Mercedes-AMG ONE nears customer rollout
After what seems like the longest gestation period in automotive history, the much-hyped Mercedes-AMG ONE (unveiled at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show) is finally on the verge of being a production reality, with deliveries of the limited-edition hypercar commencing in the second half of this year.
Mercedes-AMG claims the newcomer – of which only 275 units will be built and sold – rewrites all dynamic benchmarks for a road car, drawing heavily on the engineering know-how gleaned from the brand’s Formula One program.
The manufacturer quotes an ex-factory price of 2.275m euros (Dh 9m), which positions the AMG ONE virtually lineball with the Bugatti Chiron. Although well short of the 420 kph v-max of the Chiron (the AMG-One tops out at 352 kph), the Merc offering is touted as being the closest road-going equivalent to an F1 car when it comes to racetrack performance.
If one were to judge the powertrain at face value, a 1.6-litre twin-turbo V6 engine might seem a tad weedy for an offering positioned at the pointy end of the hypercar segment. But raw numbers are sometimes misleading.
The mid-mounted combustion engine is derived from essentially the same V6 that propels the cars that Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are campaigning in the Formula One championship, but it’s been adapted for road use, with the rev limit dropped to a less extreme 11,000rpm.
The V6’s race-bred DNA is evident from the fact that the four overhead camshafts are driven by spur gears, while mechanical valve springs have been replaced by pneumatic valve springs to enable its high-revving capability.
Even so, the motor runs on high-octane pump fuel and Mercedes-AMG claims it has no problems in coping with stop-start traffic in 40-degree-plus temperatures.
The powertrain comprises no less than four electric motors (one in the turbocharger, one mounted in unison with the combustion engine and two on the front axle), and they combine with the twin-turbo V6 to kick out a towering 1,063 hp. Mercedes-AMG says it’s impossible to specify a maximum torque output due to the complex powertrain and its multiple power sources.
The two electric motors at the front pump out 163 hp each and send drive to the front wheels via a single-speed transmission and dispense their outputs wheel selectively to essentially provide a torque-vectoring setup.
The hybrid powertrain at the rear (comprising the V6 and the other 163hp electric motor) is hooked up to a seven-speed Xtrac sequential gearbox and integrated limited-slip differential.
Meanwhile, the job of the 90kW electric motor in the turbocharger is to rapidly spool it up to 100,000 rpm before exhaust gas flow takes over. Mercedes-AMG claims this feature endows the twin-turbo V6 with better throttle response than a naturally aspirated V8, maintaining boost pressure even when the driver lifts off the gas or hits the brake pedal.
“Apart from a Formula 1 powertrain that generates 1,063 hp from a relatively small, highly efficient internal combustion engine in combination with four electric motors, the monumental task was above all the exhaust gas aftertreatment,” says Jochen Hermann, technical managing director of Mercedes-AMG.
“The Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains teams have really done a great job here. This project was partly a curse and a blessing at the same time. But we have walked the stony path, and as a technician you naturally get carried away with all the details.
“In a Formula 1 car, a team of engineers with laptops makes sure that the powertrain starts. With our hypercar, all it takes is the push of a button. This also illustrates the immense software know-how that has gone into this vehicle,” says Hermann.
The AMG ONE’s performance stats are genuinely hypercar-worthy – 0-100 kph in 2.9 sec, 0-200 kph in 7.0 sec and 0-300 kph in 15.6 sec. That said, it’s still not as fast as Bugatti’s Chiron, which accelerates to 300 kph in 13.6 sec.
Where the 1,695kg AMG ONE deviates from the supercar norm – and falls in line with its F1 sibling – is in the fact the carbon monocoque is structurally integrated with the engine/transmission unit for maximum integrity.
Even the seats are moulded as part of the monocoque structure, and this means they offer zero adjustability. The only way to conjure up an agreeable driving position is to move the adjustable pedals fore or aft, then do the same with the F1-mimicking steering wheel.
We sat in the car and it’s fair to say getting in and out of the AMG ONE is akin to a yoga class. Those with larger builds or limited flexibility should look elsewhere.
Once in the car, you’re sat very low, which means visibility is extremely limited – especially in the lateral and rearward directions.
Although the start-up procedure is relatively simple (just push a red button), you need to wait 60 seconds for the V6 to fire up while the catalytic converters are pre-heated to around 41 degrees. In the meantime, you can drive off in electric-only mode.
Mercedes-AMG claims the battery cells, their arrangement and the liquid cooling system are the same as used in the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 racing car. However, the quantity of battery cells in the AMG ONE is significantly greater, allegedly making it far more practical for everyday use.
Battery capacity is modest at 8.4kWh, and it’s sufficient for a purely electric range of just 18.1 km. Charging is via alternating current and the integrated 3.7 kW on-board charger. In addition, the battery can be supplied with fresh energy via recuperation or from the combustion engine.
Another completely new development is the 10-spoke forged aluminium wheels (19-inch at the front and 20s at the rear) with centre lock; these will remain exclusive to the AMG ONE. Equipped with a carbon-fibre partial cover, the rims are claimed to lower the drag co-eifficient by optimising the airflow around the wheels.
The AMG ONE is connected to the tarmac vis bespoke Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2R M01 tyres, and the exclusivity of the tyres is reflected in the design of the sidewall, which incorporates the vehicle’s silhouette.
Befitting its F1 connections, the AMG ONE features pushrod suspension, with both push-rod spring struts installed across the direction of travel. The innovative (for a road car) arrangement of the spring and damper unit replaces the function and use of a conventional tubular cross stabiliser.
Mercedes-AMG claims this solution reliably limits roll, even during very rapid directional changes, without being uncomfortable. Roll stiffness and roll damping are completely independent of lift stiffness and lift damping.
Stopping power comes from an advanced, weight-optimised ceramic high-performance compound braking system. Mercedes-AMG claims its low weight reduces unsprung masses, improving driving dynamics and agility.
Six-piston fixed calipers and internally ventilated and perforated discs measuring 398x38mm are used up front, while four-piston fixed calipers and internally ventilated and perforated 380x34mm discs are housed at the rear.
The AMG ONE features undoubtedly the most complex active aero system seen on a road car to date. Depending on the driver’s preference and the selected drive program, three different aerodynamic setups are available, offering varying degrees of aero downforce over front and rear axles.
Apart from active flaps in the front diffuser, there are louvres over the front wheel arches that can open to release air pressure in the wheel wells, thereby reducing front-end lift. In addition, the adjustable rear wing has a flap that can be deployed or retracted, depending on whether high-downforce or maximum top speed is the priority.
In the public-road-oriented “Race Safe”, “Race”, “EV” and “Individual” drive programs, the wheel arch louvres are closed, the active flaps on the front diffuser are extended and the rear wing including flap is retracted.
In the track-focused drive programs – “Race Plus” and “Strat 2” (both only allowed on the racetrack) – the front diffuser flaps fold up to shape the front diffuser contour for maximum aero efficiency.
In this mode, the rear wing extends fully, as does the rear wing flap. The louvres are opened to increase the downforce on the front axle and to increase the negative pressure in the wheel arches. The vehicle is lowered by 37 mm at the front axle and 30 mm at the rear axle.
Mercedes-AMG says the consequence of all these measures is that total downforce increases up to five times compared with the road drive programs, depending on the speed.
There’s also a “Race DRS” (Drag Reduction System), which can be activated at the touch of a button as in Formula 1. In the racetrack drive programs the rear wing flap retracts completely and the louvres are closed. DRS can be deactivated manually or is automatically deactivated as soon as the driver brakes or lateral acceleration is measured.
Stylistically, the AMG ONE looks no more radical than, say, a McLaren Senna. The dihedral doors open upward and outward, but the most distinctive features are the roof-mounted air scoop and shark-like fin that runs down the spine of the car.
Other show stopping visual elements include the air-brushed (by hand) three-pointed star logo on the AMG ONE’s snout, and multitude of stars that are air-brushed onto the rear flanks of the car. The latter feature is optional, so you can choose not to have them, in which case you also get to select from a much wider colour palette than silver and black (which are the only two choices if you want the stars).