Two weeks ago, I flew to Nashville to drive a Porsche 918 Spyder — Porsche’s latest and craziest supercar, which is currently commanding a $1.7 million average asking price on Autotrader. When I arrived to meet the car’s owner, he handed me the key, he went over all the quirks and features he knew about, and then he told me that he had to get a meeting at his office — and I should call him when I was done driving and filming with it. I spent the next 6 hours alone with the Porsche 918 Spyder.
I created a video about my 918 Spyder experience, which is linked above, and it goes through everything you ever wanted to know about this car: the quirks, the features, the driving experience. Want to know how to remove the top? It’s in there. Want to know if there’s a cupholder? It’s in there. Today, in this column, I’m going to tell you something a little different: I’m going to tell you what it’s like when you’re alone in a parking lot with a 918 Spyder and the owner leaves and tells you to “have fun.”
Before I do that, though, I have to commend the owner of this particular car. He emailed me a few months ago, inviting me to Nashville to review his 918 Spyder. He worked with me on scheduling, and when I finally arrived, he spent an hour showing me around the car. Maybe the most amazing thing was that he didn’t really seem to care about getting “credit”: He never asked me to link to his business or give him a plug, and he didn’t want to be in the video. I had to ask him if I could include his Instagram handle, which shows off some of his other interesting cars — like a paint-to-sample Porsche 911R and a gorgeous Ferrari 458 Spider.
So anyway: He left, he went to his office, and I was standing there, alone, in a parking lot, with a Porsche 918 Spyder, my rented Jaguar F-PACE and the mediocre camera equipment I use for my videos.
I was really, really anxious.
You’d think I wouldn’t be. I’ve now filmed videos with dozens of exotic cars, many of which are as crazy-looking and as fast as this one. But it’s hard to explain the feeling: There’s something about standing there next to a true icon, one of the most exciting and special cars ever built, that’s just a bit different from reviewing a “regular” Lamborghini Huracan or McLaren 650S. You’ve seen this car on posters, all over the internet, on “Top Gear,” at collector-car auctions, behind velvet ropes, and now … it’s right in front of you. I felt the same way about the F40. It’s just different. When you’re around a car like this, you’re entering another league, and you consciously realize that. No matter how much I try to convince myself “it’s just another car” or “it’s just another video,” it just isn’t. You’re not meeting a car. You’re meeting a legend.
I spent the first 15 minutes just trying to calm down. I sent pictures of the car to my friends and to my wife; I had flown all the way to Tennessee specifically for this moment, so everyone was very excited for me. I filmed the “B roll” shots around the car — the front, the sides, the interior — for voiceover use in my video. And then I got to work.
It was hard work. Filming these videos looks and seems easy, but it’s a lot harder than it looks; I almost always come away from a day of filming feeling lightheaded, sweating profusely and absolutely exhausted. This one was especially difficult: It rained in the morning but started to heat up during the day, causing high humidity. I parked my F-PACE right next to the 918 so I could take air-conditioned breaks in between quirks and features.
In the end, I spent 6 hours with the car — 5 of which were climbing in and out, pressing buttons, touching every little lever and opening every little crevice I could find. It was a long, hot shoot, but I truly believe I found every single quirk and feature of the 918 Spyder.
Then it was time to get it out on the road.
This is when the car finally started to feel a little less intimidating — because when you’re in the 918 Spyder, you can’t see what you’re driving. With the F40, I looked in back and saw a big wing; I looked down and saw the bare-bones interior I’d previously just been able to stare at in the past, when I saw F40s at shows or events. With the 918, the interior looks a lot like a standard Porsche — and the driving experience, too, is less “crazy supercar” than “faster, sportier 911.” After just a few minutes behind the wheel, I started to feel pretty confident. My nerves about the car’s value didn’t re-enter my mind until about two hours later, after I had already handed the keys back to the owner.
Other people, however, seemed to appreciate the experience. While Porsche’s prior supercar, the Carrera GT, really just blends in at traffic lights, the 918 Spyder doesn’t do any such thing — especially with the Weissach Package, which adds all sorts of wings and aerodynamic accessories. I had a pair of old women in a Dodge farm truck pointing and staring. I saw camera phones and excited stares and points. And, yes, I saw at least a few people completely ignore it. They’ll never know they were in the presence of a car that costs more than their home. And their neighbor’s home. And the entire block.
So how does it drive? Amazingly. Stupendously. It’s the fastest car I’ve ever driven, and the best-handling; it’s impossible not to feel like Superman behind the wheel. The sound is excellent. I’ve been skeptical of the 918 Spyder for being a hybrid supercar with an automatic transmission, but that skepticism was misplaced: This is the best sports car I’ve ever driven. Ever.
And then there’s the simple feeling you get from knowing you’re driving a 918 Spyder. In many ways, my job is a job: I often get so wrapped up in explaining to you people, on camera, how a car drives that I don’t really enjoy the experience like a traditional supercar “owner” really would. But in the 918 Spyder, during the last leg of my time behind the wheel, I turned off the cameras, I put them away, and I just enjoyed it — with the sun out, the video filmed, the roads dry and my anxiety gone. And I’ll never forget how it felt to pull the paddle, press the accelerator and drive an automotive icon.
Is that feeling worth $1.7 million? To a guy who drives a $44,000 used station wagon, I can’t imagine spending that kind of money on a car. But when your friends have 488 GTBs and Huracans and Audi R8s, the 918 Spyder is the next level — in terms of rarity, performance, excitement, “specialness.” And you feel like that every time you walk up to it, every time you get inside it, and every time you start it up, back out of your garage and take it for a drive — and that’s really cool. Of course, it helps that this car cost around $1 million when it was new, and it’s gained about $700,000 in value in just two years.
Two weeks after I filmed with the 918 Spyder, I still think about the driving experience with a big smile. This is an intimidating car with an intimidating price tag and an intimidating appearance, but the driving experience made it all seem so easy, so effortless and so exciting. Usually, when I film with a car like this, the best moment of my day is handing back the keys so I’m no longer responsible for it. This time, I wish I could’ve had it for a little longer. OK, maybe a lot longer.
Also published on Medium.