Here’s what it’s like to lead Mercedes-AMG into the Project One era

Tobias Moers, CEO of Mercedes-AMG, spends two days each week driving AMG models to “have an understanding how (the cars) have to feel, how it works with throttle response and sound and things like that, so this is my passion, yeah.”

Having a passion for the feel of a car is something many of us share; having access to the resources and authority to create the feel? Well, that’s rare. But if you stand in rarified air, why not breathe it in and make the most of it?

Moers has done just that. Since his promotion to CEO of AMG in October 2013, sales have shot up from 32,000 to just under 132,000 last year. And that’s through a wide range of products from the C43 sedan, something Moers likes to call “entry performance” all the way to the AMG GT R, the bonkers 577-hp coupe. What binds all the cars together is Moers desire for each one to properly represent the brand, “what drives me most is that every car we bring to the market fits in our portfolio and is a good ambassador, regarding the brand of AMG.”

It wasn’t all Gelandewagen talk for Mercedes Sunday night before the Detroit auto show. The company also introduced the new “53” designation for the CLS, E-Class Coupe and E-Class …

And that seems to move along with new technology: AMG announced its 53 series just ahead of the North American International Auto Show first coming to the U.S. in the CLS and E class coupe and cabriolet. The 53s will come with an upgraded 6-cylinder engine, but also a 48-volt system that gives an extra boost and provides a path to the world of AMG hybrid cars.

But the first true hybrid from AMG, is Moers’ baby: Project One. “When I was promoted to CEO in October 2013, I traveled a lot to meet customers. I thought, initially, we are not the level of brand to have a hypercar, to be honest. But I was approached by customers: ‘when are you doing something like that?’ … after that, I thought, OK, if we are going to do a hypercar, it’s going to be something different. Not another V8 or V12. It should be more sophisticated, knowing quite well that the future is going to be, especially in the performance segment, electrified powertrains.”

To make the conversation from race to street engine, AMG started with the 2015-spec engine, lowered the compression ratio and the revs (still a shrieking 11,000 rpm) and fussed around with the calibration to meet emissions regulations and improve smoothness, “because (Formula 1) have no demands on (noise, vibration and harshness),” Moers said with a chuckle. But, fundamentally, it’s the same lump that pushes Lewis Hamilton around.

To meet the claims of a minimum of 1,000 hp, it’s not just the 1.6-liter turbo V6 plucked from Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains in Brixworth, England, but the entire hybrid system. Regarding the two motors on the front axle, Moers said, “even on the front axle we run two electric motors out of the Formula 1 car. Each one isn’t big, maybe a diameter a little more than a coffee cup, yet it has 120 KWs (161 hp) and revs up to 50,000 rpm; there’s no electric motor in our industry that can rev up that high. And the battery technology is out of Formula 1 one-to-one. We add (battery) cells to increase capacity, we are able to run about 20 or 30 kilometers purely electric driven.” Total power? Moers thinks, “somewhere between 1,050 and 1,100 hp.”

Aside from the powertrain, other nods to its Formula 1 ancestry come from a carbon-fiber monocoque, the engine acting as a structural member of the frame and, of course, other carbon-fiber bits throughout. Unlike an F1 car, Project One will use eight or nine active aerodynamic devices to control airflow. In other words, it’s an F1 car unburdened by any of F1’s rules. If you read this and think, wow, I’d like to buy one of those, you’re too late. AMG is only building 275 of them, 55 headed to the U.S., and despite the 2,275,000 euro price tag, they’re all spoken for.

But you know what I want? I want Moers’ job. To be the person to see the Project One in your mind, before it exists. Or to insist on a drift mode in your all-wheel-drive E63S. Or to use a 48-volt electrical system to spin up turbochargers faster. That sounds heavenly. A lot of people say, “I have the greatest job in the world.” I’m convinced all of them would change their mind if they knew how Moers spends his 9-to-5.

 

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