Past the 2012-2013 craze of the hypercar launch window, the term hasn’t really resurfaced to describe a new car since. And so much more than anything that has come before, this Mercedes-AMG Project ONE comes closest to bridging the Formula 1 car with the road.
Others have tried, but succumbed to compromise, but AMG has persisted with the idea that they could marry an actual F1 to a car, any car, that was allowed to drive on the road. In some ways, the regulations of today are more prohibitive of any such attempt (small capacity engine, high pressure fuel injection, huge pressure single turbocharger), while others prove it to be more accommodating (energy recovery and hybrid power).
The car itself, serving as AMG’s 50th anniversary, was introduced earlier today at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show - a two-seat, mid-engine hypercar that is designed to achieve performance that will be able to rival purpose-built motorsport racing machines. Given its shape and layout, we’d say it could be comparable to an LMP1-class Le Mans racer.
Make what you will of the shape, but clearly aesthetics took a much lower priority than aerodynamics, cooling efficiency, and downforce generation. Even from the front, where they arguably had the most creative flexibility, they’ve refrained from giving it a more recognisable fascia if it weren’t necessary. We’ve got to say, though, the elemental lines, F1-inspired shark fin, and single centre exit exhaust does give it a 'Batmobile' vibe - just paint it black, AMG.
The interior, accessed through dihedral butterfly doors it barely has any more room than required to contain two adults, both of whom sit horizontally just like in a racing car on custom moulded seats that form part of the actual interior floor. Alcantara and exposed carbon fibre adorn nearly every tactile surface, and the driver is presented with a carbon rectangular steering wheel, continuing the F1 theme, with all vehicle functions controllable from the various buttons toward its centre. Two LCD panels show telemetry and act as a digital instrument cluster.
But the real story surrounding the Project ONE (is that even the final name?) is its complex powertrain, composing of the same hybrid petrol engine formula that’s used in present-day Formula 1. Of course, it has been given a considerable number of tuning tweaks in order for it to meet various noise and emissions regulation, but for all intents and purposes, this motor and ancillary systems are lifted from the F1 W06 Hybird Formula 1 car.
Its core is a 1.6-litre V6 engine that can spin to 11,00rpm while running on the called equired Super Plus petrol instead of higher octane racing fuel - higher than any current production road car but lower than the rev limit for the engine in Grand Prix tune. The four overhead camshafts are driven by spur gears. To achieve high engine speeds, the mechanical valve springs have been replaced by pneumatic valve springs.
Air is forced into the cylinder banks equally via a single advanced turbocharger, and thus begins the thread of the intricately interconnected network of electrical infrastructure and the four electric motors that they supply power to. The first electric motor is attached to the turbo, a unit designated MGU-H (Motor Generation Unit - Heat), uses separate turbines for exhaust gas and the electrically driven compressor with approximately 90kW and can drive the turbine to up to 100,000rpm.
The second electric motor and its accompanying subsystem are called MGU-K, with that final letter standing for ‘kinetic’, and is connected directly to the V6 engine and powered by surplus electrical energy generated by the MGU-H. This 120kW motor features a direct link to the crankshaft and virtually reduces any turbo lag down to zero.
Together, these two electric motors help the turbocharged V6 deliver 500kW to the rear wheels through an 8-speed single-clutch automated manual transmission. However, the Project ONE has another two electric motors, each producing 120kW and attached to one front wheel. Together, this raises the total system output to over 740kW. It’s capable of reaching speeds in excess of 350km/h and can accelerate from rest to 200km/h in under 6 seconds, which is insane. Its electric motors and lithium ion batteries can propel it for some 25km without needing to invoke the V6 turbo motor too, if that matters to you.
AMG has chosen to keep some specifications and performance data, such as 0-100km/h sprint time, exact power output and maximum torque, to itself for now. And while the car being shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show is reflective what will be received by those lucky 275 customers who paid a rumoured €2.17 million, it still is being labelled a show car.
"Motorsport is not an end in itself for us. Faced with intense competition, we develop technologies from which our production vehicles also subsequently benefit. We are drawing on our experiences and successes from three constructors' and drivers' world championships to bring Formula 1 technology to the road for the first time: in Mercedes-AMG Project ONE", says Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.