All 300 will be sold out before production car is unveiled
It has a code name but not a real one.
It has a Formula 1 engine but it’s been developed for both road and track and will serve as a daily driver.
It can operate as an electric vehicle with a maximum range of at least 15.5 miles (25 km), but with its 1.6-liter turbocharged V-6 this hybrid will have a combined horsepower of more than 1,000 when it goes into production next year.
It’s the Mercedes-AMG hypercar, which is in full development in Europe and will join an elite class of vehicles that includes the Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder, and the Aston Martin– and Red Bull–developed AM-RB 001, also due in 2018. Also new to this high-end market is the Bugatti Chiron.
Buyers will be able to start test drives in 2018, but deliveries will likely begin in 2019. Mercedes-AMG is planning a limited run of 200 to 300 hypercars built over a couple years, so it won’t have a model-year designation. It should be sold out before the car is even shown this fall at the Frankfurt auto show, say Ola Källenius, member of the board of management for group research and Mercedes-Benz cars development, and Tobias Moers, chairman of the board of management for Mercedes-AMG.
And by the way, the car shown in Frankfurt will not be a concept. It’s the production car, Moers says. It’s also a nice birthday present for AMG, which turns 50 this year.
“We haven’t decided on a name at this stage,” Källenius says. Moers says it takes a long time to come up with an inspiring name, and a short list doesn’t even exist at this point. It could remain nameless for the rest of the year. “It is not R50, period,” he says of reports speculating that as the name.
In the interim, it’s code-named Project One and refers to a two-seat, mid-engine, all-wheel-drive supercar with a modified version of the hybrid engine used for Formula 1. The V-6 drives the rear wheels, and a pair of electric motors will send power to the front axle. All that power will propel a lightweight vehicle with a carbon-fiber body. It could weigh in as little as 2,200 pounds (998 kg).
“It’s almost like a research vehicle put on the road for an exclusive group of customers,” Källenius says.
Even though the price tag will be more than $2.1 million USD, Mercedes has more than 300 names on a list of interested customers. Would-be buyers started contacting dealers before the Paris auto show in September 2016 when the automaker confirmed the car was in the works. The trick is to figure out who gets them and how many will go to each region of the world. He would not say how many will be allocated to the North America.
For sure on the list is Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton. He’s also helping the team with development and will do test driving later this year when there are drivable prototypes. Former teammate Nico Rosberg could also buy one, Moers says.
In terms of development, AMG is finalizing the digital process. “We pulled it out of styling,” Moers says. “Design is so far done. Now we are working on details.”
The challenges include retuning the engine, developing a suitable gearbox, and integrating electrical systems. Adapting the gearbox is going well. “I think we have a proper solution now,” Moers says. The team still has the challenge of getting a Formula 1 engine running in street-legal mode, but that work is also proceeding nicely, as is the integration work.
Powertrain engineering is being done in Brixworth, U.K., and vehicle engineering work is being done by AMG in Affalterbach, Germany. A number of suppliers are doing the carbon-fiber body. It’s still being decided where final assembly will be done, Moers says.
And the automaker must also debate whether to give the electric car the EQ sub-brand name. EQ is a new brand within Mercedes that will include 10 electric vehicles of all sizes and body styles by 2025, starting with an SUV in two years. “It’s a unique vehicle in its own right,” Källenius says.