Just when you thought that the days of road cars built around racing technology were done—and for the most part they are—Mercedes-AMG unveiled its long awaited Project One, a $2.8 million hypercar stuffed with all the tech that Mercedes has developed to dominate in Formula 1, the pinnacle of motorsports tech.
With its first hypercar, revealed this week at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany, Mercedes proves there’s more than one way to make rich drivers feel like they’re training to be astronauts. Where the equally pricey Bugatti Chiron summons 1,500 horsepower from an 8-liter W16 engine that can empty a 26-gallon gas tank in eight minutes, the Project One relies on a puny 1.6-liter V6 engine and a few electric motors. Yet it tops out at 217 mph and goes from 0 to 60 mph in about 2.6 seconds.
That’s possible because the Project One is built with the same tech that Mercedes has used to dominate
F1 in recent years. The 1.6-liter V6, which would look small in any car, makes roughly 700 horsepower, largely because it cranks at 11,000 rpm. That’s roughly double whatever you drive (and a bit short of the F1 car’s 15,000 rpm), and just slow enough to give the engine the lifespan it’ll need in public hands. The Merc gets another 500 horsepower from three electric motors—one on each front wheel, the third integrated into the engine. A fourth motor spins the turbocharger to make sure when suede driving shoe meets pedal, there’s no lag in power delivery.
The goodies don’t stop there. The Project One’s plugin hybrid system allows for torque vectoring, applying torque to any given wheel with more precision than you get in a conventional all-wheel-drive system—and makes for superior control in the tightest of corners. Good news when you’ve got 1,100 horsepower at your toe tips. For good measure, the hybrid drive system also gives you up to 20 miles of all-electric propulsion, for when you need to sneak out in the middle of the night with it or roll into emissions-hating city centers.
Of course, F1 cars rely on more than a clever powertrain, and so does the Project One. Other tech helping goose things along includes a lightweight, high strength, carbon-fiber body similar to the one that races at the Monaco Grand Prix. A multilink suspension with push-rod spring struts smooths out body roll in hard cornering. Carbon wheels and carbon ceramic brakes help keep weight down and the car in control. One thing you won’t get: any of the semiautonomous capabilities Mercedes is pushing elsewhere. If that’s disappointing, this is not the robot driver you’re looking for.
The car’s exterior design is heavy on the curves, a break from the angular looks in Mercedes’ recent vehicles. The doors open forward and up, because it ain’t a hypercar if the doors are regular. Plenty of intakes and vents help channel air around the car and cool the hotter bits, like the engine and brakes. The inlet above the roof transitions to a black shark fin, which—as with F1 cars—helps with lateral stability in the turns. Active front and rear spoilers also help keep the car pointing the right way when whipping through turns.
Even the Project One’s interior mimics an F1 car, albeit with the addition of a passenger seat. The steering wheel comes with the host of multicolored buttons and dials real racers use. The form-fitting seats appear to be of a single piece, linked in the middle via a little hump. Displays include dual 10-inch hi-res LCDs, naturally. A camera-based rearview mirror system replaces the standard glass in the headliner.
Mercedes says it will make just 275 of these gems—every one of them sold already—starting production in 2019. If you missed out, don’t worry. We’re pretty sure it’ll be available in dorm room poster format well before then, and that’s the true arbiter of supercar worthiness.