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Frankfurt show: Merc-AMG reveals ballistic Project One

Jaw dropper: Mercedes-AMG has revealed the Project One hypercar, which borrows a number of technologies from the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One racecar.

F1-derived Mercedes-AMG Project One unveiled with 740kW-plus hybrid power


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12 Sep 2017

MERCEDES-AMG has moved into top-echelon hypercar territory with the unveiling of the Project One at the Frankfurt motor show this week – a 740kW-plus (1000hp) two-seater supermodel that borrows heavily from Formula One hybrid technology but heads straight for the open road.

This is not a track-only special or a flight-of-fancy concept but an exclusive near-production super-high-performance hybrid coupe that has a €2.27 million ($A3.38m) sticker price and, according to figures quoted by Mercedes, can accelerate from standstill to 200km/h in less than 6.0 seconds and push on to a top speed of beyond 350km/h.

The blistering performance stems from a heavily reworked version of the 1.6-litre 24-valve V6 petrol engine and electric motor system used in the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 racing car that in this application can rev to 11,000rpm but is tuned for everyday use.

Developed at Mercedes-AMG’s high-performance powertrain division in Brixworth, England, the mid-mounted combustion engine is backed by four electric motors: two at the front, which are claimed to spin to 50,000rpm (some 30,000 higher than current “state-of-the-art” road cars) and provide drive to the front wheels one that drives the hi-tech electric turbocharger (with up to 100,000rpm) and a bigger motor that is installed directly onto the engine and linked to the crankshaft via a spur gear in similar fashion to the MGU-K (Motor Generator Unit – Kinetic) used in Formula One.

Mercedes claims that the use of an electric turbocharger completely eliminates turbo lag and makes the force-fed V6 more responsive than a normally aspirated V8.

The Project One’s formidable power is sent to all four wheels via Mercedes-AMG’s 4Matic+ variable all-wheel-drive system, with the front wheels each powered by a 120kW electric motor, while the rear wheels are fed 500kW courtesy of the hybrid V6 set-up.

It uses an automated eight-speed manual transmission developed from scratch specifically for the Project One, which can be operated in automatic mode or manually via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Mercedes estimates its regenerative braking technology can recover up to 80 per cent of energy under everyday driving conditions, while the electric turbocharger can use parts of the surplus energy from the exhaust system to generate electricity, which can then either be used for additional drive power or storage in the car’s lithium-ion battery.

The lithium-ion battery cells and the cell cooling system, which are stored in the vehicle floor behind the front axle, are the same as the ones used in the Mercedes Formula One racecar.

Drive modes can range from pure EV (with up to 25km emissions-free driving) to a dynamic mode similar to that used by its F1 counterpart.

Providing “specific indications of what to expect from the upcoming production model”, the Project One is understood to have another 18 months of development work ahead of it before first deliveries from the 275-unit production run are made.

As GoAuto has reported, Mercedes-Benz has received eight Australian orders for the left-hand-drive-only model, with the first expected to arrive in the second half of 2019.

When it does arrive, it will face competition from other forthcoming hypercars such as the Aston Martin Valkyrie and McLaren BP23.

Mercedes-AMG head of management Tobias Moers said in Frankfurt this week that “the hypercar is the most ambitious project we have ever undertaken”.

“It marks yet another pinnacle of the successful, strategic development of Mercedes-AMG towards a performance and sportscar brand,” he said.

“Project One raises the bar in terms of what is currently technologically feasible and thanks to its combination of efficiency and performance it represents an absolute benchmark. At the same time, Project One provides an outlook on how AMG will define driving performance in the future.”

After a lengthy teaser campaign, the Project One’s unveiling reveals a subtle yet menacing design for the carbon-fibre-bodied coupe that bears a resemblance to McLaren’s F1 hero car of the 1990s.

The design starts with a hulking front apron with air inlets across the entire front bumper, which feed air through the front of the car, out through the black inlets on the bonnet and into the roof-mounted intake tract.

It also contributes to additional downforce for the front wheels, as does the automatically extending front splitter and active ventilation louvres on the front wheelarches.

In profile, the most notable features are the roof-mounted, F1-derived air intake, which then extends into a black, vertical shark fin which improves lateral stability while cornering at high speeds.

The car’s profile also shows a cabin positioned towards the front of the vehicle, as well as ample use of black carbon-fibre around the side sills and wheels. Doors open both forwards and upwards.

The Project One has a multi-link suspension design front and rear and sits on 10-spoke, forged aluminium wheels with a radial carbon-fibre semi-cover measuring 19 inches at the front and 20 inches behind, with three ventilation slots per spoke for brake cooling.

The special wheels are shod in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber – 285/35 up front and 335/30 at the rear.

At the back end, the subtle lip spoiler can extend into a large aerofoil wing, which combined with the hulking two-section carbon-fibre diffuser contributes to aerodynamic efficiency.

The large central exhaust outlet with two smaller apertures is a nod to Formula One, while the large, mesh rear apron adds a muscular look to the vehicle.

Front and rear lighting signatures come in the form of three-part rhomboid LED lights, offering an air of simplicity in an otherwise complex design.

For the interior, Mercedes-AMG emphasises that every element is functional, with nothing existing purely for design purposes.

Arguably the most fetching design element is the F1-inspired rectangular steering wheel, which can control normal functions such as cruise control, infotainment and phone, as well as the traction control, driving modes and an LED display giving rev readouts.

Two 10.0-inch screens are on display, one for the instrument cluster and the other for the infotainment screen, with air-conditioning vents integrated underneath the central screen and in the doors.

Carbon-fibre abounds throughout the cabin, including on the dash, in the doors and on the centre console, while the bucket seats, steering wheel and pedals are all adjustable.

In-cabin storage is available behind both seats, while the rearview mirror has been replaced by a screen linked to a rear camera.

Daimler AG chairman of the board of management and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Dieter Zetsche, said: “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 One technology to the road for the first time in (the) Mercedes-AMG Project One.”

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