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    Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008





    By GREG KABLE (from AutoWeek)

    The SLR was just the first shot: Mercedes-Benz and McLaren are beyond planning stages for a mid-engine, V8-powered supercar with sights set on Ferrari's 360 Modena and Ford's GT. The project car-though only in its formative stage-has a dedicated group looking into its engineering, manufacturing, sales and marketing feasibility, and is codenamed P8. If given approval in the coming months, P8, which would slot between the robust SL65 AMG and the SLR McLaren, could be on the streets testing by late 2006 and in showrooms by late 2007.

    The P8, depicted here as an artist's rendering, is officially only a concept. Clearly, management from both Mercedes-Benz and the McLaren Formula One super team would like to put a car like P8 into production. "Yes, we are looking at a mid-engine road car," Mercedes boss Jürgen Hubbert told AutoWeek last week. "But there is no decision on production." Before production can happen, M-B and McLaren board members must give P8 unanimous approval.

    What gives credence to the likelihood of P8 seeing production? News that ultra-performance car guru Neil Hannemann, the engineering mind behind the Dodge Viper, Saleen S7 and the Ford GT, left the friendly confines of Ford in Dearborn Jan. 31 for a job as engineering director at McLaren.

    P8 also makes smart business sense. The SLR is built in the new McLaren Technology Center in Woking, England, a reported $300 million investment already made by both Mercedes and McLaren. Only by expanding the model product lines of this collaborative effort can that investment be amortized.

    There is also ego at stake-M-B and McLaren compete with Ferrari in Formula One on racetracks around the world and want to take on the Italians in the performance street car arena. Perhaps another spur in the side to do this car is knowledge that rival Audi is at an advanced stage with its own mid-engine supercar, the Le Mans, using the Lamborghini Gallardo underpinnings (AW, Feb. 16).

    Though many specifics of the program remain speculation, some of what we know about the direction of both Mercedes and McLaren opens a window on what such a sports car could be like. Why mid-engine? "If you see the competition in the segment, they are only mid-engine," says Hubbert. "In McLaren and especially (McLaren's) Gordon Murray, we have vast experience with mid-engine cars."

    Hubbert stressed the Mercedes supercar bears no relationship to the mid-engine ME Four-Twelve concept shown by Chrysler at Detroit. Mercedes engine-tuner AMG merely provided the 850-hp quad-turbo V12 for that concept, which Hubbert doubts will see production.

    The high-tech SLR, with its 0-to-60-mph time of 3.7 seconds and 204-mph top speed, has proven both companies can compete in the supercar arena. However, this new mid-engine contender is a tougher assignment, not least because it must be built to a tighter budget and with an eye toward larger sales volumes than the targeted 500 annual build rate of SLR.

    This is not the first mid-engine road car Mercedes-Benz has considered. The striking C112 concept back in 1991 nearly made it to showrooms but was abandoned due to a downturn in the world's economy. Also, the company's CLK GTR was built in small numbers in 1998 to satisfy the FIA's sports car regulations, though it was very much a race car modified for road use.

    In McLaren, Mercedes-Benz has a partner that knows well how to apply mid-engine design to road performance. The firm's celebrated F1 road car may be a decade old, but few would argue it still ranks as the most accomplished supercar ever placed into production.

    These illustrations reveal how the baby M-B McLaren supercar could look, though wind-tunnel testing will undoubtedly change the package by the time it appears. Chances are a convertible will get the nod, insiders say.

    It is reasonable to think P8 will use the same lightweight carbon fiber monocoque construction as the SLR, and incorporate features such as Mercedes' Pre-Safe early warning system that triggers safety systems in the event of an impending crash. Engineers are striving to keep weight to 3000 pounds, or close to that of the 360 Modena and Gallardo. "Anything lower would be utopian, given the stringent crash standards the new car will need to adhere to, both in Europe and the U.S.," said an AutoWeek source. The ME Four-Twelve beat this weight target with similar equipment and a bigger engine but no price target.

    Expect serious attention to weight distribution to maximize handling, with 42 percent front and 58 percent rear weight bias the likely target. We know Mercedes and Michelin are developing a two-compound tire that could make it to P8. Given M-B's penchant for high-tech gadgets, the P8 is likely to employ the latest in electronic driver aids, too.

    AutoWeek can reveal top-secret details about the P8's powerplant. Codenamed M156, it is an all-new normally aspirated 6.3-liter V8 that is also destined to power future AMG versions of the E-, CLS-, S-, CL- and SL-Class cars.

    The aluminum-block unit is based on Mercedes' M273-designated four-valve-per-cylinder V8 due out next year, an engine that develops a reliable 500 hp on the engine dyno, say highly placed sources. A twin-turbocharged version that churns out a mammoth 700 hp is in early development, though that mill has not yet received the production green light.

    The M156 is being developed under AMG engine boss Rolf Zimmermann, who is the mastermind behind the 367-hp normally aspirated and 500-hp supercharged 5.4-liter V8 powerplants in AMG models now. Zimmermann also developed the 555-hp 7.3-liter V12 engine that powers the Pagani Zonda S.

    Mystery still surrounds the gearbox choice for the new car. All of Mercedes' recent performance cars-SLR included-get a beefed-up automatic transmission that runs the company's so-called Speedshift electronics, which make for quicker gear changes.

    Sources tell AutoWeek the most likely scenario is a reworked version of the new Mercedes 7G-Tronic unit. With torque converter lock-up on each of its seven forward gears, and electronics that allow it to skip ratios on kickdown, it could turn the monster output into scintillating performance-though without the tactile feel of a manual like those in the 360 Modena and Ford GT. The torque limit for this gearbox is well within what the V8 engine could produce.

    As the car still awaits a production green flag, there is no firm on-sale date for P8. Still, insiders hint 2008-model-year examples will hit the road by the end of 2007-or just 46 months from now. We are told the business case for a mid-engine supercar centers on annual global sales of 800, which seems low; in fact, flexible assembly methods can allow production to increase to around 1500 a year if necessary.

    And the price? Positioned between the SL65 AMG and the SLR, industry analysts predict a price tag for the two-seater of around $200,000-a slight premium over the current 360 Modena and a healthy $60,000 more than the $140,000 Ford GT. Still, that is a fraction of the $1.2 million a used McLaren F1 will cost now.


    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    The new SLR didn't turn out to be such a hot supersportscar may be this one will .

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    I heard this rumour already a few months ago, but in the other version, McLaren was to be its own brand, and a super-sporty supplement to the super-luxurious Maybach brand.

    I hope that McLaren is its own brand and doesn't sport a 3 pointed star. also, i had heard that the McLarens would be powered not by an AMG V8, but a super-high-rpm V10 to underscore the F1 connection.

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    i agree-- the SLR was a big DUD.

    too many reasons to post here, but i like how Mercedes-McLaren woke up to the mid-engined renaissance happening right now--

    maybe Porsche hinting at a 4-door made Merc think about hitting back??

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    Autoweek does not always print the most reliable info, but if their sources are correct about using a reworked version of 7g, then I don't understand what MB is trying to do. At a minimum, they should develop some kind of sequential interface with a manual transmission backbone. I understand the need for a refined supercar, but at some point, you start taking the soul out of it as well.

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    yup what a huge disppontment the SLR was.

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    i hope they will come up with a successor to F1 which could compete with the upcoming f60.

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    I dunno, i'm pretty doubtful about this "f60" you're talking about...

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    Bilal: i know you're a die-hard, but i was a big supporter of the SLR pre-release and i've lost all passion for it. Completely. I feel nothing for it, find the design a huge disappointment, the weight too overbearing, etc., etc...

    Just my opinion--

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    Why though? Is it because of the ring times vs. CGT? weird brakes? (Which will be fixed by April when the SLR starts getting delivered)

    The "plain" cabin?

    I know the weight is a bit high 1768kgs, but its as fast as the CGT, come on tell me why?

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    Let me chip in why I was dissappointed too.
    When it was initially marketed as a Gordon Murray "McLaren Supercar" we were all anxiously awiting the result with the image of a modern McLaren F1 in the back of our heads. Then MB forces its special interpretation of sportcars to Gordon's fustration and the car comes out as a 900lbs overweight (world's heaviest full carbon-fiber supercar, 37kg lighter than Ferrari 575M) 5-speed slush box front-engined Merc. Do you know of any other supercar with those assets?

    Thats the disapointment, we were expecting a supercar along the likes of McLaren F1, Enzo, CGT, Koenigsegg, Zonda, CLK-GTR, Dauer 962, etc. and we got an expensive supercruiser.

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    Well aside from the "successor to Mac f1" disappointment, I really can't see why this car is despised and sentenced to the land of the misbegotten supercar.

    Expensive? Its as much as the CGT, and cheaper than a Zonda. What price were you expecting ? 250K? Mercedes has to make money off this car.

    The weight is heavy, as much as a CLK55, but its as FAST as the CGT in straight line speed, and EQUALS the Zonda round the Nring. The steering wheel buttons do not upshift at redline, and in their quickest setting offer instantaneous response. Ok so it is a cruiser, but can it not be appreciated for what it can do, and not what it could have been?

    I know it'll never be considered a true sportscar, but besides that, its just as quick as its supercar brethren. Does it not have merit for doing that at least?

    Maybe McLaren will build a supercar one day, as raw and involving as the Zonda with the racing perfection of the CGT, but until then, the SLR has to suffice, and calling the car a disapointment because it can't do this or that is unjust not just to the SLR but to car everywhere, every car has its limits.

    Perhaps if you looked at the SLR in another light or years from now you could appreciate its breakthrough. Imagine the NSX and what it did to supercar reputation? Or what the SL55 did to the 360M ? Here we have a car that weighs 400-500kgs more than its competition but is as fast and as involving (some say)

    Doesn't this sound familiar of the SLR?

    If the Mac F1 was the purest sportscar ever made, then the SLR is the most accomplished GT ever made, that will look after you as much as a Mercedes, and give most other cars, a serious hiding

    Thats my take.

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    If it was a supercar it would not be expensive, but for a supercruiser its a rip off, unless you place value on the "image" of the car, but we know what thats called

    The difference is that you think of straight-line acceleration as performance, and thats fine, but others regard the handling, track times, involvement and raw sportcar character as the performance. Straight-line acceleration is easy to obtain, the other more difficult, and is what characterises "supercars" and differentiate them from the high-end sportcars. They go out of their way to use lighweight materials for low curb weights, low center of gravety and low polar moment of inertia engine placements, developing high output out of atmosphetic high-reving engines, involving transmitions-steering-brakes and optimun gear ratios, highspeed aerodinamic aids, ect. If straight-line figures and top speed is the only thing we consider when comparing it to the other supercars, then drop the SLR's engine on a SL and it will be just as "fast" in straigh-line, were is the merit of the SLR then?

    Straight-line acceleration is amusing the first time or the second, the third time I'm starting to get bored. For Euro 13-14k you can get a gixxer that will that will out accelerate any supercar, is that the most amusing part of the bike? no. Would I trade a 30kg for 30HP more? no.

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    Umm, did you not read about the part where I said it was as fast as the Zonda round the Nring? Does that not count or is the Zonda also not a real supercar also?

    What more do you want out of a car? A lego model with an AMG V12 that laps the Nring in 3 seconds?

    You Porsche fans are hard to please.

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    Quote:
    Bilal Siddiqui said:
    Umm, did you not read about the part where I said it was as fast as the Zonda round the Nring? Does that not count or is the Zonda also not a real supercar also?

    What more do you want out of a car? A lego model with an AMG V12 that laps the Nring in 3 seconds?




    You mean a whole two 2 secs faster than your regular steel monocoque 6-cilinder GT2? the Zonda may be as "slow" as the SLR around the ring but it still qualifies as one for all the other reasons that I mentioned that the SLR still doesn't deliver.

    Quote:
    You Porsche fans are hard to please.



    You bet we are, we are spoiled!

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    Quote:
    carlos fromspain said:
    When it was initially marketed as a Gordon Murray "McLaren Supercar" we were all anxiously awiting the result with the image of a modern McLaren F1 in the back of our heads. Then MB forces its special interpretation of sportcars to Gordon's fustration and the car comes out as a 900lbs overweight (world's heaviest full carbon-fiber supercar, 37kg lighter than Ferrari 575M) 5-speed slush box front-engined Merc. Do you know of any other supercar with those assets?




    Carlos, Bilal:

    I couldn't have said it better myself.
    Though I did try yesterday in another thread:

    "I think that, considering the MB/McLaren pedigree of the car, and the super-car hype, a lot of people were expecting a follow-up to the McLaren F1 (road car), and were very disappointed when they saw the SLR in the flesh. It looks like there was little input into the concept from Gordon Murray or McLaren, but an awful lot of cynical opportunism from the suits at MB who just look upon the car as a way of boosting their image while making a fast buck on the back of their Formula 1 tie-up".


    Our disappointment surely has nothing to do with anti-MB or anti-AMG sentiments, and most certainly has nothing to do with a pro-CGT bias as Nick would have us believe. The CGT was not the subject of, or even mentioned in those posts.

    It is just genuine disappointment at a missed opportunity to show what could be achieved when two companies with a high level of competence and talent work together, and a strong suspicion that the cooperation was very one-sided, at the expense of the end-product.

    fritz

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    Well, all in all, a successor to the F1 would have been 500-600K GBP+, I dout many of them would sell, the market is not the same as it once was, and the SLR is a mass produced car, unlike the F1 ever was, or the sucessor ever will be...

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    I personally love the SLR, it seems like it would be a great car for a relaxing drive home after an especially taxing and exasperating friday at work, where you want to drive quickly easily, and still get some enjoyment and knowledge that you are driving somthing special.

    Now, for Saturday i would have a CGT!!!

    Re: Let the Games Begin: Mercedes McLaren P8 supercar 2008

    I seriously, can't argue with that

     
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