Six Questions for the Porsche 918 Spyder Manager

Project manager Frank-Steffen Walliser likes to say that if you saw the typical 918 Spyder buyer on the street, you’d have no clue they owned a million-dollar hybrid supercar. I’d say that, if you saw the soft-spoken, curly-haired Walliser sitting at a sidewalk café in Stuttgart, Germany, you’d probably have no idea that he was the creator of the Porsche 918 Spyder. Tall, slim, impeccably groomed, with delicate hands, he looks more like a cardiac surgeon than one of the most prominent engineers in the VW Group empire. That said, if you’re going to hand over a million dollars for a state-of-the-art sports car, Frank-Steffen Walliser is the sort of guy you want to have created it.

How did you arrive at the $845,000 base price?
We looked at what the Carrera GT cost [about $450,000]. We looked at standard price development, which is something like 2 percent per year. We added the [cost of the] parts for the hybridization of the car. And then we added something [more]; compared with the Carrera GT, we have 30 percent less volume. The fewer cars you make, the more expensive they are. And we came up with this price. We do the prices only in Euros, U.S. dollars, and Chinese renminbi. We have the cheapest offer, compared with competitors.

How many U.S. Carrera GT owners are you expecting to migrate to the 918 Spyder?
I do not have real data at the moment, but it’s approximately 50 percent. Very interestingly, we get a lot of new people who are considering Porsche for the first time because of the technology and the design of the car. These buyers are coming from other brands, or they have just started collecting cars, and the 918 is their first [collector car].

How soon will the 918 Spyder’s hybrid powertrain technology trickle down to other Porsches?
You can already buy it. It’s in the Panamera e-Hybrid. We already shared components and ideas. For sure, the 918 Spyder is a little more ahead.

How did you tune the powertrain for sound?
Even with everything we know—how big the muffler must be, its volume, the length of the primary tubes, and all these things—when we first started the engine, we couldn’t hear anything. It was way too silent. The sound in the beginning was hard, no real sound, just loud. We threw everything away and started, really, from scratch only a year or so ago.

Just a year ago you were re-doing the engine sound?
Completely. One and a half years ago. We did new primaries, longer, with a different position of the catalytic converters. Our target was more like an RS Spyder sound. I think you can hear that. We looked at the 908 as an historic example of an eight-cylinder. The Carrera GT is completely different. Its exhaust system weighs 56 kg [123 lb], whereas the 918 Spyder’s weighs only 29 kg [64 lb]. From the outside, the Carrera GT is still unbeaten, soundwise; the barking of the car is unbelievable. Inside the car, though, it’s mechanically loud. If you are in a 918 you hear not a lot from the mechanics; especially if the windows are down, you hear the throttles and the incoming air, and then you hear the really big exhaust a yard away from your ears, especially with an open top. 200 miles per hour, with an open top, this is really special.

How fast have you, personally, driven a 918 Spyder?
I can only say what I’ve seen on the speedo. I’ve seen 220 mph on an autobahn in Germany. 214 mph is the exact top speed, but you always have a little bit of difference between what the speedo shows and what you are actually going.

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