Porsche Spyder: Spend $845,000, help save Earth

Porsche Spyder hybrid can get up to 78 miles to the gallon and go zero to 60 in just over 3 seconds. But the Porsche Spyder cannot do both at the same time.

Porsche Cars North America/PRNewsFoto/Newscom
A rendering of the Porsche 918 Spyder super sports car Although it was announced this month, the Porsche Spyder hybrid won't be ready until 2013.

Heard about the Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid?

Well, if you’re out looking at the Nissan Leaf and decide you would like spend, oh, 25 times more to cut your fossil-fuel consumption, then maybe swing by your Porsche dealer.

You’ll have to wait until 2013 to take delivery on this showy sizzler from Stuttgart. And did we mention the Porsche Spyder’s base price: $845,000?

The funny thing is, this isn’t even the hybrid supercar with which Porsche is making real automotive-development news. That would be the 918 RSR, just announced at the Detroit Auto Show. That one’s a reinforced-carbon-fiber, gas-and-electric beast – 767 horsepower combined – bred for high-endurance competition at places like LeMans. Forget the price. Buckling into a racing harness is such a drag, anyway.

The street-legal Porsche 918 Spyder, to get back to your shopping needs, was a concept car last year at the Geneva Auto Show, and it’s now scheduled for production. It’s a plug-in. A full charge reportedly takes just a few hours.

It’s also powerful: about 500 horsepower from its V8, a couple hundred more from the electric assist. And it’s fast: zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds, with a top end speed of close to 200 miles per hour. It gets 78 miles per gallon – but only if driven gingerly (yeah, right!)

Of course it’s lovely. It’s from the stable of Dr. Ferdinand Porsche.

That’s a marquee with a lot to live up to. But the question may be: Why another limited-edition hybrid – they’re building 918 of them – priced in the stratosphere? Isn’t that like a Paris fashion house producing a “sustainable” sheath dress that would only ever make an appearance on Hollywood’s red carpet?

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Porsche is already in the hybrid business. It sells a gas-electric version of its Cayenne SUV, and plans a hybrid version of its Panamera, the four-door hatchback that arguably looks like a 911 that’s eaten way too much wurst.

Remember when getting into a Porsche was as easy as picking up an entry-level 914 – that quirky targa-topped roadster developed in the late 1960s? (So what if your buddies called it a glorified Volkswagen?)

Brand management is fine. But there’s no down-market variant of any Porsche in sight, and maybe hybrid would be the place to make that play.

In fact, with the 918 Spyder hybrid, Porsche has seen a need to offer high-fliers a sweetener: a less-costly gasoline-only 918 Spyder will also soon be produced – and the only buyers eligible will be those who have signed up to purchase the hybrid.

The gas-powered cousin will be called the 911 Turbo S Edition 918 Spyder, and run $160,000 for a hardtop, an additional $12,000 for the ragtop. Little something for when you want to stomp on the gas and actually burn some.

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