This is the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE: an F1 car for the road

Chris Davies - Sep 11, 2017
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This is the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE: an F1 car for the road

“A race car for the road” may be a cliche, but in the case of the new Mercedes-AMG Project ONE it’s true. Unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show IAA 2017 today, the hotly-anticipated coupe borrows liberally from Formula 1 technology, not least a very special hybrid powertrain. With over 1,000 horsepower and a top speed in excess of 217 mph, this is arguably the modern day equivalent of the classic McLaren F1.

All-wheel drive relies solely on electric power at the front, while the rear gets an innovative V6 turbocharged engine. Torque vectoring for the front wheels allow them to be individually accelerated or braked; Mercedes-AMG says it believes up to 80-percent of typical braking energy could be returned to the batteries through regenerative braking. Maximum electric range is 25 km, or around 15.5 miles.

Still, the Project ONE is more about performance than frugality. 0-200 kmh (124 mph) comes in under six seconds, for instance. The car can move off on electric-only power, but then bring the gas engine online as the driver demands it. Alternatively, a Race Start mode can throw everything at the asphalt.

Though there’s plenty to like about the Project ONE, the heart of the car is its incredible engine. A high-performance plug-in hybrid, it borrows technology from Formula 1 and saw Mercedes-AMG work with their counterparts at Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains. It’s also incredibly complex.

So, there’s a single gas engine and four electric motors, though not all of the latter drive the wheels directly. The ICE is a 1.6-liter V6 gas engine, with direct injection and electrically-assisted single turbocharging, and was snatched directly from the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 car. Its four overhead camshafts are driven by spur gears, and the mechanical valve springs have been swapped out for pneumatic versions to allow it to spin up to higher speeds.

In fact, the mid-mounted engine can spool all the way up to 11,000 rpm. That’s less than an F1 car would push the same powerplant, though by intentional design: Mercedes-AMG needed the engine in the Project ONE to last longer than that of an F1 car might. It also needed to run smoothly on Super Plus gasoline, rather than the racing fuel an F1 car could expect.

Two of the electric motors, meanwhile, are mounted to the front axle. They can spin up to 50,000 rpm. A third pushes its roughly 90 kW of power into the compressor turbine up to 100,000 rpm, as load demands. The turbocharger’s exhaust gas turbine has been split away, connected by a shaft. The final 120 kW electric motor is installed directly on the ICE, with a link to the crankcase.

The result, Mercedes-AMG claims, is a turbocharged engine that feels faster in its responses than a naturally-aspirated V8. It’s also more efficient, with the turbocharger capable of topping up the high-voltage li-ion battery that can drive the crankcase motor. The transmission is an automated AMG SPEEDSHIFT 8-speed manual.

As for the design, that borrows liberally from F1 too. The cockpit is pushed forward, emphasizing the mid-engined layout, while the wheel arches are swollen in contrast to the wasp-waisted middle. A huge fascia at the front delivers plenty of cooling, while the AMG A-wing below the center section links the middle of the car to the front fenders.

Flat LED headlamps are topped by air outlets in the hood, and there’s a huge air intake on the roof that transitions into a shark fin to help lateral stability during cornering. Plenty of carbon fiber sites alongside the Petronas green paintbrush design that is the handiwork of the same artist who did the F1 racing car. Adding some extra drama – as if it was necessary – are forward/upward opening doors.

The 10-spoke forged aluminum wheels have a center lock and are bespoke to the Project ONE. A radial carbon0fiber semi-cover has been designed to improve aerodynamics and reduce drag; meanwhile, three flat venting slots per spoke help cut brake heat. Michelin specially developed 285/35 ZR 19 Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires for the 19-inch front wheels, while the 20-inch rears get Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 335/30 ZR 20 rubber. The brakes are ceramic high-performance compound based, cutting weight while improving performance.

Clamber inside, and there’s space for two with monocoque-integrated bucket seats with adjustable backrests. Since the seats are predominantly fixed, the pedals and steering wheel adjust to suit the driver. Two high-res 10-inch displays are mounted on metal arms, while a double-nozzle ventilation unit sprouts from underneath the panel in the center stack.

The steering wheel gets F1-style flattened upper and lower sections, an airbag, and plenty of buttons and switches to control drive modes and suspension settings. There’s an LED shift display integrated into the top. A screen replaces a rear-view mirror, showing a feed from a rear camera, and there are controls built into an aluminum housing in the roof lining.

Right now, sadly, the Project ONE is just a boutique product. Only 275 will be made, each priced at $2.72m: all have, unsurprisingly, already been sold. However, Mercedes-AMG says that it will spawn a production model somewhere down the line.


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