Hypercars exist on the very edge of human endeavour, bringing a heady mix of outrageous prices, science-fiction looks and mind-bending performance that makes us wonder where it will all end. Perhaps until now.
At the Frankfurt motor show, the game appears to have ended, won by a machine that is already being spoken about as the car of the decade; a genuine spiritual successor to the first hypercar of them all, the McLaren F1. Say hello to Mercedes-AMG’s Project One – an automobile that, if you will pardon the pun, promises to live up to all the considerable hype.
Some numbers to inwardly digest: 1,000hp, a top speed in excess of 350kph and a 0-to-200kph – note: not 100kph – sprint time of six seconds, helped by 800 volts of battery power sent to four electric motors. There will be a limited production run of 275 examples, yours for approximately Dh10 million apiece when deliveries commence 18 months from now. But perhaps the most startling numbers of all relate to its Formula One-derived combustion engine, which red lines at 11,000rpm and possesses six cylinders displacing a frankly astonishing 1.6 litres.
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This is, without a doubt, the closest enmeshment between F1 racers and cars that can be run on regular petrol and be driven on the office commute.
“Nobody has really done this until now,” says triple F1 champion Lewis Hamilton during the pre-show reveal.
The “this” he is referring to is the combination of radical road and race technology that courses through the Project One’s DNA, and while he is not technically correct, this is certainly the closest contemporary match. Mercedes-AMG’s chief executive, Tobias Moers, adds to Lewis’s claim: “We are the first to make Formula One technology road worthy.”
Under its strikingly fashioned carbon-fibre skin, there is plenty of genuine F1 tech, with everything from the rear bulkhead back being directly related to Merc’s current Sunday racers. That tiny, screaming engine doesn’t rev quite as highly as the one that Hamilton is used to, which AMG says is to keep it more manageable for servicing, but the effect should be much the same.
As is the way with contemporary hypercars, the Project One’s powertrain is cutting-edge hybrid. A large lithium ion battery pack is mounted low within its body and will provide enough electricity for it to drive for more than 20km with zero emissions. Once that engine kicks in, all bets are off – AMG says the full potential of its performance is yet to be explored, as there are many more months of development work to be carried out before it is production-ready.
Dieter Zetsche, the chairman of Mercedes-Benz says: “This car will make all the others at Mercedes and AMG look small. In 40 years, I have never witnessed so much hype at Mercedes as with this car. After we showed [the silhouette] at Paris Motor Show, we had people calling the next day to buy them.”
He says that the order book is already full – sorry about that.
“AMG's future does not depend on petrol, but on hybridisation and electrification, too,” Zetsche continues. “This car gives an outlook for the future of AMG – our task is not just to reinvent the automobile, but to redefine mobility.”
When you see the lengths AMG has gone to with this superlative machine, it is evident that the world’s finest engineering minds are firmly fixed on hybrid technology. Yet this car has been conceived and designed without compromise of any kind – and there is only one car that can make the same claim. This really could be the 21st century’s McLaren F1.