Chris Harris vs the F1-engined Mercedes-AMG One

Pictures: John Wycherley

There was a touch of JFK’s “we do that not as a result of it’s simple, however as a result of it’s exhausting” in regards to the Mercedes announcement again in 2017, and I beloved that. I nonetheless love that sitting right here questioning how greatest to clarify the complicated day I spent with the One. However there’s additionally the suspicion that the person who made the choice to announce a highway automobile with an F1 engine hadn’t requested the individuals who really designed the System One engines if such a undertaking was even doable earlier than making that public utterance. Given the usage of a time machine, I am undecided that a person would make the identical choice once more.

As a result of the AMG One has turn out to be an trade case examine in how painful automobile improvement will be. Tales of its troubled genesis have often filtered into my conversations with engineers. And while you hear these tales as a automobile obsessive and as somebody who earns a residing driving and commenting on them, you must resolve whether or not you’ll scoff on the obvious conceitedness of promising one thing and failing to ship it on time – bear in mind the one is three years late – and tweet about it not being quick sufficient. Otherwise you double down in your perception that the massive foreheaded fraternity will be capable to repair something utilizing your private insistence that the world is a greater place with a Mercedes F1-engined supercar. For the avoidance of doubt, I am within the second camp. I’ve already written about this – I need the one to be nice.

Off to the Nürburgring, then, to hitch a gaggle of individuals fortunate sufficient to pattern a machine that has over 1,000bhp and energetic entrance wheelarch aerodynamics. A few these different individuals are nonetheless lurking round, presumably fascinated by the comically massive crew wanted to make tv. I am given a short overview of the automobile’s controls by the undertaking chief after which a crash course within the steering wheel and the way you alter the numerous chassis, powertrain and aero settings. All of which leaves me nodding confidently whereas inwardly pondering, “Did not get a lot of that”. The one is essentially the most difficult automobile I’ve ever pushed. It has so many various modes I am unable to actually clarify them right here, however they’re roughly break up into highway and observe whereupon the motive force can then select the extent of efficiency versus battery depletion and ESP/traction intervention. There are 9 settings of traction management alone and three modes of ESP. A minimum of that is what I am informed on the time, solely to obtain a message from somebody a number of hours after leaving the circuit telling me there was a fourth ESP setting known as ‘Professional’ which may have been helpful. You already know a day is unusual when folks inform you essential stuff a couple of automobile after you’ve got completed driving it.

A fast interlude now to clarify or remind simply how difficult this automobile is. At its coronary heart sits a 1.6-liter single turbocharged V6. The turbo is successfully break up between the consumption and exhaust and this permits a 121bhp electrical motor to sit down between enter and output, that is what F1 commentators name the MGU-H and it successfully reduces turbo lag. On the again of the inner combustion engine, which produces 566bhp, is an even bigger 161bhp electrical motor (MGU-Ok, to F1 commentators) and these each drive the rear axle. Every of the entrance wheels has a 161bhp electrical motor, which F1 commentators haven’t got to fret about. Peak energy is a claimed 1,049bhp and no torque determine has been printed as a result of it’s too troublesome to calculate. On condition that half the work is undertaken by electrons, we are able to most likely sum it up as ‘a lot’.

The essential construction of the automobile is made from carbon fibre, as is the bodywork. The transmission is carefully associated to the F1 automobile’s and constructed by Xtrac. The suspension is an advanced pushrod set-up and the automobile has substantial heaters to prewarm the cats earlier than start-up. Add to this a fantastically trimmed cabin, the standard suite of Mercedes luxuries and even an electrical steering column and you start to know how the one has bloated to 1,695kg. That is not sufficient to make its four-figure energy output seem imply, but it surely does drag the automobile’s power-to-weight ratio again into the clutches of far much less unique equipment. Mercedes’ claims of 0-62mph in 2.9secs, 0-124mph in 7.0secs and a 219mph most nonetheless appear fairly seismic to this outdated man, however they make it no quicker than a 765LT McLaren. Having stated that, the McLaren feels uncomfortably quick at instances and I am undecided how a lot quicker a automobile must be, nor at which level we have to decide every part by how briskly it’s. In spite of everything, most £2 million automobiles will get annihilated by a £35k motorbike.

However again to the Nürburgring the place the engineers and assist crew for the one stay participating however appear a little bit nervous. First up is a geese and drakes studying session behind a GT Black Collection pushed by DTM legend and AMG ambassador Bernd Schneider. He tells me his tires will take time to heat up then instantly units off at a tempo that might most likely lead to an honest qualifying place in a GT3 race. There’s quite a bit for me to soak up. I am in avenue mode, no aero deployed, however I’ve full energy obtainable. The steering weight is scrumptious, the brake pedal feels bizarre, the noise is painful. That is proper, the automobile everybody thought too quiet at Goodwood is, from the within, the loudest automobile I’ve ever pushed – the V6 combining with all the opposite bits to supply one thing that burrows behind the eardrums into your cranium. For the primary half lap it makes me grin, then it hurts. The automobile understeers, however possibly that is simply tire temperature. We pile down the primary straight, the Black Collection already holding up the hypercar. The One’s transmission is in computerized mode and because it auto blips from third to second gear the V6 simply cuts and a warning flashes on the sprint. I come to a cease, radio Bernd and as we trade phrases the engine gargles again to life with out me touching any button. bizarre

Again within the pits the laptops are out in power and a few faces are grimacing. We return out once more after 10 minutes – the identical factor occurs midway into the primary lap after I actually assault a braking zone and the engine makes use of all obtainable revs for the downshift. Extra laptops, a bit extra head scratching after which an engineer takes the automobile for a spin himself and rolls again with a forlorn look: “I’ve the identical downside”. The answer I am initially supplied is to be extra mild on downshifts – however I would been letting the automobile do these – how may I be extra mild? “Perhaps use gears one, two, three solely?” Not likely all in favour of doing that.

“He has been driving the automobile a lot more durable than the others,” says somebody from Mercedes – no marvel yesterday’s tremendous influencer is so chummy with AMG. It could appear they only potter about in automobiles and watch the ‘likes’ roll in.

We have now the beginnings of a standoff. A Mercedes supercar must be pushed correctly, as in flat-out. I am not driving it at 60 p.c, that is simply pointless. Are the 275 folks paying £2.3 million going to be requested to try this? A second automobile that was for use for some additional pictures is nominated. The TV crew reinstalls all of the cameras from one to the opposite, which takes half-hour or so – that 5 hours to shoot a movie is now two and a half. I’ve accomplished one quick lap of the Nürburgring GP circuit.

This, he, one, is a bit more ‘improvement’ – a little bit rougher. Cameras put in I head out, this time not behind Bernd. Midway across the first lap the automobile hits 90mph and a pace limiter cuts in, with a warning about aero components arising on the sprint. One other laptop computer session and now some very furrowed German brows. The problem is a sensor on the rear spoiler that is not speaking effectively with some management unit – a repair is ​​made, examined and would not work. Then somebody concludes that if the automobile runs in race mode with all of the spoilers already deployed, the pace limiter will not must get all shirty. And so they’re proper, as a result of the automobile zings round a complete lap with no points. Now there are 70 minutes to make a movie. And for me to attempt to untangle what I consider this automobile that does not appear to need to work correctly.

Overlook every part you’ve got skilled from a standard super-hypercar powertrain. This is probably not the quickest factor on the market, but it surely’s intense and plain great and, crucially, distinctive. The engine is frantic above 9,000rpm, however will increase sound slovenly, albeit with none sense of acceleration being clipped. Seems some KERS is deployed between modifications to maintain momentum. The chassis is supple in Road mode, however agency as hell in Race. All I can prize from the automobile is understeer – no matter I attempt to do the entrance pushes and the rear axle appears to have loopy traction. The noise is now too invasive so I pop in some earplugs. Time to focus on the brakes, which have a full suite of regenerative expertise in them. They actually aren’t simple – the preliminary thump of deceleration is logical, however conserving them on the sting of the ABS from 100mph to hairpin pace is hard. And that should have one thing to do with the driving place, which is simply plain odd. I do not know the way a ground-up design finally ends up with barely sufficient legroom for somebody 5ft 7in tall, and a bucket seat hewn from the chassis that has little or no lateral assist. It is weird—practically as weird as becoming a weedy hi-fi to the world’s loudest automobile. And a Bluetooth telephone – I imply actually, do not even trouble.

And now you are pondering “He hates the bloody factor – he is simply trampled throughout it”. You could not be extra incorrect. I am completely intrigued by the AMG One. I believe one of the vital attention-grabbing and rewarding automobiles ever made may lurk below all that, dare I say it, not fairly completed expertise. ESP Professional?

I don’t know what was occurring that day. Not solely did I discover out about different modes after the occasion, however I’ve now been informed {that a} later chassis calibration eradicates all that understeer. However I can solely report what I skilled. The F1 motor is beguiling, I like the way in which it appears to be like, I like what it represents and I strongly suspect that the entire five-year battle to get the factor thus far has been so traumatic that the corporate simply desires to ship the automobiles and transfer on to less complicated duties. This will likely be remembered as one of many nice automotive follies, but additionally one of the vital fascinating machines ever made. In the future I might need the prospect to drive one correctly and actually perceive it, though possibly not after penning this. Did Mercedes maintain up its fingers, or try to blag it? In all probability a little bit of each – however for essentially the most half the AMG One confirms what I’ve all the time suspected – that the best automobiles aren’t all the time excellent.

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