HYPERCARS | Mercedes, Aston Martin and Lotus roll out the big guns
In the face of stringent car-pollution laws that call for reduced CO2 emissions, the age of the hypercar shows little sign of abating.
In fact things are thriving in the rarefied world of ultra-exotic sports cars, with the most recent headline-grabber being the 1,120kW Bugatti Chiron Super Sport setting a new production-car top speed record of 490.484km/h in Germany in August.
Three other hypercars are being launched soon, and though they won’t have the Bugatti’s sheer straight-line speed, they will have more agility. They will challenge for lap records at circuits such as the Nurburgring, and one thing they have in common is that they are all electrified in one form or another.
The Mercedes-AMG One will be moved along by a modern petrol-electric power unit from the brand’s multichampionship-winning Formula One car. It pairs a turbocharged 1.6l engine with no less than four electric motors. It’s all about small cubic capacity, and lots of complexity.
Aston Martin’s Valkyrie mostly uses old-fashioned cubic capacity — all naturally aspirated 12 cylinders and 6.5l of it — to generate the horsepower, though it too is paired to a hybrid system.
The Lotus Evija is fully electric, and becomes the world’s most powerful series production car. Making its public debut at August’s renowned Monterey Car Week, it is ready to put Lotus back on the map as an innovator and technical leader.
Mercedes-AMG One aims to bring undiluted F1 technology to the road, says Mercedes, and is the first of a new generation of electrified AMG sports cars.
The One first broke cover as a concept at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show, and the all-wheel-drive car combines a mid-mounted F1-derived V6 turbo engine, which revs to an astounding 11,000rpm, and four electric motors for a total output of more than 745kW.
The body is made entirely of carbon fibre to reduce weight, resulting in an estimated kerb weight of 1,200-1,300kg. It’s capable of 0-200km/h in under six seconds, its makers say, with a top speed of more than 350km/h.
The production of the car will be limited to 275 units at a price of R40m a unit, all of which have been pre-sold.
The Mercedes AMG One will keep its owners waiting a while, and the launch has reportedly been delayed until 2021 as the factory works on making its engine meet emissions standards.
Emissions aside, making an F1 power unit practical for road use is a tricky exercise. To begin with, starting an F1 car isn’t a simple matter of hopping into the cockpit and pressing a start button. It’s a process managed by a team of engineers at F1 races.
The engine’s tolerances are so tight that it first needs to be warmed to a temperature of about 80° by circulating warm coolant through it. The engine then needs to be manually turned so that all the oil can seep through before it’s finally fired.
The engine will also only last for about 50,000km before needing a rebuild.
Aston Martin Valkyrie
Like the Mercedes One, the Valkyrie has a F1 connection, in that it’s co-designed by Adrian Newey, Red Bull’s chief technical officer.
It mimics F1’s racing cars in that it has a hybrid battery system that performs as a KERS (kinetic energy recovery system).
Combined with the Cosworth 6.5l V12 engine which revs to a dizzy 11,100rpm, total system outputs are 865kW and 900Nm of torque, and the car should be capable of a 0-100km/h sprint in 2.5 seconds. A top speed hasn’t been quoted but it should be well over 320km/h.
After a long teaser campaign and design sketches, the Valkyrie made its public debut at the British F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone in July. A prototype version was driven around the track by Aston Martin’s chief tester, Chris Goodwin. The car was painted in a special livery highlighting its connection with the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 team.
The Valkyrie's radical aerodynamics include an extensively open underfloor that produces a Venturi effect and is capable of producing 1,814kg of downforce at high speed — which means the car could theoretically be driven upside-down in a tunnel.
A track-only variant of the Valkyrie, called the AMR Pro, will also be produced in a series of just 25 units.
Aston Martin Lagonda president and group CEO Andy Palmer says: “It was always the intention for the Aston Martin Valkyrie to be a once-in-a-lifetime project; however, it was also vital to us that Valkyrie would create a legacy: a direct descendant that would also set new standards within its own area of the hypercar market, creating a bloodline of specialised, limited production machines that can exist in parallel with Aston Martin’s series production models.”
To date, all 150 road-legal models have been sold — even with the car’s R47m price tag — and deliveries will begin in the final quarter of 2019.
Not only will the Evija win more than more environmentally-conscious buyers with its zero-emission electric power, but it also happens to be the world’s most powerful series production road car with its power output of 1,470kW.
It's the first completely new vehicle to be launched under the stewardship of Chinese firm Geely which acquired a majority stake in Lotus in 2017.
The Evija, to be produced at the firm's factory in Hethel, eastern England, will have a limited production run of just 130 cars and will be built from 2020.
The battery-powered sports car will sprint from 0-100km/h in under three seconds and reach a 320km/h top speed, says Lotus. Priced at R31m, it will have a claimed driving range of 400km.
“It will re-establish our brand in the hearts and minds of sports car fans and on the global automotive stage,” says Lotus CEO Phil Popham. “It will also pave the way for further visionary models.”