How fast is too fast? Is there a limit to the horsepower one needs? We haven’t come close to the limits on either, it seems, and Daimler is set to prove that point with the debut of the eagerly-awaited Mercedes-AMG Project One hypercar in just a couple weeks.
Borrowing key powertrain technologies from the German marque’s dominant Formula One program, the limited-edition Project One cars are expected to make in excess of 1,000 horsepower and top out somewhere around 350 kmh, or 217 mph.
The carefully crafted teaser image released by Mercedes today gives a hint of what the hypercar will look like as it races towards you. One of the most surprising details is the unusual placement of the familiar Mercedes tri-star, almost certainly for aerodynamic benefits. While the Project One may draw from Formula One, the overall look is more like that of a Le Mans prototype. That should be no surprise, of course, as you can’t fit two in an F1 car.
The slit-like headlamp units each feature three matrix bulbs. It’s difficult to tell if those will be relatively conventional LED or the more cutting-edge laser headlamps just starting to roll out on a handful of exotics in Europe. (The technology is still not legal in the U.S.) At those sort of speeds –the Project One will be capable of – which works out to more than 300 feet per second at V-Max — a driver will need to throw light as far as possible.
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We’re expecting that pretty much everything about the AMG Project One will be cutting edge. Look for ultra-light materials like carbon-fiber, aluminum and magnesium to replace virtually all conventional steel panels and structural components.
The Mercedes hypercar, we need to emphasize, won’t be the most powerful street-legal production vehicle on four wheels. Right now, the 1,500 hp Bugatti Chiron holds that crown. We’ll have to wait for Frankfurt to see how the two compare in terms of power-to-weight ratios. The Chiron also will remain the king-of-the-hill in terms of top speed, at a factory rated 261 mph.
The Chiron, as exotic as it might seem, though, relies on a relatively conventional powertrain, if that term can be used to describe a 8.0-liter W-16. It’s a classic example of the old philosophy: “there’s no replacement for displacement,” even if it also resorts to four turbochargers to reach maximum output.
The AMG Project One manages to enter the four-digit realm with a six-cylinder engine that is just 1.6 liters in size. There are econoboxes out there with larger displacement. Turbocharging helps, of course. But the real key is the way this engine, which redlines at a sizzling 11,000 RPMs, spins up that turbo using a 107 hp electric motor. By not having to wait until exhaust pressure builds, the turbo is delivering max boost instantly.
Now, add a second motor directly tied to the crankshaft, while the Project One will get what can be called through-the-road all-wheel-drive capabilities by adding two more motors up front, one for each wheel. The gas engine will drive the back wheels through an eight-speed single-clutch automatic transmission developed by Xtrac, the same folks who supply the Mercedes F1 race car.
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Oh, and so green-minded buyers can feel really good about the $2.7 million they’ll spend on one of the hypercars, they’ll be able to drive up to 15.5 miles on battery-power alone. Not at 217 mph, of course. AMG hasn’t given us specifics on the battery pack yet, though Project One is expected to have about 220 pounds worth of lithium-ion cells, or about four times what you’ll find in an F1 car.
The powertrain isn’t the only part of the car influenced by Formula One. Though the exterior design will be cleaner than the visually awkward, albeit incredibly windswept F1 cars of today, it will have gone through similarly extreme efforts to reduce drag.
Meanwhile, the suspension is said to be a pushrod design, much like those F1 cars. Could an owner racing series by in the works? That’s one of the questions we’ll have to ask in Frankfurt. What we do know is that only 275 copies of the Mercedes-AMG Project One will be built.
By the way, Mercedes isn’t the only automaker looking to tap Formula One technology for a street car. At the Geneva Motor Show last winter, Aston Martin laid out similar plans for its exotic Valkyrie. And so did Infiniti with its Project Black S concept vehicle. The Aston Valkyrie is slated for production but we’ve yet to hear whether the Japanese maker will take F1 tech from track to the street.
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