Never Stop Driving #27: Is the Mercedes Hypercar pointless?
The long-delayed Mercedes hypercar, the AMG ONE, set the record for the fastest production car around Germany’s Nürburgring racetrack: six minutes and 35 seconds. The sports car will cost nearly three million dollars and uses a derivative of a Formula 1 engine.
I find myself yawning at this achievement and I’m not sure why. I certainly appreciate the engineering effort behind the car and the audacity of the project. Back in 2017, when Mercedes announced its intentions for the car, the company boasted that AMG-ONE would be “the most extraordinary, contemporary, road-legal racing car.”
I’m also a huge fan of lap-time-based performance tests, having started two U.S.-based ones in my career. I organized the one that survives, Car and Driver’s Lightning Lap, in 2006 after Warren Mosler, the “mad scientist” behind the Consulier, suggested the U.S. needed a version of Germany’s Nürburgring test. I agreed and picked Virginia International Raceway’s (VIR) grand course because of the wide variety of turns but also for its 4.1-mile length.
The VIR record in 2006—three minutes and seven tenths of a second (3:00.7)—was set by a Ford GT. Last year, the raciest version of the Honda Civic, the Type R, set the same time. In roughly 15 years, Honda engineers figured out how to make a Civic perform like a $100,000 mid-engine sports car. Wow. Also, Honda just updated its little terror.
So, the most expensive Mercedes ever built set the record. Got it. The 275 buyers will love and covet it. The car joins a pile of seven-figure hypercars, from the Aston Martin Valkyrie to the Bugatti Chiron to the McLaren Senna to the Ferrari Daytona SP3 to the whatever is newest and next. I’d be grateful to own any of them, but the sheer number of models is starting to feel like a bit much. I’m not alone in this thinking.
By the way, I do find one of these hypercars, the Gordon Murray T.50, very intriguing. Built by the same man who was behind the McLaren F1 road car three decades ago, the T50 is billed as the last great analog sports car. It’s got a high-revving V-12 and a manual transmission and is already sold out.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, a four-mile stretch of Tennessee highway was equipped with some 300 high-definition cameras to study traffic and congestion patterns. Vanderbilt University will use the new highway and conduct a test featuring 100 vehicles equipped with driver-assist systems to see if perhaps automated cruise controls can smooth out traffic patterns.
Waymo announced that now anyone can hire a ride with one of its autonomous taxis. Previously, riders had to preregister. Waymo will also soon join Cruise by offering driverless rides in San Francisco.
If you like to wrench on cars, Rob Siegel explains how to avoid the usual nightmare of repairing cars for friends. One day, Siegel might be fixing the latest BMW M car, the M4 CSL, which Henry Catchpole reviews here. We wrote a love letter to the Tri-Five Chevy and the Barn Find Hunter Tom Cotter took us on a tour of fantastically wacky Lane Motor Museum.
This newsletter will take a break next week for the holiday. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
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