There comes a point when a supercar becomes a hypercar. That tipping point is hard to describe in definitive terms though, and the boundaries between the two can vary from one enthusiast to the next. To use an old phrase, we may not be able to tell you exactly what makes a car a supercar a supercar or a hypercar a hypercar, but we know it when we see it.
There also comes a point where a hypercar ceases to be a hypercar and steps into another realm altogether. There’s not really a commonly accepted name for this new level of insanity; the type of insanity brought to you by the McLaren BP23, the upcoming Aston Martin Valkyrie and Mercedes-AMG’s newly revealed Project ONE Concept.
These aren’t hypercars. They’re something entirely different. They’re racecars you can drive on the street. They’re ludicrous. They’re ludicars.
Mercedes has just fired a salvo across the bow of all other current or future ludicar manufacturers. After teasing us in January with hints of the Project ONE, in Frankfurt they presented their latest entry in the flesh.
Forget that Aston Martin is working with Red Bull’s Formula 1 team to design the Valkyrie. Never mind McLaren’s F1 credentials. Mercedes-AMG claims that the 1000+ hp plug-in hybrid Project ONE isn’t just F1 inspired or F1 designed. They have thrown the gauntlet down with what they say is the first F1 car with MOT approval.
The Project ONE doesn’t look like any ordinary F1 car, though. First off, there’s a roof. And air conditioning. And infotainment. And power windows. Purists might scoff at all that fluff, but that 1.6-liter engine behind the driver is straight from Mercedes’ championship winning racecars and is capable of spinning up to an amazing 11,000 rpms. That’s nothing to laugh at.
The hybrid portion of this automotive lunacy consists of four electric motors that serve different purposes. The front wheels are powered exclusively by one motor each, there’s one attached to the turbocharger to eliminate turbo lag and the last is mounted directly onto the engine itself, directly linked to the crankcase to maximize efficiency.
All of this power is transmitted through an 8-speed transmission designed and built specifically for this project. Combined together, Mercedes-AMG claims that 124 mph is reached in less than six seconds, on the way to a top speed of over 217 mph. We’re definitely into the ludicrous range at this point.
Outside, the Project One makes no effort to be subtle. There’s a massive mouth in the front with an active splitter on its chin. On top of the fenders, active louvers open and close as needed. The side view is dominated by carbon fiber, artwork reminiscent of the Mercedes-AMG F1 racecar and a massive, black, vertical shark fin not unlike many modern LeMans prototypes. While the profile, front end and fin all seem very derivative – that front end looks like a McLaren and the greenhouse looks like a Porsche – they work well together.
Lifting those butterfly doors and moving to the area seen most by those who actually choose to drive their rolling technological monsters, the cockpit is Spartan but perfectly capable of being used every day. Integrated racing seats, built into the monocoque, are covered by microfiber, which stretches from one door to the other in one large, sculpted piece. Most controls are on the racing-inspired rectangular steering wheel. All information is transmitted to the driver by two LCD screens, while the rear view mirror is replaced by yet another video screen since there is no back window. There’s even storage for your iPhone and compartments behind the seats for your groceries.
Mercedes has jumped into the hypercar/ludicar fray head first. They’ve put other high-end sportscar manufacturers on notice and are delivering a car that issues a serious challenge to others. These are heady days to be a super/hyper/ludicar fan. The obvious question is, “What’s next?”