2011 Detroit Auto Show: Porsche Grabs Attention With A Hybrid Race Car Concept
The design pays homage to iconic Porsche race cars of the past while serving as a laboratory for future technical innovations.
Porsche, who haven’t attended that past few Detroit Auto Shows, chose 2011 to return. Wanting to make a grand entrance, the brand nabbed the first press conference slot of the media days and promised to have something special to show. Maybe taking a page from Mercedes-Benz at last year’s NY auto show, Porsche debuted a gorgeous race car concept called the 918 RSR. Motor-sports purists maintain that race cars should be designed to go fast first and not to necessarily look beautiful. So what is the real purpose of creating a vehicle too pretty for the track? Porsche are classifying the 918 RSR as a laboratory to not only test a design vision, but also a hybrid powertrain system.
With the new 918 RSR racing laboratory, Porsche is now elevating this motor racing hybrid concept to an experimental level. In the 918 RSR, “Porsche Intelligent Performance” equates to research into methods for further sustainable efficiency improvement under the intensified conditions of the race track, lap times, pit stops and reliability – a metier in which Porsche has been demonstrating its success for over 60 years.
From a design perspective, the 918 RSR merges somewhat familiar ques from the 918 Spyder and the 911 GT3 R Hybird. There’s nothing far-out futuristic about how this car looks, actually it is what a modern Porsche super sports car should look exactly like. The designers wisely translated elements from iconic Porsche race cars like the 908 long-tail coupé (1969) and the 917 short-tail coupé (1971). Viewed as a whole, the design feels familiar, look closer at the details and that’s where the contemporary flavor of the design shines.
The 918 RSR is powered by a mid-engine V8 generating a bit over 560 hp. Electric motors on each of the front wheels contribute an extra 150 kW upping the horsepower total to 767. The electric motors in the front get power from a flywheel which generates electricity under braking. Under a full charge, the driver can get an eight second boost of power to facilitate passing. One of the places where the performance engineering is displayed prominently is the design of the engine cover with the integrated cooling fan. Looking something like a jet engine, the designers created a focal point of this technical detail while keeping the surrounding areas very sleek.
As far as getting attention at the show, the 918 RSR Concept did very well. It captured the EyesOn Design Award for Best Concept Vehicle. The award is given out by a jury of top automotive design professionals and educators from transportation design programs.