at up to 40,000 rpm but it’s now more compact and 20 percent lighter than the first iteration allowing it and the hybrid power electronics to be packaged into the carbon fiber safety enclosure on the passenger side of the car. The electronics are now more efficient so they generate less heat and require less cooling which has allowed Porsche to dispense with the two large air scoops that sat ahead of the rear wheel arches on the 2010 car. The result is less aerodynamic drag for better speed and reduced fuel consumption.

On the driver side of the cockpit, Porsche has consolidated all of the instrumentation readout and all of the major controls into the center of the steering wheel so they are always visible and accessible.  Other controls are available with backlit buttons that have been placed on panel in the center console. The goal was to improve the ergonomics for the drivers, especially when running in the dark during endurance races.

The 470 horsepower normally aspirated six-cylinder boxer engine continues to hang out behind the rear axle just as 911s have done for 50 years. Up front, the two electric motors that drive the front wheels have been upgraded from 60 to 75 kilowatts each, giving the 911 hybrid a boost of up to 200 hp for accelerating out of curves or passing. The system can be programmed to either feed in the electric power automatically when the driver presses the throttle pedal or provide an on-demand boost via a steering wheel button for overtaking.

Overall, Porsche engineers have dropped the weight of the 911 hybrid by 50 kilograms to just 1,300 kg which should improve the handling, accelerating and efficiency.  The plan is tune the 911 to provide similar lap-times to the 2010 car, but use the improvements to cut fuel consumption over the already efficient version 1.0. So far Porsche has committed to running the hybrid in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring in June and probably some of the four hour races that make up the Ring endurance series this spring. After the 24 hour race, the car will probably go to Petit Le Mans in October and perhaps one or two other races.  What Porsche still isn’t talking about are competition plans for the 918 RSR that debuted at the Detroit Auto show. It now looks like the 918 won’t be racing until at least 2012.

Porsche Hybrid Video: Replica Coming to Geneva Motor Show

Toyota did not invent the hybrid car. In fact, the very first hybrid came to life 37 years before Toyota Motor Company was even founded.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ferdinand Porsche (who else?) came up with one of the first hybrids, and it was a race car. Porsche actually began by building pure battery electric vehicles, but 19th century battery technology prompted the addition of  internal combustion assistance. The result was a series hybrid not far removed in concept from today’s Chevrolet Volt.

The Lohner-Porsche Semper Vivus sounds like an infection, but was a car featuring a pair of hub motors driving the front wheels. Later variants included two more motors on the rear wheels to create the first all-wheel drive car. While a single example of the electric carriage survives today, none of the original hybrids exist.

For four years, technicians and craftsmen at the Porsche museum in Stuttgart having been working to re-create that first hybrid. Work has been painstaking, using surviving photos, drawings and information derived from the surviving EV as source material. The product of their efforts will be publicly revealed for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show next week alongside the new Panamera S hybrid.

So what did Toyota invent? The successful combination of ideas and hardware, strung together with modern technology that’s finally good enough to make the driving experience mostly seamless. They may have popularized the hell out of it, but the power-split parallel hybrid concept made so famous by the Prius was the work of a group of engineers from TRW who patented the idea back in the late 1960s. At that time prior to the advent of the nickel metal hydride battery, oil was so cheap that there wasn’t really much demand for the idea of a hybrid powertrain.

Toyota does deserve credit for was pulling all of the ideas together and developing a practical and reliable power-split transmission. By subsidizing the cost of those early Priuses, Toyota helped keep the idea going long enough to build some volume and drive down the cost of the system allowing it to be produced profitably. Hybrids still account for less than three percent of the U.S. auto market, but the price of crude is up and so is volatility. If that keeps up, hybrids will be selling out again.

Porsche Panamera S Hybrid Video: Luxury Goes Green

A week after teasing the announcement of a new production hybrid model at the Geneva Motor Show, Porsche has revealed the Panamera S Hybrid.  Everyone knew this hybrid GT was coming; Porsche told us as much when the Panamera debuted in 2009.

In fact, there really are no surprises about the hybrid-electric Panamera. The powertrain is basically the same found in the battery-assisted Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg. That means primary propulsion is provided by the sweet supercharged and direct-injected 3.0-liter V6 created by the Volkswagen Group. In the hybrid applications it generates 333 horsepower and a stout 325 pound-feet of torque.

Additional motivation is provided by a disk-shaped 46 hp electric motor that takes the place of the torque converter for the eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.  A clutch on either side of the motor allows either blended gas-electric drive, pure electric drive or simple neutral coasting.  Electrical energy generated by the engine turning the motor or regenerative braking is stored in a nickel metal hydride battery pack  that sits under the trunk. Given the price of the Panamera, its odd that Porsche has opted for the older battery technology rather than the lithium ion pack that Audi is using for its upcoming Q5 hybrid. With Porsche’s continuous improvement philosophy, the battery will probably be updated within a year or two.

The motor-transmission configuration means that the motor is spinning at lower speeds  than the motors in integrated power-split hybrids like those from Toyota, Ford and General Motors. That means it can cruise in pure electric mode at speeds up to 53 mph. Oddly, that’s slower than the 80+ mph speeds possible with the Cayenne.

Aside from the powertrain configuration, the rest of the functionality is pretty much what you would expect from any strong hybrid system. That means automatic start-stop, electric boost and regenerative braking.  In addition to the drive system, Panamera hybrid buyers can also select new specially developed Michelin low rolling resistance tires.

On the European drive cycle, that all adds up to a combined average of 34.6 miles per U.S gallon, a mighty impressive number for such a large car that sprints to 60 mph in just 6.0 seconds.  Stick with real tires, and you’ll do a bit worse at only 33.1 mpg.  Results achieved on the EU drive cycle tend to be a bit more optimistic than EPA’s numbers so real world results will probably be closer to the mid-to-upper 20s.

The Panamera S Hybrid goes on sale in Europe in June of this year and comes to America in the fall with a base price of “just” $95,000. That makes it a bargain compared the Lexus LS600h, and the Porsche will actually be entertaining to drive, unlike any LS. Even so, 100G of Porsche money should go to something proper, like the 4S Turbo, but hey, it’s your money.

American Le Mans Series 2011 preview

We’ve passed the midway point between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox, so it’s time to start thinking about motorsports again. That means getting ready for the 2011 American Le Mans Series (ALMS), which rose from the ashes of IMSA in 1999 and has since become the preeminent sports car racing series in North America. Despite the economic slowdown of the last several years, ALMS has grown its fields and its attendance, thanks to CEO Scott Atherton’s collaboration with Le Mans organizers Automobile Club de L’Ouest (ACO) and an emphasis on relevant and green racing. It’s far more exciting than the F1 space race or NASCAR’s same-sameyness.

Atherton has promoted the idea of alternative fuels and alternative drivetrains along with a mix of high-tech prototypes and recognizable GT cars. ALMS is the only series North America with such a diverse mix of propulsion systems. The base fuel for cars in the series is E10, a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline. Many of the cars including virtually the entire GT field now run on cellulosic E85 a next generation biofuel made from organic waste materials. Though the Audis no longer run the full season in America, they and the French Peugeots still appear at Sebring and Petit Le Mans with their diesel powered prototypes and in 2010, Dyson Racing began running on biobutanol, another biofuel with characteristics more like gasoline.

For 2011, the fuel situation remains the same with four approved fuels but the other technical rules have been modified to align with the updated ACO specs. In 2010 ALMS ran the former LMP1 and LMP2 cars in a single class with weight and air restrictor adjustments to even out the performance. This year we are back to two prototype classes with the new LMP1 largely following the former LMP2 specs. The most significant change for the P1 cars is that hybrid powertrains are now officially allowed.

In 2009, Corsa Motorsports ran an LMP1 car with a Zytek hybrid drive system that had some success but inadequate funding sidelined that car last year. Porsche’s 911 GT3R hybrid made its North American debut at the season ending Petit Le Mans last fall with its electro-mechanical flywheel energy storage system. Porsche has yet to announce 2011 hybrid racing plans, but the 918 RSR may well appear on the track before the year is out.

2011 LMP1 cars will continue to run with race-bred engines limited to 3.4 liters normally aspirated or 2.0 liters turbocharged if running on gasoline or ethanol blends and 3.7-liters if diesel fueled. Dyson Racing is back this year with its butanol-fueled Lola coupe powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged Mazda four cylinder engine. The diesel powered Audis and Peugeots will also return for at least the enduros at Sebring and PLM since both races are part of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup that also includes the flagship race in France and four other events in Europe and Asia.

Audi will contest Sebring with an updated version of the R15+ TDI that won at Le Mans last year while it continues testing of the all-new R18 TDI for its race debut in France. Unlike the open-top R15 and its predecessors the R10 and R8, the R18 is a closed coupe. This echoes the more aerodynamically efficient approach taken by Peugeot. The 5.0-liter V10 diesel has been supplanted by an all-new 3.7-liter twin-turbo V6 diesel. At PLM last year, Audi motorsports chief Dr Wolfgang Ulrich declined to comment on whether the new car would use a hybrid drive, but if it does, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it adopt a version of the flywheel system from the 911.

In addition to the new body style, the R18 also adopts a feature that debuted on the 2009 Acura ARX-02a, identically sized front and rear wheels and tires. For many years, most race cars have used smaller front wheels, but the new configuration allows for a more balanced weight distribution and handling.

Peugeot is also back with an all-new diesel prototype that retains the 908 designation of the old car but not much else. The 3.7-liter diesel in the 908 has eight cylinders and two turbos, down from the old car’s V12. Peugeot has been testing a hybrid version of the old 908 since September 2009 but hasn’t indicated if the electric boost and regenerative braking system will be used on the 2011 car. The French manufacturer has also opted for a equal front and rear wheel/tire combo used on the Audi. All of the new prototypes are also equipped with vertical “shark-fin” aerodynamic panel on top of the engine compartment, a change mandated by the new rules to help prevent the cars from getting airborne if they spin.

Both Audi and Peugeot are planning full campaigns in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) which means that they will be at both Sebring and Petit Le Mans as well as five other races in Europe and Asia. Peugeot has not indicated whether the new or old 908 will run at Sebring.

Among the ALMS regulars, two-time prototype champion Highcroft racing is back again with Honda power shifting back to the P1 class. Highcroft will be running an updated ARX-01e with the 3.4-liter V8 used so successfully for the last several years. Highcroft has been a Honda factory development partner since Acura entered the ALMS in 2007. The Connecticut based team spent much of the off-season testing a modified ARX-01c P2 car fitted with the new twin-turbo 2.8-liter V6 from Honda Performance Development (HPD).

The new HPD engine conforms to the 2011 LMP2 rules that require production based engines that cost no more than $35,000. The HR28TT is based on Honda’s global V6 that sees use across most of the Honda and Acura lineup including the Accord, Odyssey and MDX. In ALMS defending prototype challenge champions Level 5 Motorsports are moving up to the P2 class with a pair of Lola chassis using the new HPD V6.

In addition to Highcroft and Dyson, LMP2 stalwarts Muscle Milk Cytosport are also moving up to P1. The Porsche RS Spyder has been retired from ALMS competition so the squad owned by Greg Pickett has taken over one of the former factory Aston Martin Lola coupes. Like other older P1 cars, this one is grandfathered in with tighter air restrictors on its 6.0-liter V12 but that didn’t seem to cause much grief at last week’s annual ALMS winter test at Sebring where it outpaced all other challengers.

Last summer Roush Yates Engines announced plans to produce an LMP2 spec engine based on Ford’s 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6 and Lola announced that it would produce an installation kit for its chassis.  However, no team has publicly announced plans to compete with the Ecoboost engine.

In the GT ranks, the fields will again be full for 2011 with all of last years marques returning. Corvette Racing is back with two freshly built C6.Rs. The team experienced more difficulties than usual in 2010 including a double DNF at Le Mans. However, the Detroit based squad brought it all together at the season-ending Petit Le Mans with a last lap victory.  That momentum carried through to 2011 where the new car topped the GT class at the Sebring test.

While the Corvette is basically the same as the 2010 model, the driver lineup will see its biggest shakeup in several years with decade-long veteran Johnny O’Connell leaving the Vette squad to pilot one of the new Cadillac CTS-Vs in the SCCA World Challenge series. Tommy Milner is moving over from the Rahal-Letterman BMW squad to join Olivier Beretta in the #3 car.

One on only two all-new cars in GT for 2011 is the gorgeous Ferrari 458 Italia, four of which will be operated by Extreme Speed Motorsports and Risi Competizione. The 458 gets a larger engine, new gearbox and of course completely different aerodynamics from the 430GT it replaces. Speaking of the 430GT which has been so successful over the past several years, Tracy Khron is back in 2011 running one of the “obsolete” Ferraris.

The other new entry this year, is the 458’s most direct market competitor, the Lamborghini Gallardo which will be run by the freshman West Racing team.

Of course this wouldn’t be GT racing with a complement of Porsche 911s and the GT3 RSR is back in the hands of Flying Lizard and Black Swan Racing which is moving up from GT Challenge. Also returning is Rahal-Letterman Racing with its factory backed pair of BMW M3 GTs.  Robertson Racing returns and will be running two of its Ford GTs for the full season after debuting the second car #04 at Petit Le Mans.

Also expanding to two cars is the JaguarRSR team which is back for its sophomore attempt. 2010 was pretty much a disaster for the Jaguar XKR-GT with a string of mechanical and electrical failures that usually it retire very early on. With two cars, the team has brought three veteran racers in P.J. Jones, Bruno Junqueira and Cristiano Da Matta to join team owner Paul Gentillozi. Hopefully with the experience of 2010 behind them the pretty green and black Jags can actually finish races this year.

The LMP Challenge and GT Challenge classes are back again for a second season with their lower cost and fixed specifications and several new teams joining the party.

The 2011 ALMS and ILMC seasons kick off on March 19 with the 12 Hours of Sebring with a massive 59 car grid. If 2010 is anything to go by, 2011 should be another bang up season for sports car racing fans in North America and the around the world.

Porsche 918 RSR debuts at 2011 NAIAS: swaps lithium for flywheel

For its big return to the North American International Auto Show after a three year absence, Porsche unveiled a brand new race car concept, the 918 RSR coupe. The 918 is a blend of two hybrid models introduced in 2010 to much acclaim, the 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid concept and the 911 GT3R Hybrid race car.

The RSR adds a competition ready hard-top to the 918 and ditches the lithium ion batteries in favor of the electromechanical flywheel hybrid system used on the 911. After running very competitively at several races in 2010, the 911 hybrid finally broke through with a victory in the finale of the Intercontintental Le Mans Cup in Zuhai, China.

The flywheel hybrid system is more suitable for competition applications than a battery thanks to its compact dimensions and higher power capability. Electrical energy from regenerative braking is stored in a flywheel spinning at 40,000 rpm and then released when the driver needs it for acceleration. The 911 hybrid was able to achieve 25 percent better fuel efficiency than the standard 911 GT3 which was hugely beneficial in endurance racing.

In the 918 RSR, the flywheel is paired with the 563 horsepower 3.4-liter V8 previously used in the LMP2 RS Spyder for a combined output of 767 hp. Porsche has not announced any specific competition plans for the 918 RSR yet since it doesn’t really fit into any existing class. However, American Le Mans Series spokesman Bob Dickinson acknowledged that it could run in a demonstration class in that series at the 911 did at the 2010 Petit Le Mans. We’ll most likely see the 918 debut in the Nurburgring endurance series and the 24 hour race at the famed track in May, just as the 911 hybrid did last year.