Mercedes has a long history of motorsports success. Lest you should you forget that this is a marque with the pedigree to win Formula One races and produce feats of engineering like the CLK-GTR, here’s a reminder. It’s called the Project One.
It has been compared to Mercedes’ Vision Gran Tourismo concept, but unlike that car, the Project One is very real. In building it, Mercedes has delivered on their promise to create a new competitor for the “holy trinity,” of P1, 918, and LaFerrari. For $2.7 million, frankly, it had better.
A Racecar for the Road
Media fanboys kick around the term “racecar for the road,” but most of the cars in question stack up against a real racer about as well as Levar Ball against Michael Jordan. The Project One, however, is the real deal. It features the same power plant that motivates Lewis Hamilton’s F1 machine, a 1.6-liter hybrid V6 producing a clean 1000 horsepower.
The car’s sleek exterior features a “shark fin” stabilizer, and the F1 theme continues on the interior, where seats are molded into the monocoque tub, and multi-colored buttons and toggles adorn a rectangular steering wheel. Even the fully digital heads-up-display looks like it would be right at home on the grid at Monaco.
In a surprising move, Mercedes has chosen not to equip the Project One with active aero, but it does feature a plethora of other exciting new technologies. These include an advanced all-wheel-drive system with torque-vectoring capabilities, similar to the system on the new Acura NSX.
In addition to the two electric motors that drive the front wheels and the electric motor coupled to the gas V6, another motor helps spool the turbo in situations where there’s not enough exhaust available to generate boost. That makes a total of four electric motors onboard.
Like the other members of the trinity (now maybe quartet?), the Project One foregoes outright top speed for acceleration and handling, but it can still achieve a white-knuckled full trot of 217 mph. Mercedes won’t say how quickly it gets to 60, but we can promise you won’t have any trouble merging if you’re lucky enough to get one of the 275 planned for production.
As the latest halo car in the Mercedes stable, the Project One joins the ranks of the legendary 300 SL, the fabled “Red Pig,” the ultra-rare C111 rotary concept so many other iconic Mercedes limited editions. While you might be tempted to compare it to the ill fated Mercedes-McLaren SLR or SLS-AMG, those cars are more grand tourers than the Project one. This is a died-in-the-wool track machine.
If Porsche thought the AMG GT was a wake-up call, the Project One is an air raid siren. We might be a few short years from self-driving cars, but don’t expect that to keep the mad scientists in Stuttgart and Zuffenhausen from seeking new ways to test the limits of human drivers.
Scott Huntington is a writer and car fanatic from Harrisburg, PA.