Every year, the Canadian International AutoShow serves up a healthy dose of high-powered, high-priced cars that draw crowds like a fire sale.
This year, the stakes have been raised by the North American debut of the AM-RB 001, a hypercar developed jointly by Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing, one of the top teams in Formula One. The mere presence of the car has created huge buzz, but it also prompts the question: Why?
"This is the car that sets the tone for the next century in terms of technology and our competitive nature," says Aston Martin chief creative officer Marek Reichman, who worked alongside Adrian Newey of Red Bull in creating the AM-RB 001. "The one thing we've never been recognized for in the past is being the outright fastest. But this car opens up a whole new world [to] clients who [respond to] this superlative."
In an interview with Top Gear magazine, Newey revealed that the engine is an all-new V-12 producing an indeterminate amount of horsepower. But he also noted that the power-to-weight ratio for the AM-RB 001 would be 1,000 brake horsepower (bhp) per tonne and the car would weigh less than 1,000 kilograms.
Big numbers, if not quite a match for the most extreme hypercars in existence: The Bugatti Chiron churns out 1,500 bhp, the Koenigsegg One:1 counters with an expected 1,300 bhp. But anything close to four figures is noteworthy and it would place the AM-RB 001 in the fast company of the Porsche 918 Spyder, McLaren P1 and Ferrari LaFerrari.
One brand that skirts the edge of the definition of a hypercar is Lamborghini. Its latest effort, the Aventador S, is considered by some to be a hypercar, but it produces a mere 740 bhp. But the shot-callers at Lamborghini have suggested bigger numbers are on the way as it further develops its V-12 engine and looks at incorporating hybrid technology.
"A supersports car is one that can be used on the road, a hypercar is one built in very small numbers with technology that might not be immediately applicable [to road cars]," CEO Stefano Domenicali said during the launch of the Aventador S. "[It will] be interesting to see if the promises from other companies will be realized."
One of these other companies is Mercedes-AMG: Its first foray into the stratified world of hypercars is set to be unveiled at this year's Frankfurt Motor Show. This hypercar will use the same turbocharged 1.6-litre V-6 that Mercedes-AMG used to win the F1 championships last season. While the engine will be detuned, Project One will also feature the energy-recovery systems used in F1, so it will have a full hybrid powertrain and an expected 1,000 bhp.
"We are the sports car and performance brand of Mercedes-Benz and the technological spearhead within Daimler," says Tobias Moers, chairman of Mercedes-AMG. "With the AMG hypercar, a vehicle with an F1 hybrid powertrain and road approval … [we] will mark the pinnacle of what is currently technologically feasible in terms of performance and efficiency."
It's one thing to be technologically feasible, but are these brands powering past the limits of common sense?
Osama Arafat, believes so. He's a diehard fast-car fanatic whose high-speed past includes ownership of a Ferrari 458, Lamborghini Aventador and Porsche 911 GT3; his current weapon of choice is a 740-bhp Ferrari F12 Berlinetta.
"I'm not a collector – I drive my supercars, I take them to the track," Arafat says.
"I put about 4,000-5,000 km on my car per season. Even in an F12, the traction control is defeating all the power. I can't imagine what you'd do with even more power than that – I don't think I'd gain even a half-second per lap going from 740 horsepower to 900. The only real difference between an F12 and a LaFerrari is the collectability."
Without a doubt, some hypercars are collector's items that are purchased as investments, rarely driven and stored indefinitely so that their value remains intact.
"With the Aston Martin, it's mainly a branding piece, but hypercars can be tremendously beneficial and profitable," says Barney Ruprecht, a car specialist with RM Sotheby's. "It's not a new thing: Ferrari have been building hypercars since the 1980s and, even well before that, we had manufacturers like Aston with the DB4 GT."
The people responsible for these hypercars may not care if their creations ever see direct sunlight. But they are enthusiasts, too, so they likely do care – and deeply. And, without a doubt, this new breed of hypercar showcases the kind of engineering that can only be fully appreciated from the open road.
"Is the [AM-RB 001] the most incredible car in Aston Martin history?" Reichman ponders. "I think it is."
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