FRANKFURT, Germany – Mercedes-AMG reveals its intention to enter the exclusive realm of high-end hypercar manufacturers with the unveiling at the Frankfurt motor show of a 992-hp road-going coupe dubbed Project One.
Conceived to provide a direct link between the German automaker’s Formula 1 racing activities and its road-car division, the advanced model is powered by a heavily reworked version of the turbocharged 1.6L V-6 gasoline engine and electric motor setup used by the W08 race car driven by Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
The hypercar features an electrically powered front axle that provides it with all-wheel drive in its more performance-oriented driving modes.
“Motorsport is not an end in itself for us. We are drawing on our experience from three constructors’ and drivers’ world championships to bring Formula 1 technology to the road for the first time,” says Mercedes-Benz chairman Dieter Zetsche.
Official performance figures put the carbon-fiber-bodied Project One’s 0-124 mph (200 km/h) time at 6.0 seconds and its top speed at more than 218 mph (351 km/h), with 18 months of development remaining before first deliveries are scheduled.
“The hypercar is the most ambitious project we have ever undertaken. It represents a highlight in the strategic development of Mercedes-AMG,” Mercedes performance chief Tobias Moers tells WardsAuto. “We call it a concept because obviously we don’t have any certified data for things such as emissions and so on (at the moment). The finished car will be pretty similar.”
A lithium-ion battery mounted low within the forward floorpan provides the sleek 2-seater with an electric range of up to 16 miles (26 km) in front-wheel-drive E-mode, allowing it to perform short journeys at a limited speed with zero emissions without the need to engage the engine. Recharging of the battery is performed both on the run using kinetic energy created under braking and coasting, or by plugging into the grid.
Revealed in concept car-guise at a media reception on the eve of the 2017 Frankfurt auto show, just 275 copies will be produced, the first of which is to be delivered during second-quarter 2019, according to Moers.
Despite a price tag of €2.27 million ($2.74 million) and plans for left-hand-drive versions only, the most extreme Mercedes-AMG model yet is said to be sold out.
Engineering for the Mercedes-AMG hypercar is being carried out in a joint program between AMG in Affalterbach, Germany, its High Performance Powertrain sister company located in Brixworth, England, and the Mercedes-AMG F1 team based in Brackley, England.
“It elevates the standard for what is technically possible to a whole new level with a combination of performance and efficiency that is the absolute benchmark,” says Moers.
Styling of the Project One is heavily influenced by the cooling requirements of its F1-sourced driveline and aerodynamics. Every air intake and panel has been designed to maximize throughput of air and downforce.
Project One gets classic mid-engine proportions with a low and short nose, a cabin positioned well forward within the wheelbase and a long, flowing tail, while its surfaces are characterized by fuller forms in keeping with the appearance of the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz models.
Key design elements include a buff front end with a prominent dual-plane splitter mounted below a trio of large air ducts, the top outer corners of which are surrounded by thin LED driving lights. There also are vertical winglets set within the outer front corners. Farther back are a set of angular headlamps, each featuring three U-shaped LED projector units.
The top of the front wheel housings are punctuated by triple vents aimed at reducing pressure built up at high speed, while further venting is incorporated within the flanks to draw hot air away from the front brakes.
High-mounted exterior mirrors are set on arms that sprout from the doors, which open butterfly style. The cabin features a rounded form and is topped by a central air vent. Solutions used in F1, including a prominent longitudinal wing element mounted centrally within the rear bodywork over the engine compartment, also are employed. The engine can be viewed through a clear cover with cooling vents.
The rear end is dominated by a large wing that deploys at a set speed to enhance downforce. A large 9-channel carbon-fiber diffuser, a single centrally mounted exhaust pipe and vertical winglets accent the trailing edges of the rear wheel wells.
Inside, the Project One provides seating for two in what Moers describes as a “highly functional” interior that borrows its digital instruments and LED-illuminated steering wheel from the cockpit of the W08 race car. The LED lights signal engine rpm together with controls for the individual drive programs and suspension settings. MirrorCam, a digital display, takes the place of the rear-view mirror.
At the heart of the Project One is a compact, mid-rear-mounted, turbocharged, direct-injected 1.6L gasoline V-6 from the F1 race car but tuned for everyday use. Developed at Mercedes’ High Performance Powertrain division in Brixworth, it is supported by four electric motors – one used to drive the turbocharger, a further larger unit integrated directly into the driveshaft at the rear in a layout similar to the MGU-K (motor generator unit kinetic) used in the current generation of F1 cars. The remaining two sit within the front axle providing drive to the front wheels.
The 4-valve-per-cylinder engine sets new series-production standards with an ignition cut-out set some 2,000 rpm higher than any existing road car at 11,000 rpm. The front electric motors also are claimed to spin some 30,000 rpm higher than existing road car units at 50,000 rpm.
In a bid to provide the new AMG model with the rapid throttle response typical of an F1 car, the Project One’s electrically driven turbocharger adopts a similar operating procedure as the MGU-H (motor generator unit heat) used within the driveline of the W08 F1. It is claimed to reach 100,000 rpm on wide-open throttle.
The AMG hypercar’s MGU-K converts mechanical and heat energy into stored electrical energy, and the MGU-H takes heat from the exhaust and uses it to create electrical energy.
The V-6 is claimed to produce over 509 hp, with the driveshaft-mounted electric motor contributing an additional 161 hp to the rear wheels. Up front, the two electric motors deliver a combined 322 hp with torque vectoring similar to the SLS Electric Drive.
Altogether, the powertrain delivers a combined output of more than 992 hp. Drive is channeled to the rear wheels via a newly developed hydraulically operated 8-speed automated gearbox with steering wheel shift paddles. It offers the choice of either automatic or manual modes.
The powertrain weighs a claimed 1,146 lbs. (520 kg). No official curb weight figure for the new car is available, but Moers says rumors suggesting it will hit the scales at close to 2,204 lbs. (1,000 kg) are “wildly premature.”
Underpinning the range-topping AMG is a race-grade chassis featuring an adjustable multilink set with pushrods both front and rear – the latter attached directly to the engine block. It is allied to standard 19-in. front and 20-in. rear center-lock alloy wheels shod with 285/35 and 335/30 profile tires, respectively.
As in current AMG models, the Project One receives a switchable ESP stability control system offering three distinct modes: ESP On, ESP Sport Handling Mode and ESP Off. Braking is via standard carbon-ceramic discs with specially developed calipers.
Moers is confident owners of the AMG hypercar will enjoy driving it, contending you won’t have to be a superstar driver to handle its prodigious reserves or lightning acceleration.
“You open the door, hit the start button and drive. Easy,” he says. “We have the most modern technology. The (Nissan) GT-R is very innovative regarding ESP functionalities. The hypercar is going to have the next level. Controlling two individual motors on the front axle – we know how that works. We initially developed that with the SLS Electric Drive. Everything about torque vectoring, we know what we can do.”