Spyder territory


The outback of Alice Springs knows just one direction: straight ahead. The 918 Spyder picks up speed.

There are not many places where you can accelerate the 918 Spyder hybrid super sports car to 350 km/h. We did it in the Australian desert. With purely electrical power up to 150 km/h, and then full speed ahead!

It’s eerily quiet in the Australian outback, yet the distant but reassuring hum of rubber on coarse bitumen, the whisper of the breeze rushing over our automotive artistry, and the blur of arid scenery confirm that we are already traveling faster than the legal speed limit anywhere else in Australia.

Since early last year, the Northern Territory’s limit of 130 km/h has been waived on a lone 200-kilometer strip of road north of Alice Springs, beckoning supercars like the 918 Spyder to make use of the acceleration the way their designers intended.

However, our goal on this trip is not just to feel the thrill of this dizzying speed, but also to experience the full breadth of the 918 Spyder’s remarkable capabilities, whose production came to an end in mid-June with number 918. Leaving Alice Springs, situated in the geographical heart of the Australian continent, we cover the first 25 kilometers on fully electric “E-Power,” with the twin electric motors developing a maximum output of 210 kW (286 hp) at 6,500 rpm. They represent a real-life display of Porsche Intelligent Performance in hybrid technology too. We reach our starting speed of 150 km/h easily and quietly on electric power alone.


High-speed desert experience: The electronic speedometer quickly shows 350 km/h—and the landscape veritably flies past the windows.


On the road north to Aileron, the 918 Spyder also covers the unpaved stretches at high speed.

It’s clean, it’s green, but finally the temptation is too great for our experienced chauffeur, five-time Australian Carrera Cup champion Craig Baird. Before he wakens the race-bred 4.6-liter quad-cam V8 engine, waiting coiled and patient behind us, however, he confers with our hovering helicopter and ground-spotters by radio to ensure that the straight, lonely road ahead is clear of vehicles, animals, and roadkill. Then he plants his foot. And the outback gains yet another—albeit controllable—force of nature.

In a heartbeat, our world is transformed into a parallel universe. With a massive roar, the Spyder switches to Race Hybrid mode, in which the electric motors work in conjunction with the 4.6-liter V8 combustion engine to unleash the maximum output of 652 kW (887 hp) at 8,500 rpm. For the record: the transition from cruising silently in town at 60 km/h to roaring at peak speed took just 40 seconds. We are thrust deep into the shapely carbon-fiber shell seats. In this ultimate performance mode, the Spyder devours the road ahead with a seemingly insatiable greed for speed. Baird’s eyes bore into the “V” where the road meets the horizon—V as in vmax, visualized in an indescribably beautiful way—some 11 kilometers ahead, while the scenery rapidly becomes mere blurs of ocher and dusty green.

The electronic speedometer of the 918 soon shows 350 km/h, and we are traveling almost 50 km/h faster than Baird has ever driven a Porsche race car on an Australian track. But here, instead of the sanitized and guarded precinct of a racetrack, we have just a single lane of bitumen running each way, potentially sharing the space with monstrous road trains that pull three trailers and weigh up to 200 tons. Fortunately, and thanks to careful planning, not today. If we maintain this speed, we will reach remote Barrow Creek at the end of this 200-kilometer de-restricted section of road in less than 35 minutes.

A sense of elation fills the 918 Spyder. Flying has never been so easy, so exciting, yet so safe! This is an extraordinary journey; we have explored both ends of the driving spectrum, recording performance figures that no other production car has ever achieved on Australian roads.

After a number of kilometers that seem to slip past in just seconds, we approach the remote pub and fuel station outpost of Aileron. Population: 9. Not far up the road to the north there is another town called Wycliffe Well, also known as the UFO capital of Australia. More extraterrestrials have been reported here than anywhere else on the continent.

No doubt the good people of Aileron thought that we and our Spyder had flown in from the wrong direction!

By Michael Browning

What to do in Alice Springs


Alice Springs, Australia, Aerial View, © Google Inc.

Experience vastness

Founded in 1872 as a settlement at a repeater station of the telegraph line, Alice Springs is the main town in the Red Centre, as the dry inland area of Australia is also called. It lies 1,500 kilometers from Darwin.


The town offers some good accommodations. The chic apartments at the centrally located Quest are recommended (www.questapartments.com.au) as is Lasseters (which also has a casino), located somewhat outside town (www.lasseters.com.au).


Alice Springs is shaped by Aboriginal culture, which is presented in several museums around town. The Strehlow Research Centre in the Museum of Central Australia and Papunya Tula Artists are two places located not far from the center. Araluen Arts Centre has its own art collection, as well as traveling exhibitions and live performances (www.araluenartscentre.nt.gov.au).


One of the fascinating parts of the Australian outback is the contrast between the sparkling blue sky and the red earth. Alice Springs is surrounded by mountains in the MacDonnell Ranges. Three gorges are recommended: Standley Chasm, Ormiston Gorge, and Glen Helen. Balloon trips above the vast red expanse offer spectacular views, as do camel safaris. A flight over famous Ayers Rock (its local name is Uluru) is a must, and takes about an hour (www.travelnt.com).