The car industry is currently going through a burst of exuberance that dwarfs even that of the early 1990s. You’d think sensitivities over pollution and climate change would have made the horsepower wars passe, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. And when Dodge is selling a pony car with 840hp under the hood, you can can see why those wanting to play at the very sharpest end of the market are aiming for four-digit power figures to go with multi-million-dollar sticker prices. Three F1 teams are currently developing hypercars. Red Bull and Aston Martin have the Valkyrie, McLaren is building the BP23, and then there’s the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE, which made its debut in Frankfurt on Monday evening.
Formula 1 has been good for Mercedes-Benz. It won a lot of races as an engine supplier, but in 2010 the company entered the sport as a constructor, contesting Grands Prix for the first time since the 1950s. The first few years were spent relearning the ropes and playing second fiddle to teams like Red Bull Racing. But it got its sums exactly right when the sport switched to a 1.6L turbocharged V6 hybrid powertrain, winning three championships in three years. So to celebrate, it’s decided to take that F1 know-how and build a road car.
But if you want to experience a two-seat version of Lewis Hamilton’s ride, you’ll need deep pockets—just 275 will be made, and they’ll cost $2.7 million (€2.275 million) each. That is an obscene amount of money, but it buys an obscene amount of engineering. At its heart is a road-legal version of the Mercedes-AMG F1 hybrid system. Total power output is around 1,000hp—Mercedes actually says “above 740kW”—with most of that going to the rear wheels. Behind the cockpit there’s a 1.6L turbocharged V6 that sends power to the rear wheels, and a pair of 120kW (161hp) electric motors at the front axle. In this regard it is actually more advanced than an F1 car, which only has a single motor-generator unit, or MGU, connected to the rear wheels.
The engine is quite something. Like the F1 car, it uses pneumatic valve springs instead of mechanical ones. And the turbocharger—or MGU-H—is electrically driven, recuperating energy from the exhaust that can also be sent direct to the rear wheels for an extra 120kW (161hp). The engine red-lines at 11,000 rpm—roughly the same as Lewis’ car in a race. (A 2017 F1 engine can theoretically rev to about 15,000rpm but fuel flow restrictions imposed by the rules mean in practice they never get close to that.) Although we don’t know if the Project ONE engine uses turbulent jet ignition, Mercedes says that the new car has a thermal efficiency of 40 percent.
Everywhere you look, there’s F1 technology. The bespoke eight-speed transmission is pneumatically operated, and together with the engine, carries the load from the rear suspension. The suspension itself is a pushrod set-up of the kind you expect to see on a single-seat race car. The monocoque chassis is high-strength, lightweight carbon fiber. And the car’s shape is the product of many hours of CFD and wind tunnel time.
Expect performance to be commensurate with its price: 0-124mph (0-200km/h) should take less than six seconds and top speed is (presumably limited) to about 217mph (350km/h).