Mercedes-AMG Project One hypercar review
It’s gauche to start with numbers, but when we’re referring to a AED5.6 million hypercar, we’re not going to start with the colour of the seat belts, are we? (But we’ll get to that.)
So let’s talk numbers: The Mercedes-AMG Project One, the carmaker’s first foray into the ultraluxe stratosphere of insanely fast hypercars that include the Bugatti Chiron, Aston Martin Valkyrie, and Pagani Zonda, produces a planet-moving 1,000 horsepower. It can go from 0 to 200kph in less time than it takes to read this sentence. (Six seconds.)
It’s powered by a 1.6-litre V-6 (and four electric motors) that screeches up to 11,000rpm. (Your average Honda Civic gets up to a mere 5,500rpm. The Ferrari Superfast: 8,500rpm) It is a plug-in hybrid, with an all-electric range of about 25km. But you want real exclusivity? Only 275 examples of what is ostensibly a street-legal F1 car—the first prototype contained the same engine Lewis Hamilton uses—will be made.
Mercedes-AMG allocated 55 for the U. S. All of them have been spoken for. (Just a few buyers are women, in case you were wondering which gender is still overcompensating for something.)
As is becoming the norm with hypercars, you couldn’t just write a check to buy the Project One. You needed to apply. Mercedes received around 1,100 applicants worldwide.
The ultimate decision of who received the privilege to plunk down the cost of a very nice Manhattan loft property on a vehicle came down to AMG CEO Tobias Moers and Dietmar Exler, the president and the regional CEOs of Mercedes-Benz. What separated one billionaire from the next?
The things taken into consideration were a lot like the criteria Ford GT buyers were subject to when applying to purchase the American company’s otherworldly supercar: A large social-media following helped, as did the sense that you were going to actually drive the car and display it at events as opposed to flipping it or, worse, mothballing it within your hangar of bespoke vehicles.
But the initial barrier before even being considered for Club Project One? You must have owned at least 20 Mercedes in your lifetime.
“It was a very difficult conversation to have with the customer who owned 18 Mercedes,” says Heiko Schmidt, of AMG North America.
Just had to buy that Lexus in ’03, didn’t you?
(Hypercar buyers, as one can surmise, live in a rarefied world. Schmidt tells me AMG poached one of its main liaisons for Project One customers from Porsche because of her experience with the clientele who purchased its pioneering hybrid hypercar, the 918.)
Much of the Project One can be customised, with the exception of the seat belts, because of byzantine safety regulations. (You’ll still be able to choose from a set of colours, however.) Deliveries aren’t until 2019; until then, the lucky 275 will be treated to custom seat fittings (the seat is built into the carbon-fibre monocoque to save weight, but the pedals will be adjustable), get a look at their engine being hand-assembled, take rides in proper F1 cars, and receive special training in how to handle a 1,000hp land rocket. It will be the first consumer Mercedes built in Brackley and Brixworth, in England, where the cars for the company’s F1 team are manufactured.
Based on numbers alone, it’s easy to dismiss the Project One as just another billionaire’s plaything, but it’s bigger than that. For one, its appearance is more classic than the angry, angular look that seems to be the prevalent design language for many million-dollar-plus automobiles these days, as if one of Michael Bay’s Transformers were trapped halfway between car and robot.
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Sure, it has thin, mean eyes and a menacing fin, but it still has curves. It still elicits that old-school, sensual feeling of yearning. “It’s similar to Stirling Moss’s SLRs in the ’50s,” Gorden Wagener, Mercedes’s chief design officer, tells me during a walk-through of the car, pointing out how the shoulder line is at wheel level on both vehicles. “We didn’t want it to look like a hypercar.”
Secondly, the technology that drives the Project One won’t simply be for the 0.0001 percent. The goal, at least initially, is for the innovative hybrid tech that is able to squeeze out enormous amounts of power from a relatively small engine to make its way into other Mercedes sports cars. Albeit maybe more for the 1.0 percent at first.
It makes you root for these machines, even though most of us will never drive one. For the überwealthy, hypercars present a burgeoning investment opportunity.
For everyone else, and the big companies that make them, they’re an investment in keeping cars exciting to drive until the day comes when autonomous cars will drive us all.