Friday night topic: the new hybrid hypercars


— 5:18 PM on April 4, 2014

In my youth, the walls of my bedroom were plastered with posters of supercars. There was a Lamborghini Countach, a Ferrari Testarossa, and a Porsche 959. I scoured my dad's Road & Track magazines for details on the latest exotics, and I lived out my fantasies in video games like Need for Speed.

These days, the walls of my bedroom are more tastefully adorned. But I still follow the supercar scene with the same wide-eyed wonder I had in high school, and the latest entries from McLaren and Porsche have my eyes bulging out of their sockets.

The McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 aren't just supercars. They're hypercars, a relatively new breed that's even more exclusive—and insane. Unlike the gas-guzzling beasts of my youth, the P1 and 918 are equipped with eco-friendly electric motors, allowing drivers to make grocery runs to Whole Foods with the same self-righteous smugness exhibited by Prius drivers. Those motors can also be used to assist the gasoline engines, producing what every reviewer seems to agree is a whole new class of performance. Even the once-mighty Bugatti Veyron seems a little pedestrian now.

Of the latest hybrid hypercars, the McLaren seems to be the most savage. Its turbo-charged V8 and electric motor are both connected to the rear wheels, and they produce over 900 horsepower between them. The McLaren is a fair bit lighter than the Porsche, too, and it has a higher top speed.

The Porsche combines a naturally aspirated V8 with two electric motors: one for the front axle and one for the rear. It has four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering, which apparently does wonders for the handling. The Porsche uses regenerative braking to charge its batteries, too, and it has a usable all-electric range of 18 miles (compared to only six on the P1). The thing is an engineering wonder.

At a mere $845,000, the Porsche is also a relative bargain next to the P1, which starts at a cool $1.35 million. Not that you can buy either one. Both are sold out, just like most other uber-expensive exotics (and the upcoming hybrid LaFerrari). That's just fine, though. The uber-rich people who buy these things ensure that car companies keep outdoing themselves—and each other—by pushing the envelope even further. Surely, I can't be the only one who enjoys following the results.

Discuss.

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